#24 in a Series Examining Every Item on the Beloit Mindset List

They aren’t surprised to learn that the position of Top Spook at the CIA is an equal opportunity post. (Class of 2017, #39)

Can someone explain what this one means? My first thought was that around 1995, the CIA must have hired its first woman or non-white director. Thus, the Class of 2017, who must follow such things, would know that the position is an “equal opportunity post.”

However, it appears that every CIA director has been a white man.

The best I can figure is that the item is a reference to John Deutch’s attempt to hire more women and minorities. In 1995, he made Nora Slatkin the CIA’s executive director, which was the #3 position, not the “Top Spook.”

If that’s the case, this item strikes all the regular Mindset List chords: (1) It refers to something that happened around the birth year of the class. (2) The vast majority of the class knows nothing about it. (3) If they knew, most of them wouldn’t care. (4) It clearly isn’t a “touchstone” nor does it have anything to do with the class’s “mindset.” (5) It’s so poorly written that it’s not clear to what exactly it refers.

#23 in a Series Examining Every Item on the Beloit Mindset List

Planes have never landed at Stapleton Airport in Denver. (Class of 2017, #25)

Once in a while the Mindset List creators don’t even bother to pretend they are chronicling “cultural touchstones” or imparting useful information about incoming college students and just throw in some item that is likely based on some personal memory or inside joke. Maybe one of them or one of their friends used to live Denver. Maybe there is some senile professor at Beloit who gives long incoherent soliliques in class on getting lost in the Stapleton Airport when he was a boy. Maybe Tom McBride had a fruitless day looking at 1995 newspapers on microfiche and added this to the list so he wouldn’t feel like his day was a total loss. Maybe Stapleton is the last name of a girl Ron Nief took to the prom and “landed” is a double entendre.

Nothing is certain except that this item has nothing to do with the alleged purposes of the list and reflects the indifference Messrs. Nief & McBride have toward their audience.

Look at Who Else Is Mocking the Mindset List: #2170BeloitMindset

There is a #2170BeloitMindset hashtag on Twitter, which includes tweets such as these:

Look at Who Else Is Bashing the Mindset List: A.V. Club, etc.

Our latest round-up of Class of 2017 Mindset List mockery:

The A.V. Club (Milwaukee edition) reports that “Beloit College releases lame Mindset List, wonders what’s up with kids and their Nintendos or whatever“:

The 2013 Mindset List—which examines the born-in-1995 class of 2017—is equally lame and random. For 18-year-olds, according to Nief and McBride, “a tablet is no longer something you take in the morning” (get it?), and “PayPal has replaced a pen pal as a best friend on line.” Incisive cultural analysis or a collection of Jay Leno-worthy groaners that betray a desperate “Old Man Yells At Cloud” fear of technology and youth? You decide.

Happily, the list has been drawing a fair amount of local and national criticism.

Bloggers at Unqualified Offerings and Orange Crate Art both offer some item-by-item criticism. The latter (Michael Leddy) links to his more in-depth critique from 2010:

What bothers me about the Beloit list involves some unspoken assumptions about reality and young adults. The list reads like a nightmare-version of the proposition that begins Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (1921): “Die Welt ist alles, was der Fall ist.” “The world is all that is the case” — all that is the case, that is, in the life-experience of a hypothetical eighteen-year-old American student.…

The Beloit list seems to suggest that if it hasn’t happened during your lifetime, well, it can’t really be real (witness the weirdly Orwellian statement that “Czechoslovakia has never existed”), or, at best, that you cannot be expected to know or care about it.…

An interviewer once asked the poet David Shapiro to name his favorite living poet. Wallace Stevens, he said. “But Stevens is dead,” the interviewer objected. “But not for me!” Shapiro replied.… I suspect that among this year’s incoming freshmen are some for whom Wallace Stevens (or Emily Dickinson, or E.E. Cummings, or Langston Hughes) is still living, for whom a pocket notebook and pen or pencil are tools of thought and introspection, and for whom Czechoslovakia is as real as it gets.

Finally, Hudson Hongo at Thought Catalog offers “The Real Mindset List for the Class of 2017” with entries such as these:

1. For this generation of entering college students, born in 1995, ALF, Ricky Martin and Queen Victoria have always been dead.

5. Thanks to global warming, they have zero words for snow.

6. “Eminem” has always been a scowling white man and if presented with an actual M&M an 18-year-old would die of shock.

7. They have never seen a squirrel.

12. “Sexting” has always been something you do with a phone, not a sextant.

19. College professors have always been able to trick lazy news editors into posting academically-flavored linkbait.


#22 in a Series Examining Every Item on the Beloit Mindset List

As their parents held them as infants, they may have wondered whether it was the baby or Windows 95 that had them more excited. (Class of 2017, #6)

Their parents may have watched The American Gladiators on TV the day they were born. (Class of 2012, #42)

Their parents may have dropped them in shock when they heard George Bush announce “tax revenue increases.” (Class of 2012, #8)

Their nervous new parents heard C. Everett Koop proclaim nicotine as addictive as heroin. (Class of 2009, #73)

Parents may have been reading The Bourne Supremacy or It as they rocked them in their cradles. (Class of 2008, #9)

Trivial Pursuit may have been played by their parents the night before they were born. (Class of 2006, #40)

The Beloit Mindset List authors have developed a nice little trope here portraying parents as distracted by things that happened when their children were born. These take the generic form of “students’ parents were doing/thinking about X on the day the students were born or shortly thereafter.” Shouldn’t these parents have been better preoccupied with the birth of their child rather than news items, trivia and pop culture?

As my colleague Disgruntled Prof mentioned earlier, the BML authors “have a bleak view of parenthood.” The list above shows us just how bleak. The worst is the parents being so upset by rising taxes that they dropped their newborns. I wonder what other news items caused them to drop their children that year?

The laziest item on the above list is #42 from the Class of 2012 as it takes the form “Their parents may have watched [insert any TV show from 1994] on TV the day they were born. Why not The Commish, M.A.N.T.I.S., Unsolved Mysteries, The X-Files, The Cosby Mysteries, or even The Simpsons reruns?

I’ll save the BML authors some time and generate a few for their Class of 2018 list:

  • Their parents may have considered leaving them on the doorstep of a Manhattan brownstone after seeing a similar storyline on Law & Order.
  • Their parents may have accidentally locked them in family’s bomb shelter while being distracted stockpiling cans of peas and bottled water in preparation for the Y2K apocalypse.
  •  Their parents may have dropped them into a bowl of french onion dip at a Super Bowl party when Rams linebacker Mike Jones tackled Tennessee wide receiver Kevin Dyson on the one yard line to prevent a potential game-tying touchdown.
  • Their parents may have been arrested for child neglect after forgetting to feed them because they were playing Mario Party 2 for 18 hours straight on their Nintendo 64.

Feel free to leave your own items for the list in the comments section.

Class of 2017 First Day Media Roundup

Here are some highlights of first day media coverage of the Class of 2017 Mindset List and of Beloit Mindlessness:

As we discussed in an earlier post, Insider Higher Ed’s Scott Jaschik reported on our valient efforts in Whose Mindset?

We also received coverage from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in Karen Herzog’s article “Is Beloit College’s Pop Culture Review a Mindset List or Mindlessness?” which includes a defense of the list from Tom McBride:

McBride said they “welcome critiques of all sort” because the list is intended to spark discussions.

“The most important thing, I believe, is the two at beloitmindlessness seem to be in a distinct but very small minority,” McBride said Tuesday, after this year’s list was released.

“Millions seem to look forward to the list every year — we get constant contacts about it, and the number of hits on the Beloit College website each year is in excess of one million,” he said.

They work hard on the list “to make sure its research is accurate and that we stay within time lines,” McBride said.

One out of two ain’t bad?

“But the main thing to know is that the list is just the tip of a much more thoughtful set of ideas and reflections about what is after all the subject of ‘King Lear’ and of nearly all Shakespeare’s comedies: the generation gap.”

So he’s claiming that he has access to a “much more thoughtful set of ideas and reflections” but gives us the Mindset List instead?

As a discussion-starter, the list provides a chance for those of different generations to trade “when I was 18 stories,” McBride said, “and it’s a great stimulus for discussion of such issues as the cost of college, the perils of multitasking, the meaning of entering ‘cyberspace,’ and whether or not this ‘sharing’ generation — for that’s what we think they are — will become the next great force in American life.”

McBride and Nief are asked every year to speak around the country about the list.

“Yes, you do have to be a bit thick-skinned,” McBride said of critics, “but we wouldn’t give anything for the fun we’ve had in so many conversations about the generation gap and the future with people from so many walks of life.”

We also were mentioned in an article in the (Cleveland) Plain Dealer.

As we discussed here, Daniel D’Addario bashed the Mindset List in a Salon article titled “Beloit College Is Trolling Us All.

Finally, a couple of radio personalities at Madison’s WMMM (105.5 FM) mock the Mindset List here. It’s probably most cogent discussion I’ve ever heard on FM radio.


#21 in a Series Examining Every Item on the Beloit Mindset List

Rites of passage have more to do with having their own cell phone and Skype accounts than with getting a driver’s license and car. (Class of 2017, #14)

Father: Sweetheart, times are tough, you can have a premium Skype account, or a driver’s license and a car, or we can throw you one hell of a debutante ball.

Daughter: That’s easy, I’ll take the Skype account!

The Mindset of the Mindset List Troubles Me

My first introduction to the Beloit College Mindset List came in one of our pre-semester all-college meetings a few years back. Our then college president shared some items with us from the list and the older faculty in the room could be heard to gasp audibly at some of them. Our president echoed the list’s creators’ finger-wagging admonishment to “watch your references,” which I find insulting. It assumes that every generation knows nothing, nor cares, about what came before the year they were born. The “generation gap” the Beloit list hopes to bridge is seemingly caused by stodgy old professors safely tucked away in their ivory towers from pop culture clashing with students too hip to know the roots or precedents of anything they consume in the present. The list assumes that old profs are also not able to cope with the passing of time, being startled that something they remember well happened so long ago. It assumes that students view their profs as relics of a bygone age dropping outdated references to previous generations they shouldn’t be expected to know.

The assumed and explicit stereotypes that the list and its ancillary materials rely on are especially troubling. For example, the “Guide To The Mindset List For The Class of 2016” (http://www.beloit.edu/mindset/assets/GuideTo2016MindsetList.pdf) lets us know that “The male members of the class are, not uncommonly, pretty good cooks of inexpensive organic food.” As a stodgy old prof am I supposed to be surprised by this? Is this meant to shatter my old prof worldview that only women are interested in cooking whereas men only prefer to dine on easy to prepare junk food?

The 2017 list that we prepared in a just few hours at Beloitcollegemindlessness to preempt the BCML should show that we know the simple mindset and methods of the list’s creators. Although many of the items we generated were intended as parody, it was interesting to see how many of our items actually matched or were quite similar to the BCML. This should prove that anyone can generate a rough equivalent of the list if they wish, so the genuine item can be rendered defunct much like the 1969 Seattle Pilots MLB team which no one from any generation remembers.

What do people at Beloit College think about the Mindset List?

We’re curious about what Beloit College faculty, staff, students and alumni think about the Mindset list.

We’ve run into a few of their opinions online.

In the comments section of today’s Inside Higher Ed story, Beloit student Abby R. offers this defense of this list:

As a current Beloit student going into Public Relations after graduation, I see this list every year and I’m happy because for once people know what Beloit is. Maybe it doesn’t really represent the interests and views of Beloit students, but it’s really a hit with a lot parents that might tell their kids to look more into the school as a future college option. A lot of Beloiters don’t really like the list or it’s funny, but like the bell run (look it up or ask a Beloiter), it’s a strong tradition and it’s probably here to stay.

That’s as honest a defense of the list that I can imagine: It has nothing to do with Beloit college students. They don’t like it or think it’s funny, but it has the word “Beloit” in the title.

It’s the old “I don’t care what you say about me, just spell my name right” approach, attributed to P.T. Barnum, an appropriate patron saint for the Mindset List.

A couple people with Beloit connections commented on Linda Holmes NPR blog post “Do College Students Really Think Beethoven Is a Dog?

An alumna (Kate Morgan) says she is pained to hear her alma mater bashed based on its connection with the list:

In reading down some of the responses in the comments section (always a slippery slope), it was a hard pill to swallow. The most challenging being some of the glib accusations being tossed around concerning how this reflects on the college. Beloit it a tiny campus, there were something like 1,200 students when I was an incoming freshman. You know everybody really well after four years. Doubly so for profs. So hearing people slam on McBride for being out of touch is weirdly personal. It is such a head trip for me to see people picking this apart. I’m certainly no official voice for the college, but despite what you think of the list, Beloit in all its parts amount to more than this.

Beloit “faculty wife” Melinda Newton suggests that Beloit professors wouldn’t approve of students submitting something of Mindset List-level quality, but they like getting to contribute items to the list:

I live in Beloit and my husband teaches at the College. The makers of the list poll the professors every year for items to add to the list. My husband was proud that he added an item (a couple of years ago) that Snuffleupagus was always visible to this generation. He still talks about it now. This is why the same references end up on the list year after year. In my opinion, the list writers could use a tough editor before putting out a press release. Also, those same professors wouldn’t let students write papers making huge generalizations about a group of diverse people. But I’m just a faculty wife. What do I know?

If you’re connected to Beloit College and want to share your view on the Mindset List, comment on this post or send me an email at:



#20 in a Series Examining Every Item on the Beloit Mindset List

“Dude” has never had a negative tone. (Class of 2017, #5)

I’m puzzled by this one. What does the word “tone” mean here?

Connotation? Voice modulation? Attitude?

If the meaning is that the word “dude” has lost its negative connotation, i.e., “a citified dandy”, that happened in the 1960s or 1970s.

If the meaning is that “dude” can’t be used to express a negative attitude, that’s clearly wrong. “Dude” can be used to signal disagreement, incredulity, disgust and other negative sentiments. The linguist Scott Kiesling calls this usage of dude a “confrontational stance attenuator.” Budweiser ran a series of commercials illustrating it in 2008.

In any case, this item contributes nothing to understanding the Class of 2017.

Further reading:

Kiesling, Scott F. 2004. “Dude.” American Speech 79(3):281-305.

Peters, Mark. 2010. “The History of Dude.” Good (April 24).

Swansburg, John. 2008. “Dude! How Great Are Those New Bud Light Ads?” Slate  (Jan. 28).