Where we went wrong? Allowing government — any government — to run the schools. But school in general — requiring young learners to limit their interests and natural curiosity to whatever some teacher, however well intended, happens to be doing at the moment — is itself a bad idea. Many of this nation’s founders were easily more literate than the average modern college graduate, without formal education at all. They learned to read at home, usually from the Bible and privately printed study books, followed their interests, learned to work at an early age, observed their elders, asked a lot of questions, and grew up educated, though unschooled.
For those interested in how some of America’s early leaders got to be so smart, try
An Underground History of American Education by John Taylor Gatto
You might even want to add it to your collection, for days when the Public Fool System is non-op.