Why, actually, do we send children to school? To learn the three Rs. To get the hang of essay-writing, research and so on. To help them learn how to rub along in an institution. If for no other reason, its because they've got to do something that keeps them out of trouble while we are at work.
Fair enough. But there are a lot of other things schools could be doing during the 15,000 hours children spend there. Fostering individuality would be good, nurturing creativity would be even better. Above all, they could be preventing mental illness and promoting emotional fulfilment.
Many of us leave school feeling like failures or losers. The 'thickos' leave with that view of themselves or are angry because they know it is not really true. The average feel they should, as well as could, have done better. The top students curse themselves for that single GCSE in which they only got an A and missed out on an A-star.
Top 15-year-old girls are more likely than the lowest-achieving ones to suffer serious emotional problems at that age (38 per cent vs 24 per cent). The same is true of high-achieving undergraduates. Just how misguided can a system be?
It is not an exaggeration to assert that successive governments have treated schooling as the means for creating good little producers and consumers. True, the creation of wellbeing and future citizens who will be able to enjoy fulfiling lives has never been the main goal.
But the conversion of schools into factories for churning out employee-fodder motivated by consumption has accelerated rapidly under Blair. When he talked about 'education, education, education' we imagined he had a reversal of Tory policies in mind - the creation of a state system so good that it would make private schools wither. Now we know that all he meant was yoking school and university more tightly to the cart of corporate growth.
Never mind the business sponsorship of books or the proposed running of state schools by private companies, I mean the fanatical concern with assessment and the creation of indebtedness among undergraduates - American ideas. Is Blair completely mad? Has he never been to America? I cannot comprehend why he has such a high regard for that heart of darkness.
It nauseates me to imagine my own two-and-a-half year-old daughter being forced to compare her Sats performance with her peers in only a few years' time. I am not even that keen on her having to measure herself like that at the age of 11. The passion she brings to getting me to jump into imaginary streams in our sitting room, the joy she gets just from kicking a football, the humour with which she already takes the mickey out of me, none of these are likely to survive conventional education. There is now a large body of scientific evidence that it will douse her into a nail-biting, self-castigating spectre of this exuberance.