In high school, I remember wrapping my textbooks with a paper bag. The covers protected the books, so schools didn’t have to buy new ones every year.
From the outside you couldn’t even tell what was inside the book. Geometry or physics or spanish. Rarely did you write the subject on the cover. You decorated it. Left it blank. Or covered it in comics.
The cover was more interesting than the contents.
Rankings are book covers. We rank things. Lots of things.
Rankings fascinate us. We rely on a rank to tell us what is better. We don’t have the time to rank ourselves, so we depend on others. We trust computers, people we’ve never met, and history to pull rank.
A ranking is a number. This number is based on lots of data. Or so we’re told. Opinions and biases fuel rankings. A number doesn’t tell us anything real.
Computers ranked Notre Dame ahead of Alabama in 2013. Roll Tide beat the Irish 42-14 a month later.
Dartmouth College is number 124 in the 2012-13 World’s University Rankings. The Ivy League school features 11 Pulitzer Prize as alumni.
Phoenix, AZ is America’s 44th Best City. Yet 1.4 million people call it home and many more tour the city on vacations.
Don’t judge a book by it’s cover. And don’t judge anything by it’s ranking.