I went through high school just like most American's did for the most part. I took all the classes I had to, got to select just a few to fill in some holes, but luckily I got to choose a few college courses at a local college that counted in high school.
My college experience is where my current life really began. It's where the choices I made affected the rest of my life. Prior to that, it was the choices "the system" made, my family, the government, or the community as it were. I ended up working as an IT professional with a photography niche. These trades are very closely related to the courses I chose in college and I think there's something to that.
If our lives take route in regards to our educational choices, maybe this trend is not just with you and me. At some point, it seems that the choices we have to make for ourselves have much more of a positive affect on our lives than the choices that we "have to follow" from others. While basic education is necessary to explore any choice, we should really take the line we throw at kindergarteners a little more seriously, the whole "what do you want to be when you grow up?" It's an important question, but we don't really get to make many choices about that until college. Between kindergarten and college, there's a lot of time to lose that goal. Our parents and the education system shouldn't just be asking us what we want to be when we grow up, but they should be helping us see the path we need to take to get there. And if they can they should help us along with at least the first few steps.
Rather than waiting until college to start directing our lives, we should start in high school, middle school or even earlier. This way we can be a part pf the things and we can take ownership in our own knowledge. Learning itself is a skill that can be learned. Rather than putting every effort into making sure every student in grade school leaves with the same knowledge, we should make sure every student leaves empowered, even if it's through different knowledge.
I imagine some people are worried about the flexibility of the young mind. From personal experience and the witnessed experience of others, I know the mind never stops being flexible until its dead. You can always learn new things. You can learn to be a nuclear physicists at 49, a biologist at 69 and an engineer at 89 if you're willing and your body is able. The big problem is that by the time your this age the job and income you've grown to rely on may diminish becoming an entry level employee in another field, so by all means, make the choices you can regarding your education while you're young, have no bills and you're parents support you in educational feats.
In school we should let parents and students choose which classes they want to focus on beyond a foreign language. I.e. I want to be an astronaut, so let me take math twice instead of language once - or I want to be a linguist, so let me take language twice instead of science once. It is good to know a little bit about everything, but it's rare to know a lot about anything. Lets fill our minds with what we may rather than put on blinders when we must.