if you are asserting that compulsory education has made this country more equal across class or racial lines etc, then i would like to see the evidence. have you ever been literally locked into an inner-city american school? i have. like many an institutionalization, it freezes the inequalities in place, makes them ever-more chronic.
the frame in terms of competition, where our little kids are competing in standardized tests against the little filipinos or whatever, is just one of the many ways to see that the basic idea is to put everybody's children at the service of global capitalism, or rather, the characteristic squishy-totalitarian merger of state and capital. right now this thing wants math and science, e.g., so that's the relentless or even exclusive emphasis. always, it wants pliability, and this is the real purpose of the whole machine: the architecture, the way bodies are moved around and articulated, the structure of authority. the modern school is a maker of souls. fortunately, it always features a buzz of resistance, and souls are not as easy to stamp as one might wish, while the strategies are often painfully transparent or just double the recoil. as you guide your kids through the gantlet of tests, test preps, high school applications, college applications, extra-curricular activities, and so on, you are just driving them forward on the path that exxon-mobil has laid out in cooperation with quasi-liberal professors and bureaucrats like arne duncan.