Everyone’s going to have their specific suggestions and diagnosis, but I’m pretty convinced that, among the many many factors influencing this crisis, the most significant is the compulsory aspect of high school. It’s not merely that people are generally unhappy when forced to do things against their will for rewards that lack tangible, immediate, or clear value, though that undoubtedly has effect.
It’s that the entire system keeps structuring itself around the fact that high school students have no choices. As a teacher, I do not have to consider whether or not my students even need what I teach them, nor do the authorities above me who are designing exams and implementing curriculum.
If we removed the compulsory aspect of high school, yet held strong to the conviction that an education is fundamental to a nation’s success and strength (not to mention the overall quality of life of its individuals), a profound realignment would have to take place. From scheduling to class choices to the kinds of people attracted to teaching in the first place. It would impact parenting, the legal system, the job market, politics, everything. The impact would be so dramatic, I suspect, that this is why we don’t approach it. Yet it’s precisely the action that would realign the system.