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

Threatening to shut down the government during Federal budget negotiations has always been an anticipated tactic. (Class of 2017, #17)

Growing up with the family dog, one of them has worn an electronic collar, while the other has toted an electronic lifeline. (Class of 2017, #18)

The Mindset List web site used to claim that it started as “a witty [sic] way of saying to faculty colleagues ‘watch your references.’” The line may be insulting to professors, but its meaning is clear.

In the past year or so, the line has been changed to “a witty way of saying to faculty colleagues ‘beware of hardening of the references.’” Huh?

The creators of the BML are an English professor and a P.R. flak so you’d think they would be able to write comprehensible English rather than the tortured, convoluted prose they regularly turn out. Since apparently nobody at Beloit College has stepped forward to edit the lists before they’re published, Professor Angry and I would be happy to lend our services. For my audition, I’ll rewrite the two choice Class of 2017 items above.

  • “The threat of a government shutdown has always hung over Federal budget negotiations”
  • “Their dogs wear electronic collars; they carry electronic lifelines.”

Accuracy is harder to fix.

Messrs. McBride and Nief like items that connect something that happened around the birth of the class to something that happened recently. Republicans in Congress shut down the government in 1994 and again in 2013—so it didn’t happen for first 18 years the Class of 2017 was alive. Since it’s a tactic used by Republicans against Democratic presidents, it wasn’t even anticipated for most of their lives.

Electronic shock collars for animals have been around since the 1960s so it’s unclear why it shows up on the Class of 2017 list—or how many Class of 2017 pets wear them given the controversy that surrounds their use.

College students being “connected” has been in the news for years, e.g., the Pew Research Center’s informative 2010 report “Millennials: Confident. Connected. Open to Change,” so I suppose it was just a matter of time before the BML stumbled upon it, connected it to a more questionable assertion and turned it into a poorly constructed sentence.

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

Jurassic Park has always had rides and snack bars, not free-range triceratops and velociraptors. (Class of 2017, #26)

Here’s another example of a “words develop new meanings” item that makes little sense.

Jurassic Park is a 1990 novel by Michael Crichton. A Steven Spielberg movie of the same name was released in 1993. A sequel to the book, The Lost World, was published in 1995, the year when much of the Class of 2017 was born. That book became a movie in 1997. A third movie came out in 2001. A 3D version of the first movie was re-released in 2013 and a fourth movie is planned for 2015.

Jurassic Park: The Ride at Universal Studios Hollywood opened in 1996 with other versions opening later in Japan, Florida and Singapore.

There have also been Jurassic Park comic books, video games and toys.

There are two obvious directions for the BML to take regarding Jurassic Park. First, Jurassic Park has always existed for the Class of 2017 (since they can’t remember a time when it didn’t exist). Second, Jurassic Park never existed (or at least is not important) for the Class of 2017 (since it came out while they were babies).

As evidence that either approach would work, we can look just one year back when the Class of 2016 list used one approach for The Santa Clause and another for Pulp Fiction even though both movies were released during the same year:

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)

(See more about this contradiction here.)

Instead, the BML goes in a third direction, suggesting that the Class of 2017 can recall the ride but not the premise of the movie or book, i.e., “Jurassic Park“ has a new meaning.

Ron Nief, one half of the Beloit Mindset List brain trust, is a Beloit College P.R. guy so it’s bizarre that this item seems drafted by someone with a complete misunderstanding of how marketing works. Jurassic Park is a media franchise with multiple products that increase awareness of each other. You might as well claim that “Beloit College is ‘a poorly written compendium of trivia, stereotypes and lazy generalizations,’ not an institution of higher education.”

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

As kids they may well have seen Chicken Run but probably never got chicken pox. (Class of 2017, #7)

In their first 18 years, they have watched the rise and fall of Tiger Woods and Alex Rodriguez. (Class of 2017, #33)

The Celestine Prophecy has always been bringing forth a new age of spiritual insights. (Class of 2017, #37)

Being selected by Oprah’s Book Club has always read “success.” (Class of 2017, #55)

They have always known that there are “five hundred, twenty five thousand, six hundred minutes” in a year. (Class of 2017, #60)

Barring a miracle, the Class of 2018 Mindset List will be released sometime next month. When we are closer to that regrettable occasion, I plan on posting a list of ideas for making the List somewhat less worthless than it is now. Here’s one idea now:

Instead of making up what movies college freshmen like, what celebrities they care about, what books they’ve read and so on, Messrs. McBride and Nief could ask some of them—send out a survey to incoming Beloit College students and ask them about their favorite stuff.

The Celestine Prophecy, published two years before the Class of 2017 was born, is likely less significant to understanding their mindset than whatever books they would report being their favorite, most influential or most read.

Does the Class of 2017 know about or care about Tiger Woods, Alex Rodriguez or Oprah Winfrey? Ask them who their favorite celebrities are.

Have they seen Chicken Run? Maybe, but I’d rather hear about what their favorite movies are.

Do they know the lyrics of a love song from the musical Rent, which was released when they were in diapers? Do they know the songs from any musicals? Ask them.

I’d actually be interested in the favorite books, movies, celebrities and whatnot of entering college students, even if the information was based only on Beloit students—far more than in the made-up stuff now featured on the Mindset List.