This is a thought that I've had for a long time - since high school in fact. Since I only went to one high school, perhaps my experience was warped (hopefully) and this is not the norm. I invite everyone to comment and tell me if this is the case in the larger, Yeshivish world.
I went to a Yeshiva high school in Brooklyn. My perception of my high school was that they were interested in turning out only one type of student - learners. By learners, I mean those who will go on to Kollel and continue to learn for years and years to come. I was not such a kid. As I described earlier in this blog, I was the "square peg" that wouldn't be shoved into the "round hole" that was the typical student. I didn't share the same fundamentalist outlook that my schoolmates did, I had access to outside media and outside sources of information (books, such as history, science, etc. that would rarely, if ever, be found in the homes of my schoolmates), and had dealings with people in the non-frum world (as the vast majority of my family was not [and still isn't] frum). In addition, every single one of my schoolmates could speak and understand Yiddish - but not me. If I ever thought to say that there was some Midrash that shouldn't be taken absolutely literally, I was usually shouted down. The administration made one feel that if you weren't interested in learning 24/7 (well, you could sleep, of course) then you weren't really worthy to be a student there.
I don't know if you're familiar with Major League Baseball and the way the minor leagues work, but I'll give you a brief overview. There are two "major" leagues - the American League and the National League. These leagues represent the top level of play in North America (and probably the world). Underneath those leagues are several "minor leagues" where players of lesser quality play. In the olden days (before the 1940s) the minor leagues were independent of the major leagues, but since then, the minors have come under increasing control of the major leagues. Today, they exist for one main puropse: to provide a forum for developing players to learn how to play. There are players coming out of high school and colleges around the country who have the potential to be baseball stars, but need additional work on their skills. These players are sent to the minor leagues where they work on their skills until they are ready to be promoted to the major leagues.
The overwhelming majority of minor league players never make it to the major leagues. Fewer than 10% of players currently in the minor leagues have any realistic chance of playing in "the Show." What that means is that major league baseball spends money and resources on all the expenses of the minor leagues - including the salaries of all those players - just for the sake of the 10% who make it to the big leagues. The other 90% are really there only to give their prospects someone to play with. The main focus, however, is on the potential star.
That's the impression that I got from my yeshiva. Since I (obviously) wasn't going to be a learner or a talmid chachom (or if I was, not in their narrow, fundamentalist tradition) and so the program wasn't geared toward me. If my learning fell by the wayside, there was really no one who took an interest in helping me out. There was no one around to help nurture the ideas that I was trying to formulate about Yiddishkeit. I didn't fit the mold - the program wasn't geared toward me - I wasn't a "prospect."
Was this experience unique to my high school? Or do other Yeshivish high schools have the same attititue (focus on the "stars" and the rest are there for background)?