I am sure that you are as surprised as I am that such a different out look in life exists between us.
There are plenty of children in our school system who do not know what job they want at the end of it. But have traditionally had a broad education system, in comparison to much of Europe and the Far East. There is no great expectation to chose a job during much of school. If anything, that is what further education is for.
Hmm. I think a rundown of our public school system is in order then.
elementary K-5 - no choices - core classes and recess are all we learned. There wasn't any other reason that we were at school besides that we had to. As soon as school ended, our day really began.
middle 6-8 - Some choices, for example between Pre-AP and regular. We get to pick our first elective. - math, science, english, social studies, PE, Foreign Language (kinda pointless when everyone in America should speak English, just ranting because I hate Spanish)
high 9-12 - Now you have requirements:
4 courses each of math, science, english, social studies.
1 tech credit (you can choose from a list of technological courses)
1 art credit
2 years PE & Health (Sex ED)
3 foreign language
Other electives to fill in other classes
In America, we get a very broad education. The defining characteristic is that we aren't given a reason to learn except "we have to." All my life, I've gone to school because I have to. Our state pushes standardized testing so hard that in depth teaching is impossible. We are taught, and subsequently retaught, basic principles that we already know, all in the name of statewide testing. In the end, we learn the at the most basic level, and are tested at the most basic level. It should be a crime.
Seriously though, **** the system. It has failed me, and it has failed countless other children too.
That is pretty much the same as it is here in the UK. I was aware that my school always pushed education and the system as being a positive and we used to moan, but still understood it was for everyone's benefit.
With regards to authority, we had that pushed at us as well, but with a view to us becoming the ones who would be in authority. We were groomed as future leaders.
I think the lowest-common denominator teaching to the test is actually pretty misguided if the goal is better standardized test scores. My high school classes were so far beyond the state standardized tests that it was laughable. The high school exit exam tested concepts we had learned in 7th-8th grades. As a result, everyone pretty much cruised through them without a second thought. If they had taught to the test, people would have checked out, and would actually have been weaker on the test material.