I would say you learn the majority by doing, but learning in a classroom still occurs. I am an accountant and I could have learned how to cross the t's and dot the i's doing it for a company, but understanding they why behind it takes a class room. I would also only learn a small portion of the bigger accounting picture working for a given company. If I started in tax I'd be stuck in tax because no company is going to retrain me with no basic understanding of say audit. Having gone to college I do have a basic understanding of audit and other accounting topics so I have greater career options. That is what college is. An option creator.
I mean re-read what you wrote..."only for the best and brightest people who would have a career in academia." So only the brightest should get an advanced education to in turn teach the next batch of the brightest? That to me is a scam and I don't think that makes sense in today's world at all.
Do people that should never go to college go to college? Yes
Are many of the majors bs? Yes
Is a good portion of college a waste of time? Yes
Could most 4 year programs be cut to 1-2 years? Yes
I will still contest that at least some of higher education is useful.