I have been thinking about this for a few days, and really feel that we as a nation (US, not meaning to ignore anyone else) need the emotional equivalent of the space race back in the 60's -- a big, big goal that would focus us on strengthening education efforts.
I do not think Newt Gingrich's idea of a moon colony is a good one, even if it's fun to think about --- way, way too expensive for likely very little payoff.
No, I'm thinking more of a sense of urgency -- something that might make us turn away from reality shows and sports and arguing about stars' lives to valuing the entire process of education and -- shocking to say -- understanding that this is a society thing, not some individual feelings. There's nothing wrong with us except that we have become complacent and lazy. Heck, we don't even value educators anymore, often deriding them as part-time workers and little else. Our lack of attention to math and science is shocking; there's little wonder that so many top graduate students come from others countries.
We need families, students, and state and local governments deciding that nothing less than the best is what we strive for. I am completely boggled at the idea that being #1 in foobtall isn't accompanied by the same drive in academics.