I agree that school gives one adequate means to rise above his situation. The bright kids seem to realize that if they want to accomplish something, they have to fight for it, stop worrying about the others who will hold them back, take some risks and opportunities. No Child Left Behind really means No Child Gets Anywhere; students, teachers, and administration alike mock standardized testing. In short: no one buys the nonsense we're fed, and the valedictorians tend to be more vocal about it.
To change society as a whole: don't let it drag you to mediocrity. Don't get a degree that will land you an office job, and don't get into a position where you have to take orders from higher-ups.