>I also believe "everybody can learn" but to what degree is
>my point. Some people cannot become Grand Masters in chess
>or Major League baseball players, *no matter how they are
>taught or how much time they put in*.
Of course most of us will not become grand masters in chess or major league baseball players. Most of us will not become concert pianists, but that doesn't mean that most of us can't enjoy music or learn to play an instrument *and be enriched thereby*.
> ...If one agrees with
>this, then when should we as a society begin the process of >directing our young people towards those endeavours in which
>they are best suited? My own feeling is that 16-18 years of
>age is too late.
Even if one agrees with the statements about chess and baseball (as I do), the conclusion in the sentence "If one agrees..." does not follow. What does follow is that we should expect neither grand-master-ship in chess, major-league-player-ship in baseball, nor concert pianist status from people who don't seem to be destined for one of those states. I agree with Mark Van Doren, who wrote that "no student should be permitted to be speechless in either [language or mathematics], whatever value he sets upon his special gifts, and however sure he may be at sixteen or eighteen that he knows the uses to which his mind will eventually be put."
> ...You don't completely abandone all academics
>for those who might be better suited in >other areas but you don't teach material they have no
>interest in AND will have no use for in their profession.
I think this a very short-sighted, and ultimately self-defeating, view of education. This kind of utilitarian "education" prepares human beings to work their lives--not to live them. And it certainly does not prepare citizens for participation in democracy.