Here in the U.S. we have a yearly ritual. Using such criteria as prestige and faculty productivity, US News & World Report ranks the country's colleges and universities. Shortly thereafter, critics point out the flaws in such rankings, while parents of children about to graduate from high school scoop up the issue of the magazine with the rankings. It is as predictable as Tuesday following Monday.
One reason that the critics decry the rankings is that they do carry weight. The general public, the media, legislators and others scan the magazine to see where their favored schools fall in the rankings. Time and again, university presidents and administrators who just a few years earlier criticized the rankings, point with pride to the fact that their school gained standing and they claim that it was through their hard work that the quality of education has improved. It happens as dependably as sunrise and sunset.
Charlie Clark has written one of the most entertaining commentaries I have ever read on this ritual, published at Inside Higher Ed. He imagines what he would write as the editor of US News defending the practice applied to another nonprofit institution: churches. The result is excellent, and perfect reading for a Friday afternoon at the end of the semester. Enjoy!