Many decades ago rote learning ruled. This legacy lives on in many forms such as a strong emphasis on lecture-based teaching and standardized testing that measures factual and procedural knowledge.
Happily there is a community of innovators who are seizing the opportunity to transform education. This opportunity takes many forms such as new research, technology, and a critical mass of leaders who envision a time when education is customized to student interest and talents. One of these leaders is Sir Ken Robinson. In a series of TED talks he paints a picture of how things that are going wrong and where we can make a difference. If you haven't seen his three videos, check them out ASAP. If you have seen them, bookmark them for future motivation/inspiration.