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lachoy (1663)

lachoy
  chris.winters@gmail.com
http://www.cwinters.com/

I am actually Chris Winters; I am actually living in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; I am actually married and have three cats. (Guess what one of them is named?) I am the "OpenInteract" guy, which could be good or bad.

Journal of lachoy (1663)

Saturday September 14, 2002
06:03 PM

Judging colleges

[ #7739 ]
Colleges Lobby to Move Up in the Polls - This is disgusting. Not only is the individualized ranking by itself offensive, the behavior it inspires is reprehensible:

Myron Roomkin, dean of American University's Kogod School of Business, received three packages in three weeks -- from a rival business school he won't identify -- on the eve of a recent reputation survey. Included were a box of golf balls, a five-pound Hershey chocolate bar and a jar of chili peppers with a reminder that "when you think of something hot, think of us."

Even worse is this:

Two years ago, Virginia ordered public colleges to establish specific performance benchmarks and goals. Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond declared that one of its goals would be to ascend from U.S. News's third tier of national universities (those ranked from 130 to 195) to its second (those just below the top 50).

It's just another example of the unintended consequences of boiling something complex down into a single number. See also: IQ test, SAT, and the increased emphasis on standardized tests at an earlier age to judge whether a school is being effective. Things like this make me think that we're living on a house of cards...

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  • My former employer is Peterson's [petersons.com], an education information company that publishes four-year guides to colleges etc. I was quite pleased when I found out that my company actively avoided such rankings. I don't know where it is now, but they would every year put out a press release about how unreasonable and damaging are rankings such as USN&WR does.
    • It's nice to see someone being sensible about this. The worst thing is it feeds this idea that not only can everything be measured so precisely, but that it should. Blah.
      • Yeah. Part of their argument against such rankings is that no school is best for every student, and a school that might be ranked 98th might be the best school for you, so what's the point? To make you feel bad about your decision, or to make other people feel good about theirs? Even if the rankings weren't almost entirely flawed, they would serve no useful purpose, except to artificially puff up some people and schools, and put down others.