Vox: Mindset List Is “Missed Opportunity”

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.

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

They have never licked a postage stamp. (Class of 2019, #3)

Maybe the Beloit College Mindset List can use this item again for the class of 2037 List because the year that the U.S. Post Office announced its plan to discontinue lick-and-stick stamps is 2015.

According to Linn’s Stamp News & Insight, the Postal Service has been experimenting with self-adhesive stamps since 1974 (a couple decades before the birth of the class of 2019) and most stamps have been self-adhesive starting in 2002 so it’s unclear what stamp-related event attracted the attention to the Mindset List gang.

If you have a preference for lickable stamps, they will be available from your local Post Office while supplies last.

Items in the Class of 2019 Mindset List Categorized

The Class of 2019 Beloit College Mindset List, which was mistakenly(?) published Monday, was then removed and which may appear again [UPDATE: Here it is!], contains items from the same categories that Tom McBride and Ron Nief have run into the ground year after year after year. Here is the list sorted by category with my occasional commentary in italics.

Things that have “always” been, i.e., things that began approximately 18 years ago, but about which most American 18 year-olds probably don’t care that much

1. Hybrid automobiles have always been mass produced.

6. Hong Kong has always been under Chinese rule.

34. Scotland and Wales have always had their own parliaments and assemblies.

42. Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic have always been members of NATO.

Imagining that American teenagers pay attention to things in other countries is a regular BML fallacy.

8. The NCAA has always had a precise means to determine a national champion in college football.

I think “precise” is probably the wrong word here.

11. Color photos have always adorned the front page of The New York Times.

And young people love to read newspapers.

12. Ellis Island has always been primarily in New Jersey.

15. The Airport in Washington, D.C., has always been Reagan National Airport.

And the Class of 2019 can’t remember Stapleton Airport either.

19. Attempts at human cloning have never been federally funded but do require FDA approval.

20. “Crosstown Classic” and the “Battle of the Bay” have always been among the most popular interleague rivalries in Major League Baseball.

22. Phish Food has always been available from Ben and Jerry.

25. The therapeutic use of marijuana has always been legal in a growing number of American states.

More evidence Messrs. McBride and Nief have never hired an editor.

31. Fifteen nations have always been constructing the International Space Station.

Messrs. McBride and Nief love stuff about space. Our posts from Astronaut Week are here, here, here and here.

32. The Lion King has always been on Broadway.

38. CNN has always been available en Español.

40. Splenda has always been a sweet option in the U.S.

41. The Atlanta Braves have always played at Turner Field.

New stadiums are a BML standby.

49. Vote-by-mail has always been the official way to vote in Oregon.

Because 18 year-olds have a lot of experience voting.

50. …and there has always been a Beloit College Mindset List.


Things that happened around 18 years ago that most American 18 year olds probably know nothing about

23. Kyoto has always symbolized inactivity about global climate change.

33. Phoenix Lights is a series of UFO sightings, not a filtered cigarette.

39. Heaven’s Gate has always been more a trip to Comet Hale-Bopp and less a film flop.

Things that “never” were, i.e., things that ended around 18 years ago so most 18 year-olds don’t know about them and/or didn’t experience them

3. They have never licked a postage stamp.

21. Carry Me Back to Old Virginny has never been the official song of the Virginia Commonwealth.

26. The eyes of Texas have never looked upon The Houston Oilers.

Moving sports teams, like new stadiums, are a regular BML feature.

28. In a world of DNA testing, the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington has never included a Vietnam War veteran “known only to God.”

47. They had no idea how fortunate they were to enjoy the final four years of Federal budget surpluses.

Since they were small children, who generally don’t follow such things.

48. Amoco gas stations have steadily vanished from the American highway.

Celebrities most 18 year-olds probably don’t care about who did something approximately 18 years ago

10. Charlton Heston is recognized for waving a rifle over his head as much as for waving his staff over the Red Sea.

37. Sir Paul and Sir Elton have always been knights of the same musical roundtable.

45. Jones and Mr. Smith have always been Men in Black, not their next-door neighbors.

As I’ve suggested before: “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.”

Some things that actually may be significant to many 18 year-olds and that are listed on the Mindset List (often in a confusing and/or inaccurate description) because of a connection to something that happened approximately 18 years ago

2. Google has always been there, in its founding words, “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible.”

4. Email has become the new “formal” communication, while texts and tweets remain enclaves for the casual.

7. They have grown up treating Wi-Fi as an entitlement.

16. Their parents have gone from encouraging them to use the Internet to begging them to get off of it.

27. Teachers have always had to insist that term papers employ sources in addition to those found online.

Matriculating college students grew up with computers.

5. Four foul-mouthed kids have always been playing in South Park.

29. Playhouse Disney was a place where they could play growing up.

Some 18 year-olds have watched South Park or Disney Playhouse, which its Wikipedia page describes as “a defunct brand for a slate of programming blocks.” Is that best described as a place where kids could play?

14. Cell phones have become so ubiquitous in class that teachers don’t know which students are using them to take notes and which ones are planning a party.

Do students take notes on cell phones?

18. They have avidly joined Harry Potter, Ron, and Hermione as they built their reading skills through all seven volumes.

44. TV has always been in such high definition that they could see the pores of actors and the grimaces of quarterbacks.

Observations and social commentary from two old white guys

9. The announcement of someone being the “first woman” to hold a position has only impressed their parents.

Someone must still care because two days ago the NFL’s first female and first female assistant head coach shaking hands was a widely reported news story.

13. “No means no” has always been morphing, slowly, into “only yes means yes.”

Apparently an Incoherent reference to sexual assault on campus.

17. If you say “around the turn of the century,” they may well ask you, “which one?”

Technology is different now than 18 years ago

24. When they were born, cell phone usage was so expensive that families only used their “bag phones,” usually in cars, for emergencies.

35. At least Mom and Dad had their new Nintendo 64 to help them get through long nights sitting up with the baby.

Prof. John Q. Angry has discussed Messrs. McBride and Nief’s interest in “portraying parents as distracted by things that happened when their children were born.”

46. Their proud parents recorded their first steps on camcorders, mounted on their shoulders like bazookas.

We’re not sure what these ones mean

30. Surgeons have always used “super glue” in the operating room.

36. First Responders have always been heroes.

43. Humans have always had implanted radio frequency ID chips—slightly larger than a grain of rice.

This last item is a serious case of burying the lede. If Messrs. McBride and Nief can prove we have all been implanted with ID chips, they should publish that information in a more reputable source than the Mindset List.

Breaking News: Beloit College Mindset List Link Deleted!

Earlier this afternoon, we reported that the class of 2019 Beloit Mindset List had not been posted on Beloit College’s official Mindset List web page. There was a link to the new list on the Tom McBride and Ron Nief’s Mindset List page. The actual list is here.

However, the link to the list has now been removed from the Mindset List page! The top item is now a blog post from April 9, 2015.

What could have happened to cause Messrs. McBride and Nief to remove the list from their own web site? A change of heart? Righteous hackers? A dispute with Beloit College?

Has Beloit Mindlessness’ goal of destroying the Mindset List finally come to pass? Check here for the latest updates.

UPDATE (8 p.m. Beloit time): Now the page with the previously posted Class of 2019 Mindset List is gone. Because the Mindset List Facebook page has a reference to the list being released Tuesday, the working theory at Beloit Mindlessness headquarters is that either Mr. McBride or Mr. Nief accidentally posted the list early and then took it down. Still, it is fun to imagine more sinister possibilities.

UPDATE (1:30 a.m. Beloit time): The Mindset gurus have just put the list back up at Beloit College and their own Mindset page.

First Thoughts on the Class of 2019 Mindset List: Even Beloit College Is Over the Mindset List

I’m still disgruntled about the Beloit College Mindset List, but does anyone else care anymore? What was so irritating about the list was not just that it was a “a poorly written compendium of trivia, stereotypes and lazy generalizations, insulting to both students and their professors, and based on nothing more than the uninformed speculation of its authors” (to quote our blog’s purpose statement), but that journalists took it seriously. But at the introduction of the Class of 2017 list (two years ago), there seemed to be more widespread skepticism and mockery of the list (including from this blog). And last year, there seemed to be much less attention paid to the list.

It turns out even Beloit College can’t be bothered with the list anymore. As of 4 p.m. (Beloit time) on the day of its release, the Beloit College Mindset List web page hasn’t bothered to post the new list. It still features the Class of 2018 list.

To find the Class of 2019 list, you need to visit the page set up by list creators Tom McBride and Ron Nief. (If anyone knows the back story behind the college’s lack of interest in the list, please let us know.)

As for the list items themselves, they are the same mix of trivia most 18 year-olds neither know nor care about, various things that happened in 1997, and items in desperate need of editing. If I can work up enough disgruntlement and carve out some time from actual academic work, I’ll write about some of the individual items later.

UPDATE: The link on the Mindset web site has been deleted! The page with the list still exists here.