For others school is a game--still competitive, with winners and losers, but more of an understanding wink that it is all a bit of a joke, that it is fake just like any other game with arbitrary rules and points that come from nothing with real consequences. Like video games, school games have different ranks and levels, and with practice a focused practitioner can master whatever is thrown at her, amassing extra points and anticipating the unexpected challenge. Skills in the game can be improved and increased, especially with coaching and agreement from all the complicit bystanders.
It might be possible to imagine a completely different approach to formal learning, but if so it would not be school as we know it. We might imagine school as an adventure, or as a family, or as a journey. But then there might be no statistics or football games or upset stomachs that result in some kids spending every day at the nurse's office. We might imagine a place so enchanting that we couldn't keep kids away on the weekend instead of a place that police patrol, to keep kids in and to corral the missing and threaten them with jail if they don't attend.
Metaphors have consequences. They reveal truths. They organize experience. And these are frightening, ugly, sad.
Please don't say, "Be realistic. How else could you prepare children for the real world."
Because there are ways. We just haven't imagined them much, because of the hold our current metaphors have.