Would we be any less "stupified" if national education became a total free-for-all, in which everybody could learn as they pleased
You're still thinking inside the box. People are getting more ignorant not because of the availability [or lack of thereof] of education but because of its quality [or rather lack of thereof].
And also because of a political bias, especially on universities, which nobody even disputes anymore because its a fact. Technical schools are doing better since there's a little chance to inject PC agenda into calculus :-). So much easier to change history or to distort literature.
Another issue is "free for all". There's no such thing as "free education". Like Margaret Thatcher used to say "there's no such thing as government money". It all comes from taxes, it all comes from our work and our wallets.
So why does it have to be public or "state run" education? I think that private education would be much better. That way we would have much more influence over what our children learn.
The only difference is that we would pay for it directly not indirectly in taxes. So I think that psychological barrier plays a main role here and the government uses it against us. Citizens have been conditioned that it is normal that the State taxes their money and spend it without asking them first. And they also don't even touch
that money since it is being taken away from them and all they see is their net salary.
So that's why people think it's "free".
Why such fear of standards, you people?
Standards are fine. Thanks to high standards at Schools of Architecture the roofs are not falling down on our heads. For the same reason - standards - I always go to a private dentist and avoid state run NHS butchers (although I still have to pay for it no matter if I use it or not).
And it will end like the last one.......in tears......
Let's not despair :-). We have the power to change it.
If a bunch of a neo-marxists could build it and run it, we can destroy it and erect a much better construction in its place. It would be offensive to think otherwise.