Paul Lockhart, a research mathematician and K-12 math teacher, has written a scathing critique of the way that mathematics is taught in our schools. His point of view is that mathematics is an art and needs to be taught as something that is as inherently enjoyable as music or painting, rather than as a subject that must be endured so that the students can pass their exams and the country can become more competitive. Unfortunately, most teachers have never done any real mathematics and have never learned to appreciate mathematics as an art.
For a copy of this paper, go to Keith Devlin's MAA Column
where you can read a short appreciation of Lockhart and link directly to the paper. It is impassioned, funny, and as as over-the-top as a good polemic should be.
I suggest this paper to my mathematics education students at Cambridge College just to shake things up a bit.
For one book in the spirit of Lockhart's ideas, see Trimathalon: A Workout Beyond the School Curriculum by Judith and Paul Sally.