Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Deconstructing the Rankings

"Using Foucault to Deconstruct Rankings," an article published today in Inside Higher Ed, highlights a new study published in the American Sociological Review. The article, entitled "The Discipline of Rankings: Tight Couplings and Organizational Change," "demonstrates the value of [philosopher Michel] Foucault's conception of discipline for understanding organizational responses to rankings." (This quote is from the abstract). According to the authors, law schools make a good test case for their theories because the law school world is relatively small.

Extensive interviews with law school deans and other administrators were conducted. It won't be news to anyone who has worked in legal academia to read that rankings skewer how resources are allocated. Deans describe themselves as being "obsessed" with rankings. As faculty members, they tended to pay less attention to the rankings; however, once faculty members became law school deans, they felt compelled to focus on the U.S. News rankings. It is no wonder that law school deans feel a high degree of stress, as reported in this post from WSJ.com. In addition to worrying about the rankings, dean also have to spend huge amounts of time fundraising.

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