Rankings and Precision
Rankings provide the illusion of scientific rigor vis-à-vis a process that actually calls for careful judgment and nuanced interpretation. It is one thing to give Wharton, Tuck, or Columbia a rating as a top business school; this leaves some room for interpretation. However, to say that Wharton is number one, Columbia number 3 and Tuck number 2 indicates a level of precision that just cannot be achieved, except on the cover of a newsmagazine and then in the minds of students.
I’ve previously suggested that law school rankings have some real benefits in reducing search costs; and I continue to think that rankings are helpful for many people. However, the problem of quantification and incomensurability, as ably discussed in Khurana’s post, is one of the real weaknesses of an ordinal ranking system like that used by U.S. News.