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So I’m angry, I was reading a post from one of my Twitter friends, CC Chapman, about his dislike of Top Lists. This motivated me into responding back along the lines of “I despise Top Lists” in the context of how people continually request information along the lines of “what is the top school for audio engineering”, “what is the best school for production”.

I’ve seen these questions asked time and time and time again on one of my forums for studio recording engineers. The board has a category (99)  entitled Becoming an Engineer, and I’m always amazed at how many people ask this, frankly dumb, question, I’ll now indicate why this is dumb.

Firstly, before we look at how Top Lists work in USA (thanks to another of my Twitter friends Christopher Penn) we need to ask this question: Why are you going to college? Or put in a more academic way – what are the main motivational reasons for a student attending college.

The main motivational reasons an individuals choice for attending a college for studying are numerous and considerable academic research exists which indicates this very clearly such as this ( to name thousands.

Some of the main reasons I’ve listed here:

Intrinsic reasons

• Loves the subject for the subject sake
• Wants to prove they can achieve something for themselves
• Loves the city the college is based at
• Knows other students or staff at campus

Extrinsic reasons

• Wants a qualification as a ticket
• Want to prove to family and peers their capability and worth

I do not want to dwell on these reasons in a blog post, but needless to say the reasons are complex, which make questions of the form “What is the Top School for Audio Engineering” absolutely of zero value, if there is no correlation to the individual students’ motivational reasons or indeed a definition of what “Top” is.

Indeed if Top List are not clearly defined as to why they are Top Lists they are nothing more than disinformation. Financially backed lists are even worse, where they are self-perpetuating and creating a very wrong perception of quality in the minds of the youth, I mean people really do seem to believe these lists as a measure of some kind of academic quality, it is frankly shocking.

Check this post out as an example of this activity:

If a Top List is in existence we have to pull it apart, rip it to bits and ask what are the qualifications for getting in the Top-List, what makes the school top, who decides that and why do they decide it, and could I put my school in the Top List if I could afford it! This goes back to Christopher Penn’s transparency concept, I’d go even further and simply do away with Top Lists altogether!

For example “goals such as increasing the diversity of freshmen, improving freshman retention, adding to research expenditures, improving faculty salaries, etc” are very noble targets for any Uni Director/President to aim for, but when these magazine Top-Lists are based on subjectivity we are in extremely dangerous ground, especially when a Uni President is being paid to reach the top of the Top List, outrageous!

Sometimes the best academic experience can come from the most unknown of sources and, it is the connections the individual makes with the material, the people, the environment which yield rich education, as well as a variety of other issues which have absolutely nothing to do with a subjective Top-List published in popular magazines.

Screw the friggin Top Lists!