I was fortunate enough to be home-schooled for much of my youth. It was a real shocker when I got dumped back into public school during my parents' divorce. Being an outsider, the rampant dysfunction was terribly obvious.
The most depressing thing, though, was that I could count on one hand the number of students who hadn't yet had the love of learning burned right out of them. And no wonder...
Thankfully--for me, at least--my high school supported a Running Start program that allowed the occasional ambitious student to escape into college a couple years early. The environment there was healthier; athough, that's not saying much--it was still very limiting and petty. When I graduated with two Associate degrees, I didn't even bother going to Commencement because it all felt so worthless.
I guess I didn't learn much from the experience, though, because I continued to the University of Washington (Tacoma branch). I must sadly report that the classes were even easier (although generally more interesting) than at the community college. Regardless, plenty of students set their expectations on C's... and routinely failed. I Walked this time, but only because my family insisted. My goodness, what a hollow ceremony. I was handed a piece of paper that says employers want me, though (but I have to tell them or they wouldn't know).
Now, it wasn't so bad as it might sound from what I wrote above. I learned a lot about social interaction and making friends (something I missed out on as a home-schooler). I experienced a couple exceptionally well-taught classes that I enjoyed quite a bit (Spanish and Discrete Mathematics, for those who wonder). Somehow all this has made important people proud of me... Still, as a decidedly un-average American student-cog in the American education machinery, I can't help but wish it all functioned a bit more smoothly
So, thank you for your post, Scott--I can definitely relate. It was a good read; you have a way with words.
-- Daniel Terhorst