Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln each spoke about the necessity of an educated citizenry in the maintenance of American democracy.
We can profitably understand the attacks on or criticism of education as arising from three factors:
1) where we are engaged in the ongoing improvement of some aspect of our lives, criticism of what is becomes inevitable and expected. Where are we ailing and how can we do better? Much of the historical criticism of educational systems in America is driven by this simple factor.
2) particularly in settlement and agrarian regions, public school attendance was commonly deemed unnecessary or impractical or a silly waste of time. The "life of the mind" was often poorly encouraged or was denigrated outright. The "practical" was, understandably, valued as of prime importance. Children were needed on the farm or were expected to contribute in day to day activities benefiting the family. As the parents were themselves commonly not educated, we can appreciate that they had a poor grasp of how schooling could advance the families' interests. The Sarah Palin style notion of "common sense" as a superior form of "knowledge" is a remnant of that history.
3) and then there's the church. Not all religious communities though. The first universities were established by the Puritans and the Catholic community long had a high valuation of rigorous and sophisticated education at least for those moving into the priesthood and into leadership.
But the Protestant communities, particularly in rural America, commonly perceived secular education as a threat to religious indoctrination. That cultural inheritance remains highly visible today mainly in those rural regions of the south and midwest.