This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
For years, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert has been trying, in his gentle way, to convince us that there are no monsters under our bed. Or, at least, under our desks.
That the Utah version of the Common Core standards is not a socialist plot to warp the minds of our children. That the Utah-created SAGE tests are a reasonable tool to be used in the always imprecise attempts to determine how successful our schools are individually and collectively.
Wednesday, Herbert gave up trying to reassure us by telling the truth and decided to try to reassure us by catering to our fears. He decided that he would start making a show of killing the monsters that, until very recently, he was trying to tell us didn't exist. Because they don't.
But that apparently does not matter as much as the fact that Herbert is facing a challenge in the June Republican primary from the conspiracy-theory right. So, rather than continue to try to reason with the electorate, the governor has calculated he can best ward off rival Jonathan Johnson by out-bidding him for the anti-intellectual vote.
Even though he is among the nation's most popular chief executives, and what polls there are have him well ahead, Herbert was apparently spooked by the fact that Johnson out-polled him at the state Republican Convention last month. And so he is leaving nothing to chance.
Herbert is pushing the envelope on what constitutes ethical fund-raising practices by basically auctioning off a few minutes of face-time with high-rolling donors. And now he has set out to see Johnson's call to end Utah's home-grown SAGE testing and raise him with a new-found disapproval of Common Core standards.
The governor deserves credit for noting, in his Wednesday letter to the State Board of Education, that, at least in Utah, governors don't make these decisions. The state board sets the overall achievement standards and local school boards and administrators lay out the curriculum.
Still, citing widespread concerns among members of the public, Herbert is now urging the members of the state board to abandon years of work on the Utah-specific version of the standards and on high-school level SAGE tests.
No set of standards is perfect. There are reasons to worry that teachers and students spend too much time taking redundant and, perhaps, useless tests.
But we need some way to assess how well our students, teachers, administrators and, yes, parents are fulfilling their responsibilities.
The campaign platforms of Johnson and, now, Herbert do little to improve our efforts in those areas and instead sadly surrender to the uneducated fears too many of us harbor about education.