I know you’re writing from experience, and I know there have been many kids failed by the school system over the years, but as an educator, this is still tough to read. All I know for sure is, we’ve learned a lot over the years about how kids learn, and most of us are doing our best to apply that knowledge. I, personally, know so many innovative, creative, dedicated teachers working their asses off because they truly care about doing what’s best for the kids.
As for history, the classes at the two schools I’ve taught are nothing like you describe. Though the dates are mentioned for perspective, the kids aren’t expected to memorize them. There is way more exploration than there used to be…not just what happened, but why. I’m not saying the kids are getting the complete picture (mostly because delving deeply into subjects takes significantly more time), but I wouldn’t say they are being intentionally cheated or mislead. And sadly, not all kids are interested in history, no matter how creative the teacher.
But, I’m not convinced schools prepare all kids to become adults either. The whole Common Core thing, in theory, was created to address just that. In order for kids to become “successful” in life, they must be able to think, read, and write critically, and to solve problems (in math and otherwise). Not just read and recite, or perform simple computations, but actually be able to apply those skills. It’s a great philosophy, but much harder to accomplish, and it requires significantly more time. But, in general, after having Common Core thrown at them with no real direction regarding how to implement it, I’d say most teachers are getting it figured out…despite pushback from both parents and kids at having to THINK HARD (rather than read and memorize).
On the other hand, we do have a seriously flawed testing system. How can anyone create a valid, one-size-fits-all assessment that can measure higher level thinking for all kids when they are all so vastly different?
But, what we do see, even if it isn’t always apparent on those damn tests, is that many of the gen. ed. (specified for a reason, will address in another comment) kids are learning. Many, but not all. There are so many other factors in play that we have no control over, some of which you’ve mentioned (ADD, parental neglect/abuse, apathy) and some you haven’t (social issues, lack of sleep, drugs, helicopter parenting, social media addiction…the list is endless).
I hope this isn’t coming off as defensive. You wrote your (highlighted) comment in the present tense, and I felt the need to address it. There are, no doubt, still some shitty schools and shitty teachers. But as a whole, I’d say we’re improving, despite what the media and standardized test results indicate.