The Mindset of a Particular Set of Minds

Now that we’ve made our own Mindset list, it’s time for the official, sanctioned offering. Appearing for its 15th iteration, the annual Beloit College Mindset List tries to explain this fall’s new class of freshmen, most of whom were born in 1994, to their professors.

The list perhaps shows as much about the perspective of its authors as of the subjects in question. To put it another way: Whether there has ever been an era without fabulists and the fame-hungry, or whether the 18-year-olds of today know enough about the singer-songwriter Selena to register that she may still have mourning fans, we’ll leave to our readers.

As it did last  year, the Internet looms large on the list of 75 things that have always been true for the freshmen entering college this fall. They have always lived in cyberspace, addicted to a new generation of “electronic narcotics,” the authors write.

Here’s a sampling of some other items from the list, grouped (haphazardly, non-comprehensively, unscientifically) into a few general categories:

The Internet (14 items):

  • If they miss The Daily Show, they can always get their news on YouTube.
  • They watch television everywhere but on a television.
  • Before they purchase an assigned textbook, they will investigate whether it is available for rent or purchase as an e-book.

People Who Have Died/Fictional Characters They Never Met (9 items)

  • A bit of the late Gene Roddenberry, creator of Star Trek, has always existed in space.
  • Michael Jackson’s family, not the Kennedys, constitutes “American Royalty.”
  • Benjamin Braddock, having given up both a career in plastics and a relationship with Mrs. Robinson, could be their grandfather.
  • Selena’s fans have always been in mourning.

Politics (13 items):

  • For most of their lives, maintaining relations between the United States and the rest of the world has been a woman’s job in the State Department.
  • Since they’ve been born, the United States has measured progress by a 2 percent jump in unemployment and a 16 cent rise in the price of a first-class postage stamp.

Sports (5 items):

  • Lou Gehrig’s record for most consecutive baseball games played has never stood in their lifetimes.

General ‘Kids Today’ Grumbling (37.5 items):

  • The biblical sources of terms such as “forbidden fruit,” “the writing on the wall,” “good Samaritan,” and “promised land” are unknown to most of them.
  • A significant percentage of them will enter college already displaying some hearing loss.

General ‘We’re Old’ Grumbling (37.5 items):

  • They have always lived in an era of instant stardom and self-proclaimed celebrities, famous for being famous.
  • Ice skating competitions have always been jumping matches.
  • They grew up, somehow, without the benefits of Romper Room.

The full list is available on Beloit College’s Web site.

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