The American educational system, when ranked against other developed nations, has a tendency these days to come in at about the middle of the pack. Mid-high teens, generally. We're all in general agreement that that's not good enough. Not so much because we're embarrassed by how stupid we're getting, but more because we look at the rankings and see who we're getting beat by, and national pride gets severely wounded when a country you've never even heard of is beating you in something you're supposed to be good at. The reaction is always something like, 'What? We're losing to Estonia? But... they're Estonia!' (And at least as of 2009, we are.)
Not exactly the reaction you'd be hoping for, but the end result is the same. So, yeah. Let's just go with that.
Finland is the country most often held up as the ratings-topper. As a result, there has been considerable attention paid to how their educational system works, at least among the global community. Which is perfectly logical: if you want to know how to improve your method of doing something, anything, it's only natural to look at whoever's doing it the best and start from there. There has been an excuse for not paying attention to it in the United States, that being that 'well, they're Finland, they're a small country and their system wouldn't scale up here'.
Well, too bad, because this is my blog and I pick the topics around here. So here's a four-video-long documentary on how Finland's educational system works.