Volume 93, Issue 39

Tuesday, November 9, 1999


Editorial Board 1999-2000

Look beyond the pretty face

Editorial cartoon

Look beyond the pretty face

It's a cognitive shortcut our lazy brains just can't avoid taking.

We rank things around us, often on arbitrary grounds, slap them on a list, then look to this pancake stack of information as an ever dependable tour guide in the amusement park of decision making.

If you want to know who's the best and worst dressed, you look to the center spread in The Inquirer. When you want to know who the world's most beautiful person is, you turn to People magazine. If you need to know what university is reputable enough to house your brilliance, you immediately refer to the newest Ten Commandments of post-secondary education – the Maclean's annual Canadian university ranking.

Admittedly, this list appears to be based on valid criteria, including tenured professors, research grants and classroom size. As well, it's worth noting that among the participants of the poll are university administrators, recruiters and chief executive officers. When it gets right down to it, however, something can still be said for keeping things in perspective.

This administrative pissing contest seems to have reached almost mythical proportions among students and parents embarking on the adventure that is university. However, making a decision that will cost four years of your life and approximately $40,000, based solely on a magazine survey parallels picking a life partner based on their smell – perhaps more research, effort and emphasis on personal taste is in order.

Take a look back to your final year of high school. You probably knew little to nothing about most universities and your parents likely knew less. Then, your beacon in the thick haze appeared – the Maclean's poll.

Over-dramatic? Maybe. But consider the glorification this feature has accrued over the years. Days before the issue is released we hear about it on the nightly news. When it does make its way to the racks, potential students and their parents flock to buy it, as reflected in the issue's status as one of Maclean's best selling issues.

The virtues of the poll should not be understated and its information can prove helpful in a very difficult and costly decision. It also motivates universities to strive to improve themselves to rank higher on such an important piece of advertising. But what Maclean's university compilation should not do, however, is gain a reputation as the only research one needs to do.

For those who don't have the independent thinking or resourcefulness to realize this isn't the only groundwork needed, have fun during the few short months you will spend in university – Maclean's unfortunately doesn't mention the phenomenon of the Christmas graduate.

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Copyright The Gazette 1999