Jonathan Zimmerman: U.S. News University Rank Incites Rebellion. What we need are more meaningful reviews. – Fxsad

Jonathan Zimmerman: U.S. News University Rank Incites Rebellion. What we need are more meaningful reviews.

First, God created the heavens, the earth, and American higher education. We lived in a bucolic nature until the evil serpent, US News & World Report, tempted us to partake of the tree of knowledge, ie, showed us the college grades. A fall from grace ensued.

That’s what you think when you read about the recent attacks on the US news. Six elite law schools — including Harvard and Yale — have announced they will no longer participate in the rankings, which reward schools whose graduates earn the highest salaries. Critics say it penalizes institutions that prepare students for less lucrative jobs in the nonprofit world.

They are correct. I hope this news spells the death knell for America’s news system, which has similarly led undergraduate colleges to encourage wealthy applicants. But there were levels before US News and there will be levels after. We want to compare schools along different lines, including how well they promote public service.

In the year In 1911, the Association of American Colleges and Universities asked the Federal Bureau of Education – a precursor to today’s Department of Education – to develop “goals” for colleges. The bureau has compiled a list of 344 institutions divided into four quality levels. When the list was inadvertently released to the public, it caused outrage among educators, and President William Howard Taft ordered that its distribution be halted. No one likes to be told they are inferior.

As higher education developed, other classifications of colleges appeared. Preceding U.S. News, which surveyed professors and administrators about schools, the Chicago Tribune began publishing a series of articles in April 1957 on the 10 best colleges and universities, based on what teachers, academics and college officials and others had to say about them.

And in America, we love ratings of everything. Just Google “top 10” and see for yourself. You’ll find endless listings of the best cars, the best movies, and the best hotels. There’s even a website that compiles more than 200,000 top 10 lists for — yes, you read that right — “for (and including) everything under the sun.”

This obsession was observed by the French philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville who visited the United States in 1831. It gave many white people an unparalleled opportunity by giving them hereditary titles. (Black people were another story altogether.) But the freest country was also the most harmonious: precisely because we Americans had no fixed social standards, we were always comparing ourselves to one another.

Tocqueville wrote: “It is a feverish passion in which the Americans pursue their safety, and it is strange to see how they suffer from a vague fear of not choosing the shortest path that can lead to it.”

Call it buyer’s remorse on the balance: there’s always something or someone you can buy or pursue. The only way to determine “best” in America is to know what Americans think is best.

Higher education is no different in this regard. As more and more people enter college, they also want to know where their schools are located. US News Genius harnessed that feeling in an attractive, easy-to-use package. First in print and then on the web, the details provided a sense of comfort in a sea of ​​anxiety.

The problem wasn’t that the ratings were “wrong.” Instead, he rated the wrong things. They get points for admitting more rich kids (and donating some of the money to their colleges) who go on to make more money. But as Tocqueville pointed out, Americans always want to know how their schools stack up against others. What we need are levels that compare in a more meaningful way.

In fact, we already have. One useful ranking comes from Washington Monthly, which ranks colleges based on the social mobility they provide: schools that help disadvantaged students climb the economic ladder get higher scores. The list honors schools that honor alumni working in AmeriCorps, the military and other forms of public service.

Full disclosure: I write regularly for Washington Monthly and count several of its editors as friends. The ranking system is one of several US News options, including lists compiled by financial magazines, including, surprisingly, college costs and the Times Higher Education.

My point is not to impose one rating system or another. US News and World Report is a reminder that college rankings will always be with us no matter what happens. The real question is how we set the standards and what it says about us.

Jonathan Zimmerman teaches education and history at the University of Pennsylvania. He is an author. “Whose America? Culture Wars in Public Schools; It was published in a revised 20th-anniversary edition this fall by the University of Chicago Press.

Submit a letter to the editor of no more than 400 words over here or email [email protected].

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