Stanley Fish in the NYT on the need for a return to the old model of secondary school curricula. Like most people, I've been struggling with pinpointing the problem with current practices in education, other than "teaching to the test" which I find vague and unhelpful by itself. Unpacking it a bit, there's the problem of students learning strategies of test-taking rather than the content of their classes, which Fish mentions, but the failings of the educational system extend much further than that. Many, many students arrive at college campuses and are woefully unprepared, so unprepared, in fact, that colleges are having to increase the size and number of remedial classes available to make up the slack. There are problems with testing, as many allege, and problems with the curriculum, as Fish argues, as well as problems with overexperimentation, social promotion, imbalanced funding, and other problems.
There is also the problem of the internet. Nicholas Carr talks about the difference between reading books and reading on the internet in his book The Shallows, where he alleges that the easily distracted, multitasking nature of internet reading doesn't train the mind in reflection and in holding attention and ideas for extended periods of time that book reading does. Consequently, students get to college and have great difficulty reading more than 10-20 pages at a time, and are virtually incapable of the abstract thought necessary for philosophy and literary theory. The frequent reading of internet drivel instead of books combined with neglect in teaching grammar also means students get to college and cannot write. They have no sense of spelling or punctuation on the one hand, and cannot sustain an argument through multiple pages on the other. This may be another byproduct of "teaching to the test" if, as some allege, the need to spend more time on test stuff has cut into reading assignments.
I'm not sure if returning to a classical education is a panacea, but I do agree with its proponents that students may not be doing anywhere near enough reading and writing, and that may lie at the core of the problem.