Class of 2020 Mindset List: Still No Obama

The Class of 2020 Beloit Mindset List is out and, as usual, it’s awful. And as usual, we’ll be discussing items on the list and media reaction to it.

One quick observation: Although President Obama’s presidency has been tremendously consequential for the Class of 2020—he’s been president for almost half their lives—and it is almost over, the Mindset List still can’t bring itself to mention him. This is because of the list’s guiding assumption, which I have written about before:

Each year’s list is constructed—and this point bears repeating over and over—by a couple guys going to a library and looking at microfiche of things that happened 18 years earlier.

Clearly this makes absolutely no sense. A person’s “mindset”—their understanding of how the world works, their values and interests, and so on—tends to be shaped by things that happened to them once they developed an understanding of their social environment more sophisticated than a newborn’s. Things that happened ten or five or even one year earlier are going to be far more important to an 18-year-old than things than happened 18 years ago.

So Barack Obama has been mentioned only for something that happened before he was elected:

They were born the year Harvard Law Review Editor Barack Obama announced he might run for office some day. (Class of 2011, #17)

I call this the “9-11 problem” since it also applies to the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, another tremendously consequential event that the Mindset List that didn’t mention until its Class of 2018 list, possibly in response to our criticism.

To the best of my knowledge, the BML has never mentioned the country electing an African-American President, the First Family, Obamacare or any other of the President’s other policies, or any of the cultural ramifications of his presidency.

It’s completely bizarre, but completely predictable given the list’s ridiculous guiding assumption.

5 thoughts on “Class of 2020 Mindset List: Still No Obama

  1. I think I have spotted a typo:

    #51. “The New York Stock Exchange has always reported its ups and downs in fractions.” – that should be “never” (by Beloit definition), right?

    I actually find the List quite educational. Unions for doctors, Thalidomide as a cancer drug, Joe Frazier’s daughter as a boxer (I already about Laila Ali), a Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame, what type of government Nigeria has – I know about several more things now than I did a few minutes ago. :)

    • I agree that someone can learn things from the Mindset List, but they usually have little to do with the “mindset” of college freshmen. A lot of people seem to like the list for pointing out that events they think of as recent actually happened 18 years ago. The authors of the list, though, make all sorts of inflated claims about its value.

      • The smiley face indicated sarcasm. In some cases an average eighteen-year-old might well know something that twice-their-age I do not, but in all the cases I mentioned above that seems unlikely – so as you said, hardly evidence of anyone’s “mindset.”

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