What an interesting post, MD. I have often wondered about schools' ability to provide students with what they need to become 'successful'.
Firstly, I suppose it depends on what you mean by success. That is really an individual concept - my idea of success won't be the same as yours. I don't really think schools can be held responsible for an individual's failure to achieve his/her goals.
Secondly, when it comes to success, there are many factors which are impossible for schools to teach. For example, I think risk and luck play a part in all our lives. If you really want to be a success, you have to be willing to risk failure. Schools are particularly ill-suited to instilling this concept because they are, essentially, conservative establishments. They are doing risk analysis now, but even I didn't see this until I was in my 50s. Luck? Of course we all need luck. You revise a particular topic and then there it is on the exam paper. You go to a party and are introduced to someone who ends up offering you a job. Your band play a gig in a pub and a recording company manager is in the audience. There are millions of little incidents like this that happen in our lives. Sometimes you get the lucky break, and sometimes you don't.
Success is hard to achieve and, though hard work helps, the many intangibles make it more or less impossible to teach. We just need to keep striving to become the best we can. All of us.
Sorry if that was a bit rambling.
Thanks for the reply Tony.
I completely agree that there is so much more to it than academic success and that risk taking, confidence and luck are probably bigger factors in achieving economic success. As you also said, it depends on how you measure success. Personally, I feel like I have been quite fortunate and largely despite my secondary education. It wasn't until much later (and with a bit of luck) that I suddenly woke up to what I needed to do.
I also agree with Trojan also, I'm not advocating setting up a whole system to benefit the children that were like me. I was suggesting that the comprehensive system potentially fails those better achieving pupils. For instance, many of my friends succeeded in the British school system but the pay off was that they spent much of their time classed as social misfits by the majority of their peers. They subsequently haven't succeeded in work like their grades would have suggested and we're talking 4 or 5 of my friends including easily the most intelligent person I know. Instead of pushing these brighter pupils, the comprehensive system promotes a race to the middle for the sake of fitting in.
I have an 11 year old nephew who lives in Northern Ireland and is exceptionally bright for his age (100% despite his primary schooling). They have just dropped the grammar system where he lives and I haven't really expressed to the family my real concerns for him in the next few years. He will suddenly be thrown into a situation where his achievement is not celebrated, in fact far from it. I worry that as puberty hits he will also find himself in a very awkward situation.
Of course I also accept that I have no experience of the realities of the grammar system. I'm not suggesting that some of my friends would have suddenly become social butterflies in a grammar system, they would probably have still been classed as social misfits. I'm also not suggesting that it would be a paragon of high-brow learning, I'm sure there would have been many of the same problems as in a modern comp. However, I just wonder whether it might have been better for the geeky students but also those that aren't socially awkward but feel pressurised to play down their talents for fear of being branded a misfit.