Last year I noted that “almost nobody cares much about the list anymore,” but my summary of commentary on the Mindset List still included eight articles. This year I hadn’t seen anything worth mentioning until Vox.com published this article by Libby Nelson. While conceding that the list does succeed in making people feel old, Nelson calls it a “missed opportunity”:
College campuses are filled with faculty and administrators who seemingly don’t understand 18-year-olds these days, what with their Snapchat and their trigger warnings and their inability to date. If the list actually tried to explain students’ mindset, explain how communication has shifted, or even demonstrate that 18-year-olds, in many important ways, haven’t changed all that much, it would be performing a service.
But it doesn’t.…
The Mindset List assumes that 18-year-olds managed to graduate high school and get into college while remaining unaware of concepts like “history” or “progress,” certain that nothing of import happened before they were born and that life has always been exactly the way it is today. It gives exactly one insight into how college freshmen think, the same insight it offers every year: These people were not alive all the time that you have been alive, and they might not remember things that you remember!
And in doing so, rather than helping students and professors connect, it puts even more distance between them. The list reminds faculty that they are old and out of touch, and that their students are young and with it. It reinforces the idea that the pop culture that matters is the pop culture of a generation ago or more, not whatever 18-year-olds are watching and discussing and creating. It defines a generation by how they relate to the past, not how they’re shaping the present.
Nelson categorizes the items on the list into three categories: “possibly useful information that could come up in class,” “pop culture anniversaries,” and “factoids.” (My eightfold classification is here.)
Given that Vox.com “updates” and re-runs the same stories over and over, I look forward to re-reading Nelson’s story every August until the Mindset List is finally put out of its misery.