I'm not so convinced. (BTW, before I go on, that D&D thing was good. I'm gonna share it with my table tomorrow.)
I'm not convinced that education of the academic variety is the sort that will solve the problem - the latter, your 'experience through empathy and exposure to different ideas' has more elements of the measures needed to save the West, but we're increasingly seeing in those countries advocates for those ideas met with hostility rather than acceptance.
A commentary on Socrates, and a similar one with Confucius, said that academic education cannot make vicious students virtuous or stupid students wise. Virtue and being a good person is not taught in the classroom, it must be learned through exposure to good social and cultural values.
I recently interviewed for a job working for an electroplating company running tests on their electroplating baths to make sure the precise chemical mixes needed for the process are constant. I was told that 'your scientific background is not important, not the priority (though it is a plus in my favor), we can teach the chemistry, we want someone with other qualities' and then proceeded to list what they wanted out of the person to be hired. None of those qualities had anything to do with my educational background.
Is the lack of book learning a problem? Yes, absolutely. If we want our students to be competitive with people from Europe and Asia, where education is treated much more seriously (especially in the latter region), then we need well-educated students. But that won't be what helps us, and besides, the dumbness of the American population today is the result of...depending on your wager, anywhere between 30-50 years of politics in education - by that, I mean, the people in charge of governance realizing that it's a hell of a lot easier to convince dumb people to vote for you than it is to convince smart people.
A recent video done by Kyle Kulinski of Secular Talk (who is rapidly becoming my personal spokesman) analyzed a poll done by Johns Hopkins re: the attitudes of governance figures towards the common American - these were done of officials unelected to their positions, and what the poll revealed that these people think the public are a bunch of idiots. Not a big shocker to me, government has been going increasingly authoritarian for around the last half-century.
To return to the point, though, Hannibal. You are correct in what we need is empathy for others, and to expose our populace to a wide range of ideas. The problem is that the place where that usually is supposed to take place - college - is increasingly restricting what ideas can and cannot be expressed. Hate speech codes. Safe spaces. Trigger warnings. Nearly anything that promotes this BS idea of 'students shouldn't have to listen to any idea they don't want to hear or offends/disturbs them' impedes this highly necessary thing.
There's a scene in the film Amazing Grace (about William Wilberforce and the end of the slave trade in England), wherein Wilberforce takes a party of persons right by a slave ship. It reeks. There's blood everywhere. This being 1800s England, various pieces of white cloth are whipped out in short order and used to cover noses as guards against the stench. More importantly, the whole party is in a boat, so unless they want to jump off and swim to the dock, they aren't going anywhere. Wilberforce delivers a speech condemning the slave trade right there, parked next to the slave ship. It clearly disturbs the boat's passengers, but you get the sense that the experience sticks with them after they leave.
On today's college campus? That would never happen. Because while diversity is frequently touted as one of America's strengths - and it can be - we're too worried about the wrong kinds of diversity. To elaborate.
Someone I listen to breaks down 'diversity' and classifies them into one of three categories: Physical diversity (this can be stuff like race, body status, etc); Cultural diversity (diversity of cultural values and norms); and Intellectual diveristy (diversity of ideas and expressions of thought). According to him, the lattermost - intellectual diversity - is the keystone, the most important of the three.
His main criticism of the educational system - especially in the last few years - is that they're too focused on things like diversity of race, or sexuality, or self-image. Which are all well and fine, but if colleges surrender their imperative to intellectual diversity - to education and exposure - then they are basically the country clubs of the new era.