Every fall a couple of professors at Beloit College churn out something they call the Mindset List, a supposed peek inside the worldview of the incoming first-year class.
Entries, which are largely the result of content-scraping general interest magazines from the year of the average student’s birth, range from the banal (“Planes have never landed at Stapleton Airport in Denver.”) to the inaccurate (“With GPS, they have never needed directions to get someplace, just an address.”) to the simply mystifying (“‘Dude’ has never had a negative tone.”)
While the list is mostly just pointless and weird, it’s also intended to make readers feel simultaneously old and superior — a singularly toxic combination for a college professor. The list panders to the professoriate by acting as if their students exist in a perpetual now, oblivious to any historical event that predated their birth while simultaneously obsessed with and hobbled by contemporary technology.
There are certainly arenas in which young people (who, by the way, make up an ever-shrinking subset of new college students each year) tend to be less informed or less experienced than their elders. That’s true of every new generation, by definition. But there are also ways in which their generation is far more savvy, far more accomplished, far more capable than their elders.
A couple of years ago, I put together an alternative Beloit list focusing specifically on students’ experience of higher education. Here are a few more things the Beloit Mindset folks failed to tell profs about the young members of the class of 2017:
- They have always had the world’s knowledge at their fingertips.
- They have always been able to imagine a black president.
- They never thought basic computer literacy was worth mentioning on a resume.
- They grew up thinking that anti-gay prejudice was stupid.
- They know a lot more about safe sex than you do, and are significantly more likely to practice it.
- They have never lived in a world in which “intersectionality” wasn’t a term, or a thing.
- They are far more conversant with the popular culture of your generation with than you are with theirs.
- They write for pleasure more than you did at their age, and more than you do now.
- They think email is for old people.
- They think you’re old.
- They understand you better than you understand them.