Beloit College's Mindset List: An Exercise in Ignorance

So, every year, Beloit College in Wisconsin puts out something called "The Mindset List", which is supposed to prepare their professors for the "mindset" of the incoming class of students, who are likely to not understand the old teachers' outdated references. And every year, the mainstream media, just as stuck in their old ways, faithfully reports the items on this list as a cultural touchstone of the changing times.

What generally goes unreported is just how inaccurate these lists are. Normally, I wouldn't even care, but this entry on this year's list obviously caught my eye:
6. Buffy has always been meeting her obligations to hunt down Lothos and the other blood-suckers at Hemery High.
Umm... where to begin with the wrongness of that? Well, I guess they're trying to make the point that prior to 1992, when the Class of 2014 was born, Buffy Summers was just a normal girl, but ever since then, she's been The Slayer... The Chosen One... One girl in all the world with the power to blah, blah, blah, you know the drill.

However, the references to Lothos and Hemery High are specific to the "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" movie, which was released in 1992, and probably is completely irrelevant to someone in the Class of 2014. Even the TV series, in which Buffy was meeting her obligations to hunt down the many demons attracted to the Hellmouth under Sunnydale High, was probably in the "before their time" category, as most Class of 2014ers would have been only 11 years old when the show went off the air. Now, it's entirely possible that a current 18-year-old would have caught the magical TV series that is "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" on DVD (or Netflix Watch Instantly, or iTunes, or whatever) but the Lothos and Hemery High references would be lost on them.

I was going to go line-by-line and critique the rest of this year's Mindset List, but that wouldn't really be fair, since I'm 12 years removed from these kids, and this is the same generation that thinks Ke$ha (*shudder*) is talented. So instead, let's take a look at the list from my college class, the class of 2002 (holy shit, when did I get so fucking old?) and see how insane it is.

1. The people starting college this fall across the nation were born in 1980.

OK, this is true. It's also just a fact, that has nothing to do with "mindset"

2. They have no meaningful recollection of the Reagan era, and did not know he had ever been shot.

Yes, I did not know Reagan had ever been shot, because I never watched a second of the news and slept through every minute of history class from the 6th grade on.

3. They were prepubescent when the Persian Gulf War was waged.

Again, this is simply a fact. It doesn't speak at all to my class's "mindset" regarding the Persian Gulf War.

4. Black Monday 1987 is as significant to them as the Great Depression.

OK, we're starting to get into something that will be a common theme on this list: Beloit College seems to be under the impression that modern children don't begin forming memories until the age of 13. I for one remember Black Monday, and I'm also able to discern the cultural differences between the demise of '80s excess and the devastation of pre-war time economic collapse.

5. There has only been one Pope. They can only remember one other president.

Yes, there has only been one Pope, because I never picked up a history book. And, trust me, when I went into college in '98, I could remember Clinton, Bush (the first) and Reagan. That's three presidents.

6. They were 11 when the Soviet Union broke apart, and do not remember the Cold War.

I may never have had to practice hiding under a desk, but I remember the Cold War. I was 7 when the "Tear down this wall!" speech happened, not a fetus.

7. They have never feared a nuclear war. "The Day After" is a pill to them—not a movie.

I'm 30 and I STILL fear nuclear war.

8. They are too young to remember the Space Shuttle Challenger blowing up.

OK, this has to be my biggest complaint on the entire list. The Challenger explosion happened in 1986, when I was in kindergarten. I was five years old at the time. The shuttle launch was a HUGE deal in schools around the country, because a teacher was part of the crew. My class, and thousands of others across the nation were watching live. It is literally my first memory of anything having to do with the reality of death, and that applies to millions of other people in the Class of 2002. If you were one of my college professors and assumed I had no frame of reference for the Challenger explosion, I might have actually dropped your class immediately.

9. Their lifetime has always included AIDS.

While this may be an accurate scientific fact, it doesn't really capture the mindset of my generation. I still remember my school holding an impromptu assembly in our gym after Magic Johnson announced that he was HIV positive. One of the questions asked by a student was "does this mean Magic is going to die soon". The answer given was "probably." Well, Magic's still with us, so to say our lifetime as "always included AIDS" is kind of misleading.

10. They never had a polio shot, and likely, do not know what it is.

Yes to the first part of that sentence. The second part again assumes that instead of paying attention in history class, we were all playing Snakes on our TI-82s (we only did that in math class).

11. Bottle caps have not always been screw off, but have always been plastic. They have no idea what a pull top can looks like.

My family was a soda-drinking family from the time I was very young, so I definitely remember non-plastic bottle caps.

12. Atari pre-dates them, as do vinyl albums.

I owned an Atari 2600, both before and after I attended college.

13. The expression "you sound like a broken record" means nothing to them.

Yes, my entire generation is unable to communicate with anyone older than us because they speak a form of English that is complete foreign to our feeble brains (btw, 12 years later, people still use the phrase "you sound like a broken record" and people STILL know what it means. SHOCKING!).

14. They have never owned a record player.


15. They have likely never played Pac Man, and have never heard of "Pong."

OK, ya know what, Beloit College, you might want to stay away from video game references that YOU don't understand. Because I sure as fuck played the shit out of Pac-Man (get it right, it's hyphenated) and I not only have "heard of" Pong, but I've played it.

16. Star Wars looks very fake to them, and the special effects are pathetic.

Fuck you. Star Wars has always been awesome.

17. There have always been red M&Ms, and blue ones are not new. What do you mean there used to be beige ones?

The blue M&M replaced the tan one in the mid '90s. How would someone entering college in 1998 be unfamiliar with this?

18. They may never have heard of an 8-track, and chances are they've never heard or seen one.

I actually remember attempting to transfer my parents 8-tracks to cassette when I was in high school. In fact, they may still have that 8-track player somewhere in their basement.

19. The compact disc was introduced when they were one year old.

This is, again, just a fact. However, I didn't get my first CD until I was 13 years old. I still have my copy of Mariah Carey's "Emotions" on cassette in my basement.

20. As far as they know, stamps have always cost about 32 cents.

Also in my basement is a puzzle of the Lou Gehrig first class stamp, which was 25 cents. I remember stamp prices lower than 32 cents pretty well (of course, now, in 2010, 32 cents seems like a distant memory).

21. They have always had an answering machine.

Also false. Though we did have a fax machine pretty early on.

22. Most have never seen a TV set with only 13 channels, nor have they seen a black & white TV.

Never "bought" a black & white TV, maybe. But never "seen" one? That's just stupid.

23. They have always had cable.

My household got cable when I was five years old, but I know that this was not common among my elementary school classmates.

24. There have always been VCRs, but they have no idea what Beta is.

My parents actually had Betamax tapes in the house until finally getting them converted at some point in the late '90s.

25. They cannot fathom what it was like not having a remote control.

The remote control was invented in 1950 and was fairly common by the 1970s. This isn't something unique to children born in 1980.

26. They were born the year Walkmen were introduced by Sony.

And your point is?

27. Roller-skating has always meant in-line for them.

On the contrary, I never learned how to in-line skate, but have fond memories of going to roller rinks as a kid and renting the traditional four-wheel skates.

28. "The Tonight Show" has always been with Jay Leno.

My parents actually let me stay up late to watch Johnny Carson's final "Tonight Show", which aired in 1992. Again, is Beloit College aware that human beings are capable of forming memories before reaching puberty?

29. They have no idea when or why Jordache jeans were cool.

NO ONE has any idea why Jordache jeans were cool.

30. Popcorn has always been cooked in the microwave.

Seriously? Growing up, we had an air popper (though we definitely still used microwave popcorn more) and even in 2010, Jiffy Pop still sells stove top popcorn (also, anyone who saw "Scream", which came out in 1996, is aware that popcorn can be cooked outside the microwave).

31. They have never seen Larry Bird play, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is a football player.

I recant my earlier statement about the Challenger entry being the most false on this list. I saw Larry Bird play in person multiple times, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was always a basketball player. The Kareem reference is supposed to be a reference to the UCLA/Dolphins running back, but even at his most famous, he was never close to as well known as the former Lew Alcindor. Also, Bird was on the fucking Dream Team, which played in 1992. That's right in your idiotic 12-year-old's memory wheelhouse. OK, let's add sports to the list of things Beloit College should never talk about.

32. They never took a swim and thought about Jaws.

Wow, this is just a special kind of wrong.

33. The Vietnam War is as ancient history to them as WWI and WWII or even the Civil War.

Yep, because anything that happened before I was born is "ancient" and not "recent", and I'm completely unable to tell historical events apart. What the fuck?!

34. They have no idea that Americans were ever held hostage in Iran.

"What's this strange grouping of papers stuck between hard covers with the word 'HISTORY' on the front? Oh well, I'm sure it's not important. Let me get back to my Internets where I can chat with my dope homeboys about the latest Nintendos."

35. They can't imagine what hard contact lenses are.

I actually always wore glasses, so hard, soft, disposable, any other type of contact lenses meant nothing to me.

36. They don't know who Mork was, or where he was from.

Fuck you, I loved "Mork and Mindy" when I was a kid.

37. They never heard the terms "Where's the Beef?", "I'd walk a mile for a Camel" or "De plane, de plane!"

I don't know who should be more offended by this one, me or Herve Villechaize? R.I.P., Tattoo.

38. They do not care who shot J.R. and have no idea who J.R. is.

... which is why the "Who Shot Mr. Burns" episode of "The Simpsons" remains a confusing failure to this day.

39. The Titanic was found? I thought we always knew where it was.

Wait, Titanic was something other than a James Cameron movie? Wow, I'm 18 years old, so I have no concept of things unless they're on the Welcome screen when I sign on to AOL (dated reference alert!).

40. Michael Jackson has always been white.

My multiple copies of "Thriller" would beg to differ.

41. Kansas, Boston, Chicago, America, and Alabama are all places—not music groups.

Look, Beloit College, just because you have shitty taste in music doesn't mean I'm a moron.

42. McDonald's never came in Styrofoam containers.

Fuck yeah it did. I wish they'd bring those back, environment be damned!

43. There has always been MTV, and it has always included non-musical shows.

Yes, there has "always" been MTV (since I'll give you that I don't really remember stuff from the time I was 1 year old). However, I fully remember the late '80s shift into non-musical programming and the subsequent attempt to revive the music video in the late '90s. So, no, the last part of your statement, like the vast majority of this list, is a FAIL.


  1. I'm 10 years younger than you and even I personally remember the introduction of blue M&Ms. I loved M&Ms as a kid and I was shocked to see a new color haha. I wouldn't go to this school even if I had a full ride.


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