Discussion in 'General Distance Learning Discussions' started by Kizmet, Sep 1, 2017.
can rankings actually be useful?
Quantifying Higher Education | The UCSB Current
Christopher Newfield argues that the financial and political crises of public universities are not the result of economic downturns or of ultimately valuable restructuring, but of a conservative campaign to end public education’s democratizing influence on American society. Unmaking the Public University is the story of how conservatives have maligned and restructured public universities, deceiving the public to serve their own ends. It is a deep and revealing analysis that is long overdue. Unmaking the Public University — Christopher Newfield | Harvard University Press
A ranking that I like is the Philosophical Gourmet Report. This one only ranks philosophy departments, in a whole host of specialties. Its methodology consists of polling prominent philosophers in the specialties about the strength of faculties in other universities' departments, based on who is teaching where. (That already introduces a subjective element.)
The results are nevertheless very useful to prospective doctoral students looking for a department with strength in a particular area.
The Philosophical Gourmet Report 2014 :: Breakdown of Programs by Specialties
But a strong graduate faculty that's producing work that everyone else is discussing still doesn't really tell us where the best undergraduate education is. The best teachers may not always be the best researchers. And since big names in a particular specialty will often take very different positions on technical controversies, having strong department in a desired specialty still doesn't guarantee that a particular research student will fit in. They will still have to investigate these departments for themselves, and will still need to have some familiarity with who the professors are and what they are doing.
I'm skeptical about this particular NIH grant (as I am with many others), since the professor who received it is a English Literature professor whose specialty seems to be a rather leftish sort of 'critical theory'. (Over the last few decades, literary criticism has expanded into being general cultural criticism where everything is a 'text'.) I'm not convinced that somebody with that kind of background could produce anything that I'd want to read. As Decimon points out, this guy's previous work seems to revolve around how business, conservatives and capitalism are supposedly distorting higher education (presumably referring to the vocational trend that moves English lit professors away from being the accustomed center of attention and leads to hiring too many of those damned business and engineering professors).
Separate names with a comma.