If you've ever worked in a real successful company, you know that great success can hide a good many weaknesses. When I worked at Microsoft, it wasn't that the company was perfect or did things in a way that made sense all the time, it was the company could afford errors. A little disfunctionalism would not slay the giant.
The same thing can be true for countries. A sub-standard educational system couldn't slay the giant last century, but I'm no so sure about this one. Obama just gave his race speech, and in it, he talked about unequal opportunities to get an education. Corporate leaders regularly gripe about how hard it is to find enough well educated workers. Students spend time jumping from concept to concept without understanding the basics.
The US has a good college and a great community college system. Yet we can't teach high school students how to find China on a map, write at a 10th grade level, or do basic algebra.
It's a complex issue with many solutions, but I believe we ignore our biggest weakness, or don't want to talk about it. Local control and local funding. Failures to teach basic math, language, and cultural literacy are a roadblock to success for the entire country. Funding and developing curriculum state by state, county by county, and even town by town is absurd.
Every student should have an equal opportunity to be challenged, develop critical thinking skills, and achieve a base level of understanding of math, science, language, and culture.
Of course, that would challenge those who profit by ignorance. Those who peddle anti-science, anti-history, and all other anti-knowledge agendas are entrenched in our power structure. Of course, all of those agendas weaken our country, and it's about time we did away with them.
That's my argument. Nationalize the schools.