Our ancestors knew this and translated it into actual policy (with flaws of course). Which is why they enacted the Land Grant Colleges act in 1862, funding institutions in each state through the grant of public lands:
each State which may take and claim the benefit of this act, to the endowment, support, and maintenance of at least one college where the leading object shall be, without excluding other scientific and classical studies, and including military tactics, to teach such branches of learning as are related to agriculture and the mechanic arts, in such manner as the legislatures of the States may respectively prescribe, in order to promote the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes in the several pursuits and professions in life. — www.ourdocuments.gov/…
We can go back even further in this nation’s history to see the weight this country’s founders placed on education:
Knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged. — Continental Congress in the Northwest Ordinance of 1787
A toxic mix of racism yoked to right-wing ideology has sought to destroy the system of public education in this country for over 30 years. So it is gratifying to see a new generation of leaders lift up the banner of public education again. They are adept in both the language of our current punditry (“human capital” for example) and know how to use that language to further egalitarian ideals.
We are being reminded that our true long-term value and worth as a nation lies in the collective knowledge and character of our people.