US News College Rankings – Meaningless?

I recently came across a well-thought-out summary of flaws in the US News and World Report college ranking system. It’s longer than most people will read (nine pages), but if you’re choosing a college based on US News and World Report college rankings, you might want to read the summary before you spend $30,000 a year on an education.

As I’ve always said, a college education is only worth what you make of it.

Forward from Postman’s “Amusing Ourselves to Death”

I recently was reminded of a book by Neil Postman that I read a dozen years ago. The forward is here:

We were keeping our eye on 1984. When the year came and the prophecy didn’t, thoughtful Americans sang softly in praise of themselves. The roots of liberal democracy had held. Wherever else the terror had happened, we, at least, had not been visited by Orwellian nightmares.

But we had forgotten that alongside Orwell’s dark vision, there was another – slightly older, slightly less well known, equally chilling: Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. Contrary to common belief even among the educated, Huxley and Orwell did not prophesy the same thing. Orwell warns that we will be overcome by an externally imposed oppression. But in Huxley’s vision, no Big Brother is required to deprive people of their autonomy, maturity and history. As he saw it, people will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think.

What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny “failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions”. In 1984, Huxley added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us.

This book is about the possibility that Huxley, not Orwell, was right.

Turn on the television and you’ll see Postman was right.  Our appetite for distraction knows no bounds.

The book is Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business. I may post a couple more quotes from the book here in the hopes it gets a read from others.


“If I Did It…”

O.J. Simpson is going to be on some Fox television channels this month. He’s there to promote his book, If I Did It. From what I have read, during the interview he describes how he would have carried out the murders of his ex-wife’s Mr. Goldman in 1994 “if he were responsible.”

Many things disturb me concerning this: First, the money he will make on this book is really money made on the murders. Second, it disturbs me that our society is so unconcerned with right and wrong that we consider something like this to be entertainment.

So I called my local FOX affiliate and spoke to a manager. I said, “Hi — my name is Steve. I am a friendly viewer in Clearfield County. I wanted to speak to you concerning the upcoming O. J. Simpson interview Fox is presenting. According to some news sources, many Fox affiliates are not planning to air it, and I’d like to encourage you to do the same.”

The man at the station said, “That’s great. Our station manager was on Good Morning America this morning explaining why we are not airing it. We feel the same as you.”

After expressing my appreciation and asking him to give my thanks to the station manager, I said good-bye.

Do you feel the same?  Or are the station manager and I overreacting?