I’d say that the answer to the first of the two questions (Why are we still doing it the way we always have?) is the following. Inertia wins big time every time we fail to A/ question the status quo and B/ decide that we will take action in order to improve upon the status quo and C/ execute on these decisions.
Whatever can stay the way it is it will unless we take those three steps to change that. And it always was this way and it’ll forever stay this way.
Other questions that we might ask would be What if the way we’re doing it right now is wrong? or Could we be approaching the problem from the wrong angle? or What if our assumptions about the way this should be done are completely wrong? or Could it be that our methods of doing it have become obsolete by now?
These are all very important questions. Fighting inertia starts with asking them.
To answer the second question (What are schools for?) I’d first ask what our understanding of teaching and education is. What are the purposes of each of them?
My take is that if we get both teaching and education right the rest will be pretty easy. For this to happen every teacher needs to ask himself separately the fundamental questions What is my mission? What am I trying to accomplish? How can we teachers add value?
Changing our educational system (if we’re lucky enough to see such change happen anytime soon) without paying attention to the qualities of those who are supposed to teach our kids and the quality of what they’re doing day in and day out won’t bring the result that we want.
And, of course, we also need to adjust the material that is being taught in schools as well as the methods that are being used.