I agree that our American education system can always be improved, but I wouldn't go as far as saying that it's failing its students. This is my response to Seth Godin's manifesto (https://seths.blog/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/stop-stealing-dreams-print.pdf). There are many great ideas in there, like the shift towards value creation over utility in manufacturing. Even though I find that some of his ideas a bit desultory, he certainly lives up to his reputation as a master marketer / communicator!
The way I interpret the manifesto is that Godin takes issue with the current approach in attitude that education takes. When he speaks out against "compliance" and "memorization," I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt and think that he isn't saying that kids shouldn't learn the pythagorean theorem or they shouldn't know that the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell. I think he's trying to say we should have an inductive approach where kids, by their own volition, seek answers and work collaboratively. And that, I agree with.
However, as with most things in life, there are two sides to everything. I can't imagine effectively teaching a class where the curious kid raises his or her hand every second to interrupt the teacher (esp. for something that the teacher was going to get to anyways), at the expense of the learning of his/her other 28 classmates. Sure, the curious kid might end up feeling short-changed, but at least the other 28 classmates would walk out of class that day having mastered the concept learned that day and in a better position to challenge said concept in their future. Rather than calling it student "obedience," maybe there's an attitude shift if we call it respect for the teacher--just my perspective (lord knows their jobs are hard enough without being accused of being brainwashed tools that only serve to indoctrinate their students into zombies to meet state-wide learning goals)! (This anecdote also reminds me of the perennial debate of the role of parents vs. schools in childhood education...)
I think companies and schools are doing well by gradually adopting a more liberal approach to education nowadays. My past internships and jobs have all encouraged me to create a role for myself, and I felt strongly capable of doing so given foundational knowledge I acquired in college, both from lectures & assignments and in leadership roles in organizations.
You know what--I never really felt that my educational experience squashed my creativity and curiosity. After all, isn't that what science/math fairs, art projects, book fairs, and essays are for? Maybe this is a chicken-or-egg problem, where Godin feels like schools are formative in the negative attitudes traditional students have towards these.