I agree with some of what you wrote, George.
However not this,
If students train this way in the beginning nothing can be accomplished. Leading and following are important parts of the art that we practice. The role of uke takes a lot of skill. It can't be accomplished in an atmosphere where everyone wants to counter.
Uke should not be taught to counter until they reach a certain understanding of aikido training.
I didn't say at the beginning. There's nothing except cooperative training that can be done before a certain point. But once they reach a point, certainly yudansha level, they should start training this way.
The uke is there to enhance the learning of the nage. The lack of feedback from uke about "suki" or openings or ineffective attempts to get kuzushi is what hurts Aikido quality more than any single thing.
I'm not saying you counter them every time. If nage makes a mistake, there should be a counter, instantly. The uke needs to be trained to sense the opportunity and execute the kaeshiwaza instantly, before the opening is closed. If it becomes apparent that nage has a technical issue and doesn't know how to correct the problem, then you have to slow things down and perhaps ask the teacher to assist.
But it is crucial to the quality practice of the art that uke and nage not be separate practices. Both should be doing the same thing, trying to get to the partner's center. If uke is doing one thing and nage is doing another the body / mind just doesn't develop the automatic responses they need to in order to become good martial artists.