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

Having grown up with MP3s and iPods, they never listen to music on the car radio and really have no use for radio at all. (Class of 2016, #15)

They have had to incessantly remind their parents not to refer to their CDs and DVDs as “tapes.” (Class of 2016, #29)

Their parents’ car CD player is soooooo ancient and embarrassing. (Class of 2017, #57)

One of the recent conceits on the Beloit Mindset List is that not only do matriculating college students use newer technology than their parents, but this difference is a source of conflict, confusion and embarrassment.

The item from 2016, suggesting that parents are confused by CDs and DVDs and call them “tapes,” is one of my candidates for dumbest entry in the history of the Mindset List. Compact discs have been around since the 1980s and DVDs since the 1990s. The parents of the Class of 2016 are very familiar with them. And even if they weren’t, why would they call them tapes? Is this supposed to be funny?

The item from the Class 2017 list claims that having a CD player in the family car is embarrassing. As of 2013, there are still new cars with CD players. Cassette tape players weren’t discontinued until 2010 so probably plenty of members of the Class of 2010 have those as well.

You would think that Messrs. Nief & McBride would have done more research on the topic of car audio systems since they actually corrected an item on that topic a year earlier.

Item #15 for the Class of 2016 originally read “Having grown up with MP3s and iPods, they never listen to music on the car radio and really have no use for radio at all.” Critics pointed out that there is actual data that disproves this claim:

The fact is, nearly 90% of all 12-24s in America listen to broadcast radio every week.  That’s documented by Arbitron’s national numbers.  More than 22 million 12-17 year-olds listen to radio every week, while nearly 27 million 18-24s – the “college years” demographic – are still tuning in AM/FM radio even though they have iPods, smartphones, and tablets available to them. (What’s On Your Mind(set)?)

This resulted in Messrs. Nief & McBride changing #15 to read: “While still fans of music on radio, they often listen to it on their laptops or replace it with music downloaded onto their MP3s and iPods.” (The introductory text still reads, “In these students’ lifetimes, with MP3 players and iPods, they seldom listen to the car radio.”)

This correction raises several questions: (1) How many times have items on the Beloit Mindset List been corrected? (2) Why aren’t the Mindset List items that have been proven wrong on Beloit Mindlessness being corrected? (3) Why did the Mindset List duo make up a ridiculous fact about car audio systems just a year after they were caught making up another one?

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

GM means food that is Genetically Modified. (Class of 2017, #3)

Having a chat has seldom involved talking. (Class of 2017, #8)

Gaga has never been baby talk. (Class of 2017, #9)

Plasma has never been just a bodily fluid. (Class of 2017, #19)

Java has never been just a cup of coffee. (Class of 2017, #29)

A Wiki has always been a cooperative web application rather than a shuttle bus in Hawaii. (Class of 2017, #50)

“Words developing new meanings” is one of the Mindset List’s favorite tropes as these six items from the Class of 2017 list demonstrate. In fact, a word developing a new meaning is ipso facto a cultural touchstone regardless of the actual importance of the thing the word means.

Plasma is a flat panel display technology that was invented in 1964 at the University of Illinois, used to make big screen TVs in the mid-1990s, overtaken  by LCD technology in the 2000s, and apparently soon to be phased out of production. Java is a software platform/computer language. Members of the Class of 2017 may have watched a plasma TV or used a Java application, but they don’t have to be familiar with the terms. If these technologies hadn’t been invented, we’d be doing the same things with some similar technology. Their Mindset noteworthiness (over dozens of other electronic technologies popularized in the mid-1990s) is that they are named using words that also mean something else.

The item about “Gaga” relies on the Mindset conceit that new meanings of words crowd out old ones. The existence of the entertainer Lady Gaga (née Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta) means that young people can’t conceive that “gaga” could also be used to stand for stereotypical baby talk. (Or in Mindset argot, gaga has never been baby talk.)

(It would be interesting to know if there is any pattern to which new meanings, like “plasma” and “java,” render older meanings “never just” and which new meanings cause older meanings to “never have existed”.)

Similarly “chat” isn’t used to refer to talking anymore. (Or maybe Messrs. Nief & McBride believe that young people are no longer interested in speaking in person. Cf. Class of 2017 item #45 [“They have never really needed to go to their friend’s house so they could study together.”])

Wikis, especially Wikipedia, is one of those rare Mindset List items that may actually belong on a list of cultural touchstones, but its significance has nothing to do with the earlier use of the term as a Hawaiian shuttle bus. Similarly, the significance of genetically modified food has nothing to do with its abbreviation.