Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Law school rankings

Andrew Morriss links to a discussion of law school rankings by Paul McKaskle, a former law school dean. McKaskle's main point seems to be that beyond a small set of top schools, the USNews ranking are just about meaningless. This is interesting and plausible, but it doesn't exactly provide a solution to the problem of the rankings. USNews certainly won't stop ranking second-tier schools just because they're no good at it; as Morriss notes, the demand from students is clearly there. Morriss thinks, and I agree, that a plausible way of improving the situation is to encourage many different kinds of rankings to develop and challenge USNews' hegemony.

On a slightly different note, I want to flag one particularly insightful observation by McKaskle. He writes: "I think the biggest advantage at being at a top ranked school for most students is the chance to interact with other very bright students–who are more plentiful at top rated schools." This certainly squares with my undergraduate experience. I went to a very highly rated college where professors were often distant and indifferent, and the administration tended to ignore student needs and desires (with some exception for vociferous, self-righteous leftists, who often got their way). I've said all along that it was the other students who really made it all worthwhile. It is a cliche to say that you learned more from your peers in college than you did from your professors, but for me that is unequivocally true.


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