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

There is no rhyme or reason to claims in the Beloit Mindset List about what college students can and can’t remember, as these items about U.S. Presidents illustrate.

They have known only two presidents. (Class of 2017, #11)

The class of 2017 can’t remember the presidency of Bill Clinton, whose term ended the year they turned six.

Bill Clinton is a senior statesman of whose presidency they have little knowledge. (Class of 2016, #8)

The class of 2016 can’t remember the presidency of Bill Clinton, whose term ended the year they turned seven.

As for the class of 2015, without any memory whatever of George Herbert Walker Bush as president, they came into existence as Bill Clinton came into the presidency. (Class of 2015, introduction)

The class of 2015 can’t remember George H.W. Bush, whose term ended the year they were born, but the Bill Clinton is worth mentioning even though his term ended the year they turned eight.

Potato has always ended in an “e” in New Jersey per vice presidential edict. (Class of 2014, #42)

Dan Quayle’s meaningless spelling mistake is part of the mindset of the Class of 2014 even though it happened the year they were born.

Rock bands have always played at presidential inaugural parties. (Class of 2014, #55)

The class of 2014 can remember Fleetwood Mac playing at Bill Clinton’s inauguration even though it happened the year they turned one-year-old.

Except for the present incumbent, the President has never inhaled. (Class of 2013, #21)

Bill Clinton’s claim that he “didn’t inhale” marijuana is somehow significant to the Class of 2013 even though he said it the year they turned one.

They have known only two presidents. (Class of 2010, #2)

The Class of 2010 can’t remember the presidency of George H.W. Bush, whose term ended the year they turned five.

A Southerner has always been President of the United States. (Class of 2006, #1)

Reagan’s presidency ended in the year the Class of 2006 turned five. So they have had a Southern president since then (assuming Bush I is really a Southerner).

The President has always addressed the nation on the radio on Saturday. (Class 2004, #17)

Reagan re-started this tradition the year the Class of 2004 was born. And members of the class have probably never missed tuning in to hear the weekly addresses.

They have no idea that a “presidential scandal” once meant nothing more than Ronald Reagan taking President Carter’s briefing book in “Debategate.” (Class of 2004, #21)

The Class of 2004 can’t remember “Debategate,” which took place two years before the year of their birth.

They cannot identify the last United States President to throw-up on a Japanese prime minister. (Class of 2003, #35)

While I’m sure this trivial event has no significance for the mindset of anyone, Bush I threw up on the Japanese Prime Minister in 1992, the year members of the Class of 2003 turned 11.

They cannot imagine waiting a generation to get the dirt on the U.S. President. (Class of 2003, #38)

Maybe Messrs. McBride and Nief had something in mind when the composed this item, but I have no idea what it is.

There has only been one Pope. They can only remember one other president. (Class of 2002, #5)

The Class of 2002 can’t remember Ronald Reagan, who was elected the year they were born and served as president until the year they turned nine.

To sum up, according to the Beloit Mindset List, matriculating college students have no memory of U.S. Presidents who served even into the ninth year of their lives, but items of presidential trivia—Dan Quayle’s spelling mishap and Bill Clinton’s remarks about smoking marijuana—are cultural touchstones because they happened around the time the students were born.

The most important premise of the Mindset List is that the significance of events for a class of college students is dependent on the relationship between the purported year of their birth and the year of the event in question. This is a ridiculous premise, but if Messrs. McBride and Nief are going to rely on it, you’d think they’d try to be consistent about it.

Which presidents do college students remember and what significance do they have for them? I don’t know, but neither do Messrs. McBride and Nief.

[In an earlier post, I explained why the Mindset List won’t discuss Obama’s presidency until the Class of 2026’s list.]


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

Astronauts have always spent well over a year in a single space flight. (Class of 2016, #72)

A bit of the late Gene Roddenberry, creator of Star Trek, has always existed in space. (Class of 2016, #40)

The Hubble Space Telescope has always been eavesdropping on the heavens. (Class of 2012, #54)

The space program has never really caught their attention except in disasters. (Class of 2011, #56)

Travel to space has always been accomplished in reusable spacecraft.  (Class of 2003, #22)

They are too young to remember the Space Shuttle Challenger blowing up. (Class of 2002, #8)

I’m going to wrap up Astronaut Week here at Beloit Mindlessness a day early because Prof. Angry and I will be hosting a space-travel themed party in the Mindlessness office suite all day Friday. Drop by anytime. Costumes are recommended but not required.

I have half a dozen space-themed items left to cover in this post, but I want to start with the punchline to this week’s exploration of space through the alien minds of Messrs. McBride and Nief: Despite regularly including trivia about space travel in their lists of “cultural touchstones,” in 2007 the pair admitted that space travel “has never really caught the attention” of matriculating college students!

They did give “disasters” as an exception, but the only time a space disaster (the Challenger explosion) was mentioned on a Beloit Mindset List was to explain that the Class of 2002 is too young to remember it!

Regarding the other items, none of which have “caught the attention” of college students:

• The space flight that lasted “well over a year” (437 days) was in 1994, the official BML birth year of the Class of 2016. This is one of those “happened the year they were born but never since” items that show up frequently on the lists.

• The spacecraft carrying Gene Roddenberry’s ashes fell out orbit and disintegrated into the atmosphere in 2002, when the Class of 2016 was eight-years-old—so it hasn’t “always existed in space.”

• The Hubble Space Telescope was indeed was launched the year the Class of 2012 was born.

• The first space shuttle operational flights (presumably the “reusable spacecraft”) took place in 1982, when Class of 2003 was one-year-old.

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

Women have always piloted war planes and space shuttles. (Class of 2016, #23)

There has always been a woman on the Supreme Court, and women have always been traveling into space. (Class of 2003, #4)

In an earlier post, I pointed out that since two-thirds of Americans couldn’t name any Supreme Court Justices, the court’s membership isn’t much of a cultural touchstone. Sadly, the identity of astronauts is probably similarly unknown.

The BML Class of 2003 list has a double-barreled item about women having always been on the Supreme Court and traveling in space. Sandra Day O’Connor joined the U.S. Supreme Court in 1981, the birth year of much of the class of 2003. So that much is right (if you accept the BML’s nonstandard use of the word “always”). But the first “woman in space” was Valentina Tereshkova, who piloted a Vostok spacecraft into orbit in 1963, around the time the class of 1985 was being born. It’s just not that hard to look this stuff up.

Thirteen years later Messrs. McBride and Nief returned to the topic of women in space for the Class of 2016 with another double-barreled question. The first female Space Shuttle pilot was Eileen Collins, who piloted the Discovery in 1995, a year after the BML-approved birth year for the Class of 2016. The first American female fighter pilot was Jeannie Leavitt in 1993 (although women had been flying fighter planes in Turkey starting in 1936 and in Soviet Union during World War II). So the chronology works out even if neither of these facts has anything to do with “cultural touchstones” or “mindsets.”

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

Americans and Russians have always cooperated better in orbit than on earth. (Class of 2017, #30)

Russians and Americans have always been living together in space. (Class of 2014, #43)

The U.S. and the Soviets have always been partners in space. (Class of 2006, #22)

Messrs. McBride and Nief are running out of ideas. That’s one of the impressions I get from going through multiple Mindset Lists looking for recurring topics, something most people who have not devoted themselves to the mockery and eventual destruction of the Beloit Mindset List have likely not done.

It should go without saying that Russians and Americans working together in space has nothing to do with the mindset of matriculating college students—because (1) the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project took place nearly 40 years ago and (2) most people just aren’t interested that much in the topic—but since Messrs. McBride and Nief don’t care about accuracy, facts, and such, they really have a lot of freedom to make up interesting and creative stuff. Instead we get the same items repeating every few years.

(Note also that the most recent list had just 60 items—or about one half item a week for each member of the Mindset team—rather than the 75 items that had become the standard.)

Has the task of coming up with several dozen “facts” about college freshmen each year proven so difficult for these two guys that they need to borrow from their previous lists? Or have they simply forgotten what was on their previous lists and are unable to find said lists on the microfilm they use to do their “research”?

The suggestion that the mindset of the Class of 2006 was shaped by knowledge involving citizens of a country that hadn’t existed since they were three-year-olds is just another piece of evidence that Messrs. McBride and Nief really can’t be bothered to get things right.

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

Someone has always gotten married in space. (Class of 2014, #48)

This week I’m going to examine the dozen Mindset List items related to space travel and exploration. My initial assumption about the above item, apparently about space weddings, was that it belonged to one of the largest Mindset List categories: things that happened approximately 18 years ago that most 18-year-olds don’t care about.

However, as far as I can tell, there were no space weddings circa 1992, before 1992 or after 1992. There has never been a space wedding.

In 2003 a male cosmonaut in orbit and a woman at NASA’s John Space Center in Houston were married so I guess that one person has “gotten married in space” but seven years is a short “always” even by Mindset List standards. (The first wedding in a reduced gravity aircraft took place in 2009.)

Outer space contains many mysteries and I guess this Mindset List item is just another one of them.