One way animals adapt to their environment for better survival is by genetic mutations. These adaptions, unfortunately, occur over the course of generations. So, those members of the species that do not carry the right genes are left behind. However, some members learn how to get around survival challenges within their lifetimes. This type of adaption is much faster, which means that it is likely to be more beneficial because it can change easily. However, this is useless for the survival of the species unless it can be passed down. To pass this information down, animals rely on education.
Education can teach members useful information and survival strategies at a much younger age than if they had to discover it for themselves, which could enhance their chances of survival. Education also has the added bonus that it can be transferred across genetic relations. Animals can teach other animals that are not of their own kin. Elder members of the group teach what they have learned. Then, it is up to the young to continue to advance the group by using the information given to them and then discovering new knowledge on top of it.
However, this is not as easily achievable when the young are not expected to advance. A system focused on achieving standards, where the emphasis and effort is focused on children receiving at least the baseline information, does not promote advancement of the group. Rather, its focus is more for sustaining the current survival model. This is not ideal because our needs as a group are constantly changing. Some of the factors we need to consider are change in population size, higher demand for energy, encountering different groups and ways of living, and discovering new materials and resources. To maintain the old survival method is risky–it puts us in a constant mode of playing catch-up.
This idea can be generalized towards research efforts, as well. Funding is often allocated towards projects that are immediately marketable, rather than those that could be futuristically beneficial.
Where does this attitude for the emphasis on our children to at least meet the standard come from? The more beneficial attitude is one where children are expected to take what they learn, make use of it, learn something new and then pass it on. Perhaps, parents are afraid that their children might not even achieve the first step, learning the baseline, due to many environmental factors, such as bad teachers. So, they focus more on at least the standard, hoping that the rest will follow at some point. Rather, the focus is on just getting through some particular part of education. Without the extra encouragement to take their learning to a more useful level, however, students often have trouble looking beyond the standards.