Monday, August 17, 2009

Heeeere's...who?

I'm usually pretty annoyed by the annual Beloit College mindset list. I like the factual parts--things that have never existed or people who were never alive in the lives of current college freshmen, that's fine. Like the fact that they never heard "Here's Johnny!" live, that's kind of interesting.

But usually they just assume the college kids have never cracked a book (or surfed a history site!), and made no attempt to learn anything from before they were born. They say things like "have never listened to AM radio" or "have never turned a window crank on a car window" like they're gospel, when...if your family had an older car, you may very well have done both.

But this year's list, at least the bits excerpted by AP, isn't nearly so slap-inducing. It appears that the Class of 2013 list is not up on the official site yet, but the 2012 list does have some dumb ones. "Muscovites have always been able to buy Big Macs"? "Personal privacy has always been threatened." Who cares, and what the heck? So there was no threat to privacy before 1991? We were all living in perfectly protected Utopia? George Orwell might have a thing or two to say about that.

Actually, the list often makes me wonder more about the naivete of those who wrote it than those to whom it supposedly applies. "Iced tea has always come in cans and bottles"? Can't you just see Gomer Pyle saying "Gollll-ee Sarge, this heah iced tea comes in a CAN now."

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

I still have to wind down the window in my car.

AltoidsAddict said...

I see your point; the mindset list did rub me the wrong way as an incoming freshman many, many years ago. I'd been poor and intellectual, two things that made the list mostly irrelevant to my mindset - I thought.

But now that I'm teaching these incoming freshmen, I'm responsible for knowing their general mindset and for that the list gives me some keen insight. There are always individual exceptions, of course. Now that I'm on the other side of the fence, I don't think the list is meant to belittle or patronize. Rather, many of my colleagues find the habits and thoughts of incoming freshmen befuddling and there is very little out there aside from the Mindset List to translate it year to year.


Just as I have to keep in mind my students' mindset, my professors back in the day had to realize that lifelong company loyalty was outdated, their students would all have several careers, did not remember the anxiety of having a president shot, and that our health epidemic was AIDS, not polio. When they didn't realize this, we noticed.

And sure, there are little things like the iced tea and the Today Show that seem flippant. But personal privacy - hoo, that's a big one. Not that the privacy of our generation was sacrosant, but the extent to which incoming freshmen are exposed their entire lives blows my mind. Take, for example, blogging. I enjoy your comments and updates about your daughter growing up. But did your mother expose you to the world to that extent? Today's freshmen, from blogs and forums started by their parents through sexting through Twitter and beyond, have nearly everything about their lives exposed as a matter of routine. Moreover, they have very little sense that there is a wall between public and private, much less that they could violate it by, say, taking pictures of a professor's daily outfits for a fashion snark blog (as reported in one of the professional blogs I follow). With the lack of privacy as a concept, students are also more adept at researching the backgrounds and even personal habits of their professors, bosses, friends, acquaintances, without giving it a thought that it may be inappropriate or stalkery to do so. Things like that are why more and more of my colleagues must spell out for students what an intellectual "safe space" is, forbid cameraphones in class, lock down their Facebook and Myspace, and train their less-adept colleagues to do the same.

EAG46 said...

These lists always piss me off. It assumes that the incoming class has no concept of a world before their birth, nor a curiosity about it. Like you said, it doesn't occur to these little dearies to read once in a while?

Barb said...

They've never known a world without flat-screen tvs? Really? Most people I know only recently have bought flat screens, and a lot of us still don't have them, so it's not like the class of 2013 would be confused by larger screens. Sheesh.

Darryll said...

These lists always give me a "You're kidding!" or two when I read them. In the spirit of this, my daughter (class of 2007) has made me promise to not get rid of my old vinyl albums because she wants to take them to my Dad's so she can listen to them on his record player. Thinks it's "So Awesome!" This is the same kid who is always plugged in to her Zune and doesn't see the irony in it all...

Christina said...

My 2007 Pontiac has manual window controls. And there's an AM/FM stereo that comes standard.
I always thought that feeling "old" would be a problem I experience in my 60s, not 30s!

Anonymous said...

I went back to read the first one (I'm one year behind, born in 1979). Yes, a lot of things were introduced when I was a kid, but I was definitely familiar with the old technology that stayed behind. I had all of the following in my playroom: A B&W TV, a betamax, a record player (Fisher Price, no less!) and an 8-track player. My parents loved to give me their old hand-me-down technology as they picked up shiny new things like VCRs and computers.

These lists are always interesting, but they also assume that kids have no interest in history or the culture of the past. Hey, when I was a pre-schooler, Queen was my favourite band

Kristin said...

I too am another who is annoyed by this list. Like AltoidsAddict I try to use it to understand the students I work with (I spent the last two days helping freshmen move in and telling them about the University.) One thing that bugs me, beyond the assumption that students have no interest in what's happened before they were alive, is the fact that the list seemed to focus on the perspective of only the richest students. I know I was exposed to "older" technology while growing up because we couldn't afford to buy the latest and greatest. I was in middle school in the mid eighties before we got a color TV. Are the kids in these surveys only surrounded by well-off early adapters?