Ranking Universities as a Mirror to Your Values

Ranking Universities

Not surprisingly there are multiple ranking systems for universities. The focus of each system is a negotiation among competing versions of what the world needs, what the community should subsidize, whose interests a university should fulfill, and, increasingly, what market values mandate.

The existence of these alternative systems proves useful only to the extent that there is robust public discussion of alternative forms of higher education. However, when those who select universities to attend are unaffected by such a discussion, the alternative rankings are but a din, an torrent of noise making a tough decision even tougher.

Communities concerned about the quality of their democracy, the robustness of interpersonal relationships and circumspect compassion would rush to encourage development of comprehension, listening, question-asking, critical thinking, ethical reasoning, and creative integration skills. A paucity of these skills results in a caricature of the democracy described by democratic theorists who tout its alleged attributes.

Communities wishing to maximize their wealth and occupational skills would create quite different universities. Such universities would tie their pedagogy and practice to creating an occupational mix meeting the needs of current technology.

Then, I suppose, every community would have a covey of universities serving as a holding ground for youth, substituting for the jobs the society lacks and holding classes merely to perpetuate the subterfuge that something developmental is occurring in what are actually and primarily very expensive singles apartments.

Pity the poor parent and student-to-be who must navigate among the resulting ratings systems, full of self-contradictory and often oblique criteria. As an exercise in the chaotic thinking residing in the assumptions of such ranking systems, take a look at the just publicized Washington Monthly University Rankings, using a methodology quite similar to that the Obama Administration had promised to use starting this year until they cowered before the fierce lobbying of conservatives who never saw a government program they liked unless it was tied to the military AND their partners in obstruction, the universities themselves.

Why would universities oppose a rating system? Simple. Each of them is hard at work convincing anyone who will listen that their particular venue is, (now what is the common phrase?  Oh, yeah.) the PREMIERE institution in the ___________________.  Just fill in the blank with “world”, “nation”, “region”, or “state” dependent on how courageous an exaggeration the PR/Communication department is willing to proffer.

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