No educational system is going to be perfect for every student. However, I do not think the universal complaint of students, 'this class is pointless, I'll never need to know how to do this, ect', is a serious objection to an educational system. Learning certainly will not cause anyone any harm.
But I do think that we can teach decision making. To do so, we teach students history, literature, and what have you. That's what an education is all about - learning how to live in this world. You cannot expect a 16 year old kid to make wise decisions. They might, from time to time, but we certainly should not expect such a thing, nor should we expect a wise decision from a 16 year old to be much more than luck.
When people say they wasted some number of years in college, I am always astounded. Perhaps some of them simply mean that their time in college has not helped them, to their knowledge, turn an extra dollar (or pound, or whatever). But college should not have anything to do with making money. All of our educational efforts should be for the sake of learning, of knowledge. If your brother really wasted two years at college, either he didn't pay any attention or he should have picked some better classes (perhaps a philosophy course instead of accounting or business).
Teaching people to learn is difficult if they do not want to learn. If they want to learn, all you have to do is hand them a book.
As for teaching decision making, this is threefold: 1. read your eyes bloody with good books 2. keep reading 3. go into the world. By 'go into the world' I mean leave home and comfort and set out into reality, on your own. Travel, but do not be a tourist. Spend some time living, instead of just thinking about living.
There is no systematic cure all. At some point we have to realize that most people do not want to learn anything they do not have to learn. So, we take those who do want to learn, and try to set them on the right path of study. We encourage them to see the world. As for the rest, we explain the virtues of learning. Either they will come around, or they wont.
As I recall their where an awful lot of people who didnt want to be in school when i was there and it makes it hard for teachers to teach and students to learn. However you cannot simply leave children to do their own thing. If given the right to make their own decisions they would simply choose to play on a computer all day long or hang about on street corners.
This is very true, young people tend to dislike school. Always have. And so I agree that we cannot just let kids make the decision to stay away from school as a general rule.
I think we need schools to address the various needs of students. Some will pursue a liberal arts education, some just want to learn some skill and get to work. Both paths need to be available, though I'd probably prefer some mentor system for the teaching of work skills.
Sounds like your takin abit of a Marxist view that the capitalists are shaping our decisions and teaching only what they want us to know.
Isn't this generally true, though? Society always shapes the education of it's youth, and our society is a corporate society, built on rampant, unrestrained consumerism.