Thursday, June 21, 2007

Fie on U.S. News' college rankings

It's about time that educators and the media blew the whistle on the annual ranking of American colleges and universities by U.S. News & World Report.

This bogus exercise reminds me of Money magazine's phonus balonus ranking of American cities in terms of "livability." Rockford, beloved home of The Rascal, always ranked low in these worthless assessments.

I think Money has dropped the annual feature, perhaps in the face of criticism from academics. The weakness of the magazine's effort was demonstrated by the wild swings in the year-to-year rankings of some cities.

For example, St. Louis was ranked 40th among 300 cities in 1993. The following year, it fell to 208th (as if the Gateway Arch suddenly had been found to be carcinogenic). Similarly, Kenosha plummeted from a ranking of 25th one year to 261st the next. Come on.

The mainstream media have been to blame for the popularization of dubious rankings of this or that by various magazines and organizations. Wire services, newspapers and broadcast outlets, without any examination of the methodology, eagerly parrot such crapola as the annual list of America's fattest cities as determined by Men's Fitness magazine.

Indeed, as I've argued for years, the poor performances by some media companies -- Gannett, to name just one -- in dealing with polls and surveys belie any solemn claims they make about dedication to accuracy.

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