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美国留学双语:别被美国大学排行榜所迷惑

来源:美国留学网 2012-10-16   美国留学   免费评估   答疑
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The U.S. News & World Report’s annual college rankings came out earlier last month and — knock me over with a feather! — Harvard and Princeton were tied for first.

上个月初出炉的《美国新闻与世界报道》(U.S. News & World Report)年度全美大学排行榜让我大跌眼镜,在这份榜单上,哈佛大学(Harvard)和普林斯顿大学(Princeton)并列第一。

Followed by Yale.

耶鲁大学(Yale)紧随二者之后。

Followed by Columbia.

其后是哥伦比亚大学(Columbia)。

It’s not that these aren’t great universities. But c’mon. Can you really say with any precision that Princeton is “better” than Columbia? That the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (No. 6) is better than the California Institute of Technology (No. 10)? That Tufts (No. 28) is better than Brandeis (No. 33)?

这些大学不是不优秀,不过,想想吧!你真的能准确说出,普林斯顿大学有哪一点比哥伦比亚大学“更好”?排名第六的麻省理工学院(Massachusetts Institute of Technology)究竟哪里比排名第十的加州理工学院(California Institute of Technology)更好?以及排名第28位的塔夫茨大学(Tufts)有哪一点比第33位的布兰迪斯大学(Brandeis)更好?

Of course not. U.S. News likes to claim that it uses rigorous methodology, but, honestly, it’s just a list put together by magazine editors. The whole exercise is a little silly. Or rather, it would be if it weren’t so pernicious.

你当然不能。《美国新闻与世界报道》喜欢标榜,它使用了严谨的方法,可是,恕我直言,这只是一份由该杂志的编辑拼凑的名单。整个操作都有点儿愚蠢。甚至可以说,即便它现在还没带来什么害处, 但它一定会在将来造成恶果。

Magazines compile lists because people like to read them. With U.S. News having folded its print edition two years ago, its rankings — not just of colleges, but law schools, graduate schools and even high schools — are probably what keep the enterprise alive. People care enough about its rankings to pay $34.95 to seek out the details on the U.S. News Web site.

杂志编辑排行榜,是因为人们喜欢阅读此类的内容。两年前,《美国新闻与世界报道》停止发行纸质杂志,编制排行榜——不仅仅是大学排行榜,还包括法学院、研究生院、甚至是高中排行榜——可能是让这家企业得以存活的原因。人们非常在意它给出的排行榜,以至于愿意支付34.95美元(约合221.75元人民币)到该杂志的网站上探寻细节。

And they imbue these rankings with an authority that is largely unjustified. Universities that want to game the rankings can easily do so. U.S. News cares a lot about how much money a school raises and how much it spends: on faculty; on small classes; on facilities, and so on. It cares about how selective the admissions process is.

而且,它们还给这些排名赋予一种权威性,虽然这种权威性很难站得住。大学要想利用这些排名很容易。《美国新闻与世界报道》非常看重一所学校能筹集多少款项,又花掉了多少:包括花在教师队伍、小班授课,和学校设施等等方面的。它也很在意学校的录取过程有多挑剔。

So universities that once served populations that were different from the Harvard or Yale student body now go after the same elite high school students with the highest SAT scores. And schools know that, if they want to get a better ranking, they need to spend money like mad — even though they will have to increase tuition that is already backbreaking. “If you figure out how to do the same service for less money, your U.S. News ranking will go down,” says Kevin Carey, the director of education policy at the New America Foundation, a nonpartisan research group. The rankings encourage trends that ill-serve the country.

这样以来,一些大学原本是为和哈佛或耶鲁截然不同的学生群体提供服务的,但它们现在也开始追逐高中里的尖子生,美国高考(SAT)的高分学生。这些学校知道,如果想要得到更靠前的排名,就需要疯狂地大笔撒钱,虽然这么做的结果是让原本已不堪重负的教学任务变得更加繁重。“如果你想出了方法以更少的资金提供一样的服务,你在《美国新闻与世界报道》上的排名就会下降,”无党派调研组织新美国基金会(New America Foundation)教育政策负责人凯文·凯里(Kevin Carey)表示。这些排名鼓励的趋势有悖于国家的发展。

There is something else, too. The rankings exacerbate the status anxiety that afflicts so many high school students. The single-minded goal of too many high school students — pushed by parents, guidance counselors and society itself — is to get into a “good” school. Those who don’t land a prestigious admission feel like failures. Those who do but lack the means often wind up taking on onerous debt — a burden that can last a lifetime. And U.S. News has largely become the measure by which a good school is defined. “U.S. News didn’t invent the social dynamic,” says Carey. “What it did was very accurately empiricize them.”

除此之外,这些排名还加剧了许多高中生对院校排名的焦虑。现在太多的中学生受到来自父母、辅导老师和社会本身的压力,一心想要进入一个“好”学校。那些没能被一所名校录取的人会觉得自己是失败者。而那些被录取,但却没钱上学的人最后经常会背上沉重的贷款——这负担可能会一辈子还不清。而《美国新闻与世界报道》的排名差不多成了定义一个好学校的标准。“《美国新闻与世界报道》没有创造这种社会潮流,”凯里说,“它所做的只是十分准确地加以实证主义的描述。”

As it happens, Carey has been working for a number of years with The Washington Monthly to compile a different kind of college ranking. (I was an editor at The Monthly in the late 1970s.) Instead of trying to serve as a gauge of status, The Monthly’s rankings attempt to gauge more useful measures: social mobility, for instance, or “bang for the buck.” Its top-ranked national universities this year are the University of California-San Diego and Texas A&M. Neither is ranked in the top 30 by U.S. News. All they do is graduate a higher percentage of students than you would expect given their populations — at a reasonable price.

碰巧,在过去几年里,凯里也一直在为《华盛顿月刊》(The Washington Monthly)编辑一份不同的大学排名单。(20世纪70年代后期,我曾在《华盛顿月刊》做编辑。)《华盛顿月刊》的大学排名不是学校等级的参照标准,而是从一些更有用的方面对学校进行评估:例如,社会流动性,或者是“性价比”。今年,在这个名单上排名靠前的全国性大学是加州大学圣迭戈分校(University of California, San Diego) 和德州农工大学(Texas A&M University)。这两所学校均没有进入《美国新闻和世界报道》排名的前30名。它们之所以上了《华盛顿月刊》的榜单,仅仅是因为考虑到其学生总数这两所学校毕业生的数量超过了人们的预期——而且教育费用很合理。

Yes, The Washington Monthly’s rankings are yet another list compiled by magazine editors, inevitably flawed. But the point the magazine is trying to make is that this is the model of higher education we should be encouraging. Can you really disagree? I have no doubt that you can obtain a very good education at Texas A&M. As you surely can at many other institutions that don’t crack the top of the U.S. News rankings.

是的,《华盛顿月刊》的排名也只不过是杂志编辑整理的另一个单子,难免会有缺点。但该杂志想强调的是,我们应该鼓励这种高等教育模式。你能不同意吗?我毫不怀疑,你可以在德州农工大学获得良好教育。正如在很多不在《美国新闻和世界报道》大学排名前列的教育机构里,你也肯定能获得好教育。

Not long ago, I saw an article written by a recent graduate of Stuyvesant High. Stuyvesant, widely considered the most prestigious public high school in New York, has just been through a cheating scandal — one driven in no small part by the imperative of its students to get into a prestigious college.

不久前,我读到一位刚从史岱文森高中(Stuyvesant High)毕业的学生写的一篇文章。史岱文森被普遍认为是纽约最著名的公立中学,却刚刚发生了一起作弊丑闻——很大程度上,正是学生觉得必须要进入一所名大学,才造成了这起丑闻。

The author, who was not part of the cheating scandal, had succeeded into getting into a “Desirable University,” as she put it, but her parents had been unable to afford the tuition. She wound up, deeply embittered, at a state school. Whenever people would bring up the subject of college, she wrote, she would “mutter something about not wanting to talk about it.” Although she claimed to have made her peace with her education, she ended her article by vowing to save enough so that her children wouldn’t have to suffer the same fate.

文章作者没有参与作弊,用她自己的话说,她被一所“理想的大学”所录取,但是她父母无法支付学费。最后,她进了一所州立学校,非常难过。她写到,每当有人提起大学时,她总会“含糊地表示不愿多讲,搪塞过去”。尽管据她称,她已接受了自己的大学,但是在文章结尾,她发誓要攒很多钱,保证自己的孩子不会遭受同样的命运。

How sad. Maybe someday she’ll understand that where you go to college matters far less than what you put into college. Maybe someday the readers of the U.S. News rankings will understand that as well.

多么悲哀。也许有一天她会明白,去哪所大学读书远没有你在大学里的努力重要。或许,有一天《美国新闻与世界报道》大学排名的读者也能明白这一点。

 

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