I love sailboat racing. It is intense fun, athletic, tactical, and demands a high level of performance to win. You can learn a lot from racing sailboats. But you can also learn a lot just going sailing.
Sailing Adventures are becoming a more popular format for teaching kids about sailing. Rather than throw them into a boat by themselves that is probably a little unstable and shouting (lovingly) to trim in or push the tiller away from you, this gets kids involved that might be intimidated by the solo approach. Plus it is more social. You can have 2-4 kids on a Laser Bahia or an RS Venture (or even a few more on a cruiser like a Catalina 290) and then they can sail some, take turns, take a break and enjoy just being on the water.
Of all the sailors in the world, there are plenty that have no desire to race. Our programs should make it just as big an accomplishment to have sailed a cruiser around a course on the bay as it is to have won an around the buoy race. Racing is an integral part of many programs, and it should be. But it should only be a part of the program, especially at the youth level.