I read this article the other day in the New York Times magazine about senior year in high school and I completely agree. Without getting into how flawed the American education system is, I think that it would only do good to have an alternative to senior year be much less taboo. Whether it be going to college early or shipping off over seas to study a year in a different culture, American students would only benefit.
At 18 no one knows what they want to do, thus being given the opportunity to explore outside of school would only serve to jump-start their ability to sort things out. I know that had I been given the opportunity to take my senior year abroad, or to work somewhere between high school and college, or hell, even go to college early, all the mucking around I did after college would have been cut short and saved my parents a whole lot of angst.