The author explained (from a series of in-person observations) the differences in education at each of the various levels. Children at the lower class level were taught to always listen to their teachers, be on time, and not to question things too much. Jump to upper middle class and the children were taught how to organize into groups or promote consensus (much like a mid-level managerial position). Finally at the top, children were given less concrete homework and were asked to explore their creativity. They were also taught to question their teachers, and most class time was spent as a dialogue between the group and not a lecture from the "instructor."
Really interesting topic and I wish more people paid attention to these things. Imagine where we'd be as a society if we didn't mold each other into groups or social brackets. Blows my mind.
Then you have the upper level classrooms, where assignments were almost never turned in late, and students generally had less animosity towards authority in general. They still disobeyed and did creative things and whatnot, but they did it out of curiosity, and not because they were trying to irritate the teachers.
Actually, I'm thinking of several cases specifically in my class where students held visible animosity towards these teachers. These students consistently had the lowest grades in the class.
If the students won't cooperate/behave/listen, how could the teacher ever hope to progress beyond reinforcement of "you need to cooperate/behave/listen"?
It's sort of like the old adage that you need to understand the rules before you can break them. If one doesn't understand why you have to listen to the instructor, they're far less likely to be productive in a setting where interruptions are expected/encouraged.
I guess i'm more individualist than pluralist, but it seems too much of a society-impeded existence rather than growing of the inner self. I'm also tempted to bet that this layered approach you experienced, by providing tension between layers, is endebting us more in the long run.
 Public school: low, low and mid classes
 Alternative school (private or public): upper mid class
 Best private schools: elite
With  and  making use of alternative education models (e.g. Montessori, Waldorf, Democratic), and most importantly recognizing that EVEN STUDENTS can be fairly competent human beings that have the capability to both breathe and think rationally at the same time if given the opportunity a sufficient amount of times.
I remember reading that it had been suggested that all schools do 1 hour of physical education/excersize before school officially starts, this would help children concentrate.