Picking on how terrible american schools are is a pretty easy thing to do. Figuring out why it is that Foreign language in the United States isn't exactly a priority takes a little extra thought. I took French and German in high school. I can understand german still. I could find opportunities to speak more often, but I don't. Had I taken Spanish though, I would find many more opportunities. I chose poorly.
I spent a year in Germany. I could get on a train and be in a country that didn't speak German the way I spoke German or the people around me spoke german in about an hour. In less than a day, you could get to a country that spoke French, German, Dutch, Portugese, Italian, English and several others. If you are in Dubuque, IA, how far does a days train ride get you. If you get to Quebec, you will find yourself faced with a bunch of folks who just want you to leave. The rest of Canada will happily take your money in English.
Our system of Education doesn't quite work.
When I was in Germany, I got some questions about the world wrong. I had learned there were 7 continents. They looked at me funny. North and South America ARE NOT two continents. What the hell was wrong with me?
I shut up. I wrote down just the 6 on the future test.
One of the things I learned going to Germany. The kids group along the same damn lines that american kids grouped. The names of the groups were different, but they were still there. There were rich kids, poor kids, stoners, jocks and mean girls. There were those sticking to the script provided by the system. There were those that were rejecting the system. There were teachers trying to wrangle everyone towards something resembling a goal and trying to figure out how to get the people who were rebelling to not rebel too much...