One of the longest running debates in the world is what exactly is free will. Every major philosopher from Plato to Sartre have debated this issue. As any follower of history will know, the United States was an anomaly: a country founded upon the principals of individual rights. Never before had such a concept taken root up to that point. The ideas offered by Rousseau, Locke, and other great thinkers advocated the role of the individual, rather than the group, which would influence other great minds like those of our founding fathers. A whole country founded not on the basis of conquest, but on an abstract thought: the idea that all men are created equal. How powerful is that? An idea forming the basis for a whole country is amazing. It brings up the point that an idea, especially that of freedom, is not only worthwhile, but a responsibility of the people. If you wish to maintain freedom, you must be on guard against all those that would seek to undermine it.
Over the past century, anti-individual thought has taken hold. The ideas of Hegel and Kant brought us back to a more platonic view of the world, in which the individual is secondary to the state. In The Republic, Plato advocates removing the bonds that bind the family together by having the children educated in such a manner as the state sees fit. What we really see now in the disintegration of the individual is not exactly a novel idea. It is the manner and subtlety by which it is done that is disturbing. In our own country what we see now is a gradual infringement upon our rights, which has gathered speed during the last twenty to twenty five years of the last century.
Our own education system caters not to the students or teachers, but to those that have the most to lose by having a group of educated and well-informed individuals. The clearest example is seen in how poorly our education system is compared with other countries. This is something that can't be fixed by lengthening the school day, week, or year. Improving the education system would be as simple as not permitting the government to become as involved as it currently is. This would put the responsibility of education back where it really belongs...with the child, parent(s)/guardian(s), and the teacher(s). Our culture now is less about knowledge, but more about accepting the information that the government wants you to have. We need to remember that our country was founded on ideas; it can also be destroyed by them.