I was about to put an over-long diatribe on zanda_myrande's LJ in response to some deep thoughts he had regarding whether or not the British school system made he and his peers into mindless zombies. Instead, I'll post it here.
The NY suburban school system I attended half a century ago was both a very effective tool of the System and reasonably effective at cramming facts and figures into our heads. The school district I went to actually banned a book because its author was a Communist. It was a book on the history of India and his political party had no bearing on the content of the book.
My parents instilled in me a very strong sense of Justice, which I blew up all out of proportion, but it kept me from being totally zombified. I was a voracious reader, and on national standardized test they gave us when I was in 5th grade my science and English were at a college level, and I was a complete idiot in math.
I fought with a few of my teachers when they were wrong, and my parents backed me up when they agreed. And backed the teacher when they didn't. In 6th grade, my teacher, Mr. Egger, was teaching a module on the weather, and he told us that steam is invisible. The rest of the class wrote that down in their notes, but I raised my hand. He refused to call on me so I went to the front of the room, opened the huge dictionary on the stand, and read the class the definition of steam. He not only kicked me out of class, but it happened to be report card day, and after school he sat me down at his desk while he changed every single grade in every subject to a D. He did this by pasting a strip on top of the original grades and writing the new ones on the strip.
I took the card home, showed my parents the strip, which my mother steamed off. The next day they were in the principal's office, my original grades were restored with an A in science, and Mr. Egger was not hired for the following year.
Justice 1 Mr. Egger 0
Two years later my project was in the school district's science fair. It wasn't a very elaborate display, just an extension of those sympathetic pendulums (you know the toy - five steel balls suspended in a row, you swing one out and when it hits the ball next to it, the ball on the other end pops out). My father had given me the basic idea, and I researched some applications in the nuclear power industry. Anyway, when the judges came around, one of them was Mr. Egger. He was now a high school science teacher on the other side of the district.
Justice 1 Mr. Egger 100
My teachers in grades 7-9 were mostly pretty good, until we moved to Seattle where the school system was so lame that I had to give up two classes (the Seattle school day was two hours shorter than the NY school day) and I was always in the honor society because (a) I had already learned in grade school most of what they taught in high school and (b) instead of honor society being on a grade average basis, they counted up how many grade points you had. NY schools were graded on percentages, 65% was passing, 90%+ was an A. Seattle was a 4-point system, 4 was an A. Even with the two less classes, I was getting grades for theater and stage band after school and kept a full 6-period schedule when most students had a study hall and no after school activities. Anyway it was easy to be an honor student there with average grades.
The zombie thing was pretty strong in Seattle, too. Our school was too small to support an ROTC class, but there were several around the city, and a whole building was devoted to it at the UW. The draft was a given, and school helped prime good little soldiers to do their civic duty, even knowing they had a huge chance of being killed in Vietnam. I was not one of those zombies. High school tried very hard to make me believe in the Vietnam war, except for a 12th grade Current Events teacher who presented many sides.
Enough droning for one night. Comments, as always, welcome.