Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Folly of Ranking

I fail to understand today’s rampant preoccupation with ranking -- the tallest building, the best film of the year, the best leading actress, the best college, the top student in the graduating class, the largest profit making company, the fastest runner, the highest jumper, the top ten artists of the century, the biggest box-office, the most expensive necklace ever, and on and on, that fill the pages of the Census and the Guinness Book of Records.  Naming the first in ranking makes sense in some cases when it is quantitatively measured: the fastest swimmer (who may not be the most elegant), the oldest person in the world (who may not be the wisest), the tallest building (which may not be the best), the wealthiest individual (who is unlikely to be the happiest), the largest profit making company (which is not necessarily the most successful), etc.  Ranking colleges is a particularly blatant folly (though tempting it is to say the dumbest), since colleges differ in their strengths and weaknesses no less than in their “personality” as do works of art and, as indeed do all of us individually.

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