There is no doubt that there are many such youths in America. Some of these school graduates will even identify certain courses or instructors as being major contributors to, if not instigators of, their personal success. (“I would like to thank Mrs. Wilson, my eighth-grade English teacher, who told me I could be a great writer if I put my mind to it. She inspired me to write, write, write, and to read the works of great authors, and that made all the difference.”)
In general, however, the position expressed by the poet William Blake holds true: if a blighted tree bears fruit, never let it be said that it was the blight that produced the fruit. Many of our great inventors and leaders were successful in spite of their schooling, or at least outside of their schooling. They invented their breakthrough hardware in their garage at home; they failed most of their coursework and graduated only because the school didn’t want them around anymore—or they were simply ho-hum students who showed no promise at the time.
Something else was in play that led them to greatness—a parent, an uncle, a passion for animals or programming or music. Whatever it was, it was not what we have identified as the problem of schooling. They may have picked up some bits of useful information along the way, or even been introduced to a topic that later became their area of greatest interest. But these benefits for a few fortunate individuals do not justify the stultifying impact of schooling on the vast majority of students.