COMMENTARY: Getting into the correct Mindset
By Kevin Binversie | Wisconsin Reporter
Want to feel old before your time?
Then by all means, take a gander at the latest “Mindset List” from the scholars at Beloit College, a small private college in Beloit, Wisc.
The annual Mindset List is an attempt to describe the “mindset” or worldview of incoming college freshmen. Among its highlights are pop culture, sports, and historical references since 1994, the likeliest birth year for college freshmen.
While the annual Mindset may provide incoming students’ worldview on events, that’s not its purpose. It’s meant to help professors understand what their students have experienced and how they’re likely to understand lectures and conversations.
In short, it’s supposed to help make professors “hip and cool,” not “old and dated” while also showing just how much these kids haven’t been exposed to.
“It was designed to help provide reason for our colleagues to update their references,” said Ron Nief, Beloit College’s Executive Director of Public Affairs and an author of the list.
“A lot of the old things — like Watergate or (former President Ronald) Reagan — those references no longer apply to students’ lives,” said Nief. “As the list shows, these are a bunch of kids who have only known a woman running the state department most of their lives. You have to reflect that in your lesson plans.”
So what have the future college graduates of 2016 not experienced?
They’ve never known a world without MP3s, just not a world without iPods – they come along in 2001. Cassette tapes, 8-tracks, and vinyl records are items collecting dust in attics.
To them, the NFL has always had a football team in Jacksonville, but never one in Los Angeles. They’ve never seen a Green Bay Packers season without “The Lambeau Leap.”
They could be the grandchildren of Dustin Hoffman’s character “Benjamin Braddock” from the 1967 classic, “The Graduate.” However, they’re more likely to know him and his “Fockers” co-star Robert De Niro from their roles in Ben Stiller comedies than from such films as “The Godfather” or “Kramer vs. Kramer.”
Sounds like these kids need a trip to the nearest Blockbuster. Oh, wait, better make that a NetFlix subscription.
The Mindset List is one of those great sociology tools that helps highlight how self-centered we humans can be. Too often, we base our understanding of history not on “that which came before me” but on “that which has transpired since the critical year of my birth.” That sets the boundaries for our worldview. It helps determine not just what is “cool” in terms of movies, sports, TV, technology, and music, but everything else about our lives.
But mostly, it shows the evolution of society, even if measured in the silliness of pop culture. It shows where we’ve been, but more importantly where we could be going.
That’s exciting. If you don’t mind feeling a little dated.
Veteran political blogger Kevin Binversie is a Wisconsin native. He served in the George W. Bush administration from 2007-2009, worked at the Heritage Foundation and has worked on numerous state Republican campaigns, most recently as research director for Ron Johnson for Senate. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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