We tried setting education standards locally.
We tried having each state adopt and apply its own standards.
But results varied wildly from state to state, leaving millions of children with inadequate educations.
Finally, U.S. governors, educators and corporate leaders put their heads together and decided that children, to be successful adults and competitive workers in a global economy, need a certain bundle of skills.
What they produced after several years of work was called the Common Core State Standards, and it was hailed by Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives.
Then it was adopted by 45 states, including Maine.
Wednesday, a small group of Mainers launched a citizens' petition campaign to stop implementation of the standards in Maine, and similar efforts are underway in other states.
We hope Mainers will listen politely, study the issue and then decline to sign these petitions.
This is not a federal government issue, although critics like to identify it with President Barack Obama and liken it to the Affordable Care Act.
The Common Core was initiated by the nation's governors. One of the prime movers was Republican Jeb Bush, then governor of Florida.
One of several flaws of No Child Left Behind was that it allowed states to set their own educational standards.
Some states took that effort seriously, and some did not. Most states were not very ambitious for fear of angering parents or teacher unions.
That became clear when millions of students who met their state standards continually failed standardized tests based upon tougher global standards.
Taxpayers have been justifiably angry about supporting schools that produce students who cannot read, do basic math or who require remedial work to succeed in college.
The Common Core standards are based on what employers and parents have long demanded: proficiency.
A student graduating from high school should be able to write a sentence and construct an argument. He or she should have mastered basic math and algebra, now necessary in not only the engineering department but on the factory floor.
There have been a raft of reports and stories written about how American children are falling behind children in other countries, especially in the STEM subjects: science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
An equal number of studies have been done showing that advanced reading, writing and comprehension abilities are now necessary to compete for the best jobs in our own country.
There is evidence aplenty showing that people entering the workforce without those basic skills will be slotted into the lowest-paying jobs, or perhaps unable to find any jobs at all.
People without skills are unable to support themselves and become a burden on society.
That's why it is so surprising to see the Common Core standards becoming the focal point of tea party opposition.
While it has an appealing ring, leaving standards up to local schools and school boards is inefficient and impractical.
Students in wealthy enclaves will get ahead with or without standards, while children from inner cities and impoverished rural areas will continue to fall behind.
The Common Core standards are an attempt to set a higher bar and make a high school diploma really mean something again.
When an employer or a college acceptance office looks at an applicant with a high school diploma, they need to know what that means, whether that applicant is from Madawaska or Manhattan.
The Common Core standards are the only way to achieve equal outcomes for all students.
The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and the editorial board.