There have always been red M&Ms, and blue ones are not new. What do you mean there used to be beige ones? (Class of 2002, #17)
There have always been blue M&Ms, but no tan ones. (Class of 2016, #30)
The Mindset List was originally intended as a “witty [sic] way of saying to faculty colleagues ‘watch your references,'” no doubt to avoid situations like this:
Old, out-of-touch professor: Maybe it will help if you think of the protons as tan M&Ms and the neutrons as the new blue M&Ms.
Professor: What’s wrong?
Student #1: What’s a tan M&M?
Professor: It’s one of the five M&M colors. It comes in every bag.
Student #2: I’ve never seen a tan M&M.
Professor: I know I’ve seen them.
Student #3: There have “never” been tan M&Ms!
Student #4: And there have “always” been blue M&Ms!!
Professor: You don’t know what you’re talking about!!!
Student #5: You just don’t understand our cultural touchstones!
(Class erupts into angry shouting and professor runs out the door.)
There has always been a Santa Clause. (Class of 2016, #53)
Pulp Fiction’s meal of a “Royale with Cheese” and an “Amos and Andy milkshake” has little or no resonance with them. (Class of 2016, #69)
The Santa Clause is a children’s movie in which Santa Clause dies(!) and is replaced by Tim Allen. It was released in 1994, around the time the Class of 2016 was born.
Pulp Fiction is an influential crime movie directed by Quentin Tarantino. It won the Palme d’Or at the Canne Film Festival and was nominated for seven Oscars. It also was released in 1994.
Given the proclivities of the Beloit Mindlist you might expect that “Tim Allen has always been Santa Claus” and “John Travolta has always been Vincent Vega and never been Tony Manero.” Instead, the Mindlist List suggests that the Class of 2016 has never heard of Pulp Fiction (since it came out when they were babies) but that The Santa Clause is part of their “mindset” (because it came out after they were born).
In fact, most of our college students have watched Pulp Fiction and many say it’s their favorite movie. The ability to watch movies that aren’t currently being shown in a theater is part of the mindset of college students but not the Mindset List staff. Not much thought is needed to reach the conclusion that Pulp Fiction may be more appealing to college students than a children’s film starring Tim Allen.
The two favorite words of the Beloit Mindset List are “always” and “never.” For instance,
“There has always been football in Jacksonville but never in Los Angeles” (Class of 2016, #14), “There has always been a World Trade Organization” (Class of 2016, #49),
“The Communist Party has never been the official political party in Russia” (Class of 2015, #23), and “Food has always been irradiated.” (Class of 2014, #51).
The first list (Class of 2002) had a mere 13 “always” items and 10 “never” items in its 43-items list. By the Class of 2013 list, there were 59 “always” items and 14 “never” items among the 75 entries.
Some of these claims are limited to the experience of students themselves, e.g., “They have never owned a record player” (Class of 2002, #14), but most them are written as absolute ontological claims: “Genomes of living things have always been sequenced.” (Class of 2016, #74).
Are college freshman so stupid that they don’t realize that gene sequencing is a modern development unknown to the Pilgrims or the Founding Fathers? That’s a question that doesn’t even make sense. By the logic of the Mindset list, “There never were Pilgrims” and “The Founding Fathers have never existed.” If something happened over 18 years ago, the little solipsists can’t conceive of it.
One of the guiding principles of the Beloit Mindset list is that college freshman are so incredibly stupid that they don’t understand that things happened before they were born.
Mr. Burns has replaced J.R.Ewing as the most shot-at man on American television. (Class of 2016, #55)
J.R. Ewing is a fictional character on the TV show Dallas, which ran on CBS from 1978 to 1991, before the birth of the Class of 2016. However, for what it’s worth, the show was reprised in 2012 with Larry Hagman again starring as J.R. Ewing. It premiered two months before the unveiling of the Class of 2016 List.
In March 1980, J.R. Ewing was shot by an unseen assailant in a season-ending cliffhanger. “Who Shot J.R.?” was a media sensation and popular slogan, slapped on t-shirts and buttons. In November 1980, it was revealed (spoiler alert) that the shooter was his sister-in-law/mistress Kristin.
Mr. Burns is a fiction character on The Simpsons, which premiered in 1989 and is still on the air. In May 1995, Mr. Burns was shot in an season-ending episode meant to parody “Who Shot J.R.?” In September 1995, viewers learned (spoiler alert) that the culprit was Maggie Simpson.
When these Simpsons episodes aired most members of the Class of 2016 were approximately one year-old. This is no accident. Many items from the Mindset List appear to be derived from looking at a list of events that took place around the time of the relevant class’s birth. Things that ended before they were born “never” happened. Things that began after they were born “always” existed.
Quite obviously a TV episode that airs when you’re a baby can’t be said to shape your “mindset.” But that may not even be the dumbest part of the item. Like many Mindset claims, this one is sloppily written. Why would either J.R. Ewing or Mr. Burns be considered the “most-shot man” on American television? Their shootings are notable for their fame, not their frequency.
Is it too much to ask that Beloit College hire an editor to go through these lists before they are released to clean up this atrocious writing?