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November 2014
Board of Regents President Gregory W. Gray I decided to convey my thoughts for November's First Monday from my perspective as a father and grandfather, rather than as the President of the BOR. The reason for the unusual approach is that it enables me to express something about which I have been feeling more and more deeply lately, as I watch my grandchildren grow and develop. It also comes from my concerns about the world around them, the quality of life they will have as they go out into the world, and about the education we will provide for them.

My concerns are grounded in the enormous social, cultural and economic changes we have seen over the past quarter century and the implications for their future. Simply put, I fear that America has fallen behind the rest of the world, and is continuing to fall further behind every day.

Some of the fault surely lies with me. As an educator for the past 40 years I have watched our system of education in free fall when compared to that of other countries. Even American higher education, which for years was seen worldwide as the ne plus ultra, no longer enjoys that status. In 1990 America placed #1 in college attainment and as of last year dropped to 14th in the world. Perhaps in another First Monday I will delve into the reasons why our system of education has atrophied, but my cause today is to assert the following: We must change the way we teach and deliver education to our students, and those who will follow in the decades to come. Einstein once said the definition of ignorance is doing the same thing over and over again in the same way and expecting different results. The new approach we must adopt is one that takes greater advantage of and heavier reliance on creativity, innovation and technology. It is quite conceivable that students today, connected virtually every waking moment (and in some ways even when they aren't awake) to a mobile device or laptop computer, feel disconnected from traditional learning methods. Significantly more tech savvy than we, these students no doubt question the value, and relevance, of higher education.

Our (and I do mean OUR) job now is to correct the trajectory of our system of education, at every level. Many education pundits now suggest the teacher is no longer the center of learning, and that students learn more from one another than from the faculty. If accurate, this re-alignment means faculty must become "facilitators" of learning. Making greater use of technology, and today's most active channels of student communication, might in fact begin to address this shift. But most of us haven't really figured out social media, and the power it gives us to enrich student learning. Further, allowing this deficiency to continue by not addressing it will relegate us to permanent irrelevance.

I believe there is another reason behind our deteriorating position internationally, and that is our steadfast refusal to address education as a continuum beginning in pre-kindergarten. In my opinion we can't celebrate remediation. We simply cannot consider remediation the long term solution for unprepared students, but simply a short term solution to past failures. Rather, we should be aspiring and striving for excellence. We must create academic standards that are consistent with world class learning and objectively measure our pursuit of them. Simultaneously, we must commit ourselves to doing everything possible to insure students are fully equipped for the next level before they are promoted to it.

These are issues which most of us have dealt with during our career. Now, however, I view them in a different light. Our efforts will directly affect the youngsters in my family and, if we don't respond effectively, their children as well. That's reason enough for me to be concerned, and to call for your ideas. I encourage you to send me your thoughts and ideas about my concerns, and I will share them with you all next month.

In closing, if the quality of life for Ellie, Casey and Hayden is to improve, it's imperative that WE (including their granddad) solve these problems by changing our pedagogical approach immediately. Colleagues, I trust we're up to the challenge.

As always, I welcome feedback.

Gregory W. Gray
Gregory W. Gray
Board of Regents for Higher Education
Connecticut State Colleges & Universities (ConnSCU)

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