What makes it horrible is that our education system picks them all up out of high school where their education was seriously watered down to start with and then attempts to make them journalists. Thus folks who are second raters at best slide into a college system designed to milk them but also not fail them out too quickly with any thing challenging.
Back in the day talented young men were discovered and absorbed easily into challenging programs with scholarships if parental support was missing. They then mixed with the children of the well to do and slid easily into the so called upper class.
The less talented found more difficult roads but again a serious cadre was produced to handle the professions. They all had a sound grasp of the basics of mathematics and their language and the sciences and history and geography.
What truly separated out the wheat from the chaff was the willingness to read and read some more all leading to a lifetime of self education.
Let me ask a question. Can you speak for fifteen minutes on almost any question thrown at you and be able to express an opinion?
The real failure is a lack of curiosity.