Disillusionment in Higher Education

Nov 1, 2019
By: Jerry A. Goodson
In: College

Undergrad is overrated. 

There's a very sad reality setting in with the conclusion of my semester at Texarkana College nearing the end: "higher education" isn't living up to my expectations.  I entered college with the grand idea my learning experience would go beyond my grade school education.  My disappointment ranks right up there with my dismal attendance leading up to earning my high school diploma. My disappointment doesn't lie in Texarkana College, specifically. I looked up the curriculum of other community colleges, and found they all follow the same paradigm.

I entered college with a very different disposition than high school.  High school was in my way.  There was virtually no challenge to it, and I was ready to live life.  I learned a lot during high school, but it mostly came from my personal search for knowledge outside of the school as opposed to the instruction provided by the institution, itself.  Aside from playing the marching band, the best thing about high school was when it was over.  I looked forward to starting college.  I have lived a very busy, face-paced, action-filled life.  I have a plethora of life experiences, am well-traveled, and am in the twilight of my career.  I'm not attending college for career advancement, but simply for personal enrichment.  I don't need higher education, I want it.  "College-level" always had a mysterious luster.  I always figured I learned the "basics" in high school that would be enough to get my by in life, but the elevated status of "college-level" was always intriguing.  

It seemed the classes started off slow, and we would be "eased in" to "college-level" content.  We haven't.  The college-level content isn't more than a review of high school.  The schedule is a lot more flexible, and there's simply not the rigidity of high school.  In essence, college is a lot easier than high school ever was.


Attendance requirements was probably the biggest surprise factor for me as I started college. I had the notion that as an adult learner, my success in higher learning was... LEARNING! I figured my grade would be a measure of the knowledge I gained, not a reflection of my presence. At Texarkana College, I was sorely mistaken. "Participation" is a part of my grade in all of my classes. They all take attendance, and they all count tardies and absences. Regardless of academic achievement and/or progress, every professor has the option of dropping a student who has more than four absences. Of course, that's professor discretion and not a mandate, but still... taking attendance in college is ineffective and inconvenient.[1]

My Learning Frameworks professor incessantly harps about attendance, and never fails to mention failing any classes due to lack of attendance could adversely affect our financial aid. Other professors have mentioned lack of attendance could put our financial aid in jeopardy, as well. The atmosphere created by the staff indicate an assumption that all students are going to school using financial aid, and that their jobs depend on it. They don't look at us as students wanting to learn, but rather as moochers off the government's tit to get a degree.

The Curriculum

My Composition assignments took little effort.  I wasn't graded on content, but rather the writing process and the format of the papers.  I expected the course to be more intense, but it's been rather laid back and easy going.  My federal government class falls drastically short of my expectations.  It's my high school government course all over again.  I've been "called to the office" by my professor to be told points I bring up in class aren't appropriate, but would be better suited in a graduate level course.  My US History class is almost purely a review of US History classes I've taken in middle and high school.  Finally, there's the "Learning Frameworks" class, which curriculum deserves the full rage of every student in the class.  

The FranklinCovey Cult

For Learning Frameworks, the college adopted curriculum sold by Franklin Covey Co.  We had to purchase the book "7 Habits of Highly Effective College Students" by Sean Covey, the son of the late Stephen R. Covey.  The book cost over $100 for students, and there's no telling how much the college paid to purchase the curriculum... and it's CRAP!  Of course, the professor bought into the curriculum.  I can't tell if it's because she truly believes in it, or if it's simply because she's getting paid to teach it.  Every single day I go to that academically bankrupt class, I can't help but visualizing the "Love vs. Fear" themes in the movie, "Donnie Darko".  Watching the obviously dated videos make me wonder if investigators would've found a dungeon of child pornography in the basement of Stephen Covey's house if it were to burn down.  I mentioned that in class, but the movie reference seemed to have escaped everyone.  

The curriculum is centered around the "seven habits" that have been described as Stephen Covey's transition from "pseudo spiritualism turned business bullshit." [2] For me, the first "red flag" went up rather quickly during the first day or two of class. The curriculum incorrectly over-used the word paradigm.

Paradigm Re-defined

I got the following question wrong on my first test:

The way you SEE things is your ______.  

The correct answer for the test was "paradigm".  

Say WHAT?? When has it become acceptable for a college-level curriculum to re-define words? It's actually used incorrectly in that stupid book!

On page 35, Sean Covey gives an abbreviated version of Aesop's The Goose and the Golden Egg.[3] This was his response:

So, what happened here?  The farmer's flawed paradigm (See) was that all the gold was inside
the bird.  So he killed (Do) the goose to obtain the riches faster.  In the end, however,
the results (Get) proved disastrous.[4]

So what is the definition of "paradigm"? A quick Google search brings up the following:

1. a typical example or pattern of something; a model.
there is a new paradigm for public art in this country

2. a set of linguistic items that form mutually exclusive choices in particular syntactic roles.
English determiners form a paradigm: we can say "a book" or "his book" but not "a his book."

In Covey's flawed example, the paradigm wasn't the farmer's incorrect assumption there was gold in the dead goose, but rather the pattern of the goose laying one golden egg per day. Of course, I couldn't imagine any farmer making such an incorrect assumption to begin with. Why? Because of the age old paradigm of farmers having never found a cache of un-lain eggs in any fowl they've killed.

A paradigm is the pattern observed, not the observation, itself.

Covey was wanting to capitalize on the idea of a paradigm shift, a term coined by American physicist and philosopher Thomas Kuhn. Some of the examples of paradigm shifts given in class were valid and relevant, but missed the mark on what consisted of the paradigm before the paradigm shift.

The 7 Habits

So, what are the seven habits of highly effective college students? Let's take a look...

1.  Be Proactive
2.  Begin With the End in Mind
3.  Put First Things First
4.  Think Win-Win
5.  Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood
6.  Synergize
7.  Sharpen the Saw
Note:  Each of those habits listed a "Registered Trademark" symbol in the Table of Contents

Well, (doing the best Powers Booth imitation from Tombstone I can muster)... DUH!

Reading through these chapters brings to mind a quote from a salesman Louis Black of TechTrans I heard three decades ago: "It's not bullshit, it's hyperbole!"

The hyperbolical overtones of all of those habits are great for motivating those who are not motivated. Nothing in this book is profound.

Efficiency vs. Effectiveness

Just today, I took another unit test, and the question called for stating the difference between efficiency and effectiveness. The correct answer (had to write it in) was:

"Effectiveness is doing the right things. Efficiency is doing things right."

The problem with that answer lies in it being backwards from the lesson objective. That mistake can't be attributed to Covey, but rather the test writer for the course. The lesson, itself, lent to the idea that being efficient (busy) didn't necessarily mean being effective (accurate).

Group Work

I am not a fan of group work. At all. I'm even less of a fan of group work that isn't well-managed and used excessively. There aren't many days that I go to my Learning Frameworks class that the professor doesn't put us in groups.

Our first group assignment was a complete joke. We were assigned a scavenger hunt. The objective was to have us walk all over campus and collect "clues" from various department heads. That was fine and good, except it was dictated that we all had to go together to collect each clue. We tried the "divide and conquer" strategy, but the professor shut us down real quick on that. If we all had to walk to each location, and we all had to fill out the form, then why was it made a group project? There was no group effort beyond we walked as a group. We all had a campus map.

We were given one group project that does make sense. The professor broke the class down into seven groups, and assigned each group one of the habits to create a lesson to present. Every other group assignment didn't really call for group participation.

Career Focus

The professor places a lot of emphasis on the necessity of college for career advancement. She can't seem to get her head wrapped around any other reason for attending college.


  1. Quinonez, Laura. "Taking Attendance in College is Ineffective and Inconvenient." The Arkansas Traveler, 27 Aug. 2014,
  2. "I hate Stephen Covey (swearing)." Recovery from Mormonism (RfM) discussion forum, 2 Feb. 2011,
  3. Aesop. "The Goose and the Golden Egg." Library of Congress,
  4. Covey, Sean. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective College Students. Franklin Covey Co., 2014.


Goodson, Jerry. "Disillusionment in Higher Education." Jerry A. Goodson, 1 Nov. 2019,

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