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

Presidents have always been denied line item veto power. (Class of 2020, #44)

This complete failure of an item checks the usual sad Mindset List boxes:

1. It refers to something that happened roughly 18 years ago.

2. Very few 18-year-olds are aware of it.

3. It has nothing to do with their “mindset.”

4. The item suggests some important change in society—but only if you’re as ignorant of the topic as the Mindset gang is. (Presidents in the U.S. have never had the line-item veto power—although they seemed to have it between Congress passing the Line Item Veto Act of 1996 and the Supreme Court striking it down in 1998.)

5. It’s not even something that will make its readers feel old because it isn’t a noteworthy historical event.

#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.

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

They never tasted the “texturally enhanced alternative beverage” known as Orbitz. (Class of 2018, #29)

They have probably never used Netscape as their web browser. (Class of 2018, #46)

Boeing has never had any American competition for commercial aircraft. (Class of 2018, #51)

The Class of 2018 Beloit Mindset List has only six “never” items, which may be the fewest ever. Although I don’t see how something a group of people has never experienced could be part of their “mindset,” there could be some value in learning about these non-experiences—if the things they didn’t experience had any significance for the people who did experience them.

Orbitz was a soft drink that was introduced in the 1997 and quickly discontinued because nobody wants to drink something with little balls floating in it. Consuming it was never an important part of anyone’s life.

When web browsers were a new technology, people imagined that there might be important differences between them. The government even filed an antitrust lawsuit against Microsoft over how it bundled its browser with its operating system. Two decades later we know that web browsers are basically the same. It doesn’t matter that the Class of 2918 didn’t use Netscape Navigator because there wasn’t some “Netscape experience” that was much different from the experience of using any other browser.

In 1997, Boeing merged with McDonnell Douglas to become the only U.S. manufacturer of commercial jet airliners. Would the lives of the Class of 2018 be much different if the two companies had remained competitors? Probably not.

I’ll look at the other three “never” items in another post to see if they are as trivial as these.

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

During their initial weeks of kindergarten, they were upset by endlessly repeated images of planes blasting into the World Trade Center. (Class of 2018, #1)

I’ve assumed that Messrs. McBride and Nief read Beloit Mindlessness because how could you not read a web site devoted to the destruction of your most famous creation, but item #1 on the Class of 2018 Mindset List clinches it.

The item appears to be a direct response to one of the most pointed criticisms we’ve made against the Mindset List (see here and here), the 9-11 Problem:

The Beloit Mindset List has never made a direct reference to the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. Or the subsequent wars in Afghanistan or Iraq. Or the rise in security procedures or any other policy changes that took place after the attacks.

But how could it? These events happened in the past 12 years and the central premise of the Mindset List is that the mindset of a birth cohort—its set of “cultural touchstones”—is concocted from events that took place the year its members were born.…

9-11 and its aftermath must be more significant for understanding the “mindset” of American young people than roughly 99% of the trivia on the Mindset lists, but the Mindset Method dictates that they can’t be directly referenced.

Indirect references are okay as long as they are connected to something that happened roughly 18 years earlier.

So, perhaps thanks to our critique, the latest Mindset List opens with a reference to 9-11— even though it took place while the Class of 2018 was in kindergarten! Thirteen years after coordinated terrorist attacks on American soil killed 2,977 people, resulting in two wars and countless other consequences, Messrs. McBride and Nief have come to the realization that the attacks actually affected people who were older than infants when they occurred. So hooray for that, I guess.

Of course, the item misses what was most significant about the attacks for the Class of 2018—it wasn’t being upset by watching the attacks on TV. Also, the rest of the list is the same brand of pointless trivia we’re come to expect from it. We’ll be digging into that in the days to come.

#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.

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

Eminem and LL Cool J could show up at parents’ weekend. (Class of 2017, #1)

When this item was published, Eminem’s oldest daughter was starting her senior year in high school. If she attends college immediately after high school, she would be in the Class of 2018.

I don’t know the college plans of LL Cool J’s daughter and I suspect that Messrs. McBride and Nief have no idea either.

I haven’t reviewed all of the “celebrity’s kids go to college” items, but the Class of 2016’s  was completely wrong.

If anyone at Beloit College is reading this, please get these guys a student intern who can fact check simple stuff like which celebrity’s kids are entering college this year.

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

Washington, D.C., tour buses have never been able to drive in front of the White House. (Class of 2017, #54)

This item is a clear example of the Mindset List’s 9-11 Problem:

The Beloit Mindset List has never made a direct reference to the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. Or the subsequent wars in Afghanistan or Iraq. Or the rise in security procedures or any other policy changes that took place after the attacks.

But how could it? These events happened in the past 12 years and the central premise of the Mindset List is that the mindset of a birth cohort—its set of “cultural touchstones”—is concocted from events that took place the year its members were born.…

9-11 and its aftermath must be more significant for understanding the “mindset” of American young people than roughly 99% of the trivia on the Mindset lists, but the Mindset Method dictates that they can’t be directly referenced.

Indirect references are okay as long as they are connected to something that happened roughly 18 years earlier.

The section of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House was closed in 1995 after the Oklahoma City bombing. It’s a tiny bit of anti-terrorism security in one city, insignificant compared to all the security theater that followed 9-11 and shaped the lives of the Class of 2017, but it happened 18 years ago and that is what really matters.

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

Kevin Bacon has always maintained six degrees of separation in the cinematic universe. (Class of 2017, #48)

Sometimes Messrs. McBride and Nief use a term in a way that signals that they really don’t know what it means. For example, “six degrees of separation.”

The idea of “six degrees of separation” is that two people can be connected through a chain of mutual acquaintances, with no more than six steps between them.

(Stanley Milgram’s small world experiment is said to be one of the sources of this claim. When I was in grad school, we were told that the “six degrees” were the result of a thought experiment: Every community in the U.S. has a number of community leaders who know many members of the community and their representative in Congress. Everyone is known by one of these leaders. Presuming all members of Congress know one another, then there are five degrees between me and anyone else in the country. Maybe the President fits in there too to make it six; I can’t remember the details.)

The game “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” was created by three Albright College students in 1994 (or a year before the Class of 2017 was born), purportedly after watching Footloose and The Air Up There back-to-back. The game involves connecting an actor (or other movie personnel) to Kevin Bacon through links of people working on films together.

The clue that Messrs. McBride and Nief don’t understand this is that they claim that “Kevin Bacon has always maintained six degrees of separation.” In English “maintain separation” means to keep away or be disconnected from something, which is the opposite of the concept of “six degrees,” which is about connection.

It goes without saying that “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” isn’t a part of any generation’s mindset.

#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.]