No. Any reasonable person would say the system has not been as good as we'd like it to be. "Complete failure" is a joke because it implies that we'd be a more educated population without it. Hogwash.
Saying that the public education system is a failure implies no such thing, merely that the public is generally no better educated with it then it would be without it.
The last part of this makes the system government schooling, does it not?
It does so de facto, if not de jure, but only because where government subsidizes it inevitably regulates.
The biggest thing to remember in regards to education is that the student will make of it whatever he/she makes of it. There's a gentleman who just graduated from my high school with a 4.23 GPA who is going to Harvard this fall. There's also a gentleman who just barely managed to graduate, isn't going to college because all of them laughed at his grades, and doesn't have a job or even the slightest inkling what he's going to be doing five, ten years down the line. They got the same education.
Well, first of all, the fact that one student did phenomenally while another failed utterly shows that public education did nothing for either of them -- the smart kid's still smart (though maybe not as smart as he could be), the dumb kid's still dumb. This rather suggests, as I said earlier, that the public is not particularly better off for having a public education system.
Second of all, what one student is willing to make of the educational resources available to him is not the only factor in the equation -- what other students are willing to make of theirs
matters, as well. School violence, bullying, the demonization of academic achievement, etc., all contribute to the failure of otherwise promising students. This is precisely the reason why inner city schools fail to turn out as many achievers as suburban schools -- not because of low-quality top-tier students because of lower-quality bottom-tier students, a problem aggravated by poor administrative practices and lazy, uninterested parenting.
I don't know that ending public schools entirely is sound. I don't think it's a matter of public vs. private per se
, in that public schools don't suck merely because they're public and private schools rock merely because they're private, but that because of the nature of the system the public schools are forced to accept the rabble that private schools wouldn't take. Private schools work because they have high standards of admission intended to weed out those ne'er-do-wells who don't try, waste educational resources, and make education hell for those who care about their own futures; those kinds of standards would never fly in public schools, partly because they would exclude large swaths of students, mostly poor and minorities, who would litigate the whole system into administrative oblivion.
But it goes without saying that dramatic reform is necessary. For starters, the collective back of the teachers' unions must be broken. They have frittered away our educational standards over the years by demanding financial accomodations (which must logically occur at the expense of the students on whom money would otherwise be spent), like payment merely on the basis of showing up for work rather than the quality of the education their students' receive. Expulsion guidelines should be relaxed dramatically and repeated troublemakers should be removed from public schools much sooner then they presently are; concordantly, some degree of legal protection needs to be provided to school administrators to shield them from the inevitable backlash of litigation from uninterested parents who view schools as a daycare system obligated to take care of their violent, disobedient kids. Curricula need a massive overhaul; I don't see anything wrong with a classical education, except the fact that most teachers (who, in turn, are failed by our top-heavy politicized universities) are too stupid to handle them.