Steve Ruark, File, Associated Press
In this Oct. 1, 2013, file photo, Amy Lawson, a fifth-grade teacher at Silver Lake Elementary School in Middletown, Del., teaches an English language arts lesson.
These standards establish what students need to learn but do not dictate how teachers should teach. —

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee is worried that the debate over Common Core — a set of educational standards adopted on a state-by-state level — is causing unneeded contention (particularly within the Republican Party) and doing little to help advance improvement in public education.

"Stop the fight," The Associated Press reported Huckabee as saying during the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference. "Let's not make this something that we're going to shed blood for no particular value to the students. Put the students first. The programs are less important."

While attempting to calm the flames, Huckabee implied that much of what has been said about Common Core, from motivations to implementation, is built on misunderstanding.

"We want our students to achieve to the highest level they're capable," he said, apparently defending the program. "They can't do that if we dumb down the schools."

Huckabee's comments were given a new context in Utah this week. As the Deseret News' Benjamin Wood reported Monday, a new poll indicates that while many Utahns disapprove of the Common Core standards, few understand what they actually are.

"The poll suggests that many voters continue to be unclear on what exactly the Common Core is and how Utah came to be involved with the standards."

According to the poll, 29 percent of respondents (the highest percentage of respondents) believe the standards were "forced on Utah by the federal government," according to Wood, which isn't actually true.

The Common Core State Standards Initiative, or what is more commonly referred to as just Common Core, is a initiative developed primarily by governors and state commissioners of education to create "consistent, real-world learning goals" for public education, according to the initiative's website.

Once the committees of governors and educators decided on a "core" of standards, states could then choose to opt-in to the program. Participation is not federally mandated.

According to Vox, 43 states currently have adopted the standards. Utah's State Office of Education opted in to the program on Aug. 8, 2010 and first implemented it during the 2013-2014 school year.

"These standards establish what students need to learn but do not dictate how teachers should teach," the Common Core website explains. "Instead, schools and teachers will decide how best to help students reach the standards."

Last march, billionaire and educational philanthropist Bill Gates charged that misinformation about the Common Core standards is due to "people who want to stop the standards," a tactic that he thinks could "send us back to what we had before" (which he clearly sees as a bad thing).

According to The Huffington Post, Gates, who has been an active financial backer in the effort to implement the Common Core, thinks the standards exist to do the exact opposite of what the critics suggest.

"Maybe we can't answer every tweet or post, but the authoritative voice on this is teachers" he said.

Still, critical voices — which appear most prominently among conservatives, but still have a place among liberals — see Common Core as representative of a larger corruption of the American educational system.

"This fight transcends partisan bickering," popular conservative media personality Glenn Beck said at what he called "a night of action" rally against the standards last July. "We're talking about the education of our nation's most valuable asset. We are talking about our children, and our children don't care who we voted for."

JJ Feinauer is a Web producer for Moneywise and Opinion on Email:, Twitter: jjfeinauer.