The Order Of Things

Malcolm Gladwell explores the College ranking game. Unfortunately too many students rely on an artificially precise number when making decisions and weighing options.

As Gladwell so eloquently demonstrates, who comes out on top, in any ranking system, is really about who is doing the ranking.

There's no direct way to measure the quality of an institution–how well a college manages to inform, inspire, and challenge its students. So the U.S. News algorithm relies instead on proxies for quality–and the proxies for educational quality turn out to be flimsy at best.

…Sound judgments of educational quality have to be based on specific, hard-to-observe features. But reputation rations are simply inferences from broad, readily observable features of an institution's identity, such as its history, its prominence in the media, or the elegance of its architecture. They are prejudices.

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Malcolm Gladwell is a staff writer at the New Yorker and the author of The Tipping Point: How Little Things Make a Big Difference, Blink, Outliers and most recently, What the Dog Saw.

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