how do you do, fellow kids

Maybe We’re Not As Old As We Thought: Why the Beloit College Mindset List Needs New Authors

Because we’re college admissions geeks, we eagerly await the new, annual “oh my gosh, we’re so old” Beloit College Mindset List each year. You know the one. It’s the list of all the stuff college freshmen have either grown up with or without that makes them alien beings in comparison to their parents.

But this year, we found ourselves feeling pretty darn young when reading it… and we’re not spring chickens. For a list that celebrates generational shifts, we didn’t relate to the facts as much as in previous years. Some of the facts felt really old, generalized, and a little bit out-of-touch. So perhaps…

We’re Not As Old As We Thought!

Maybe?

Some examples of facts in the 2017 list that made us say “wait a second”:

#13: “They were never able to use a Montgomery Ward catalogue as a booster seat.” While “Monkey Wards” did close for good in 2001, their giant catalogs were gone long before that. We’re pretty sure that heyday was over by about 1989. We do miss those corduroy pants though.

#37: “Ketchup has always come in green.” Yes, green ketchup launched in 2000, but it disappeared soon after that in 2006. It went back to the standard, iconic red. If there’s still green ketchup floating around, I suggest not eating it.

#38: “They have only seen a Checker Cab in a museum.” Pretty sure I’ve only ever seen a Checker Cab in a museum too.

#45: “Napster has always been evolving.” Well, sort of, but does anyone actually use a product called Napster any longer? It merged with Rhapsody when the name was acquired in a bankruptcy auction. That name is pretty much verboten.

#50: “Wikipedia has steadily gained acceptance by their teachers.” By the time 1999ers were writing reports, Internet research had changed greatly. While Wiki has been around since 2001, it’s always been a great place to start informing yourself on a topic. Crowdsourcing information isn’t scary, and the footnote citations can be gold.

#54: “‘Family Guy’ is the successor to the ‘Father Knows Best’ they never knew.”  “Father Knows Best” went off the air in 1963. “Family Guy” started in 1999. But we hardly think one was the successor to the other. There were a lot of male-centered TV shows in that 36 year gap. And let’s not get started on the side-eye snark there.

Wait, No, Let’s Address the Snark

There’s been a ton of work on national inclusiveness since 1999. The students who are heading off to college now, according to the Mindset List, have always had the following:

#27: Once on campus, they will find that college syllabi, replete with policies about disability, non-discrimination, and learning goals, might be longer than some of their reading assignments.
#39: Men have always shared a romantic smooch on television.
#44: There have always been Latino players on the ice in the NHL.
#58: Women have always scaled both sides of Everest and rowed across the Atlantic.
#59: Bill Clinton has always been Hillary Clinton’s aging husband.

One of the things we’ve loved about the Benoit List has been the head-shaking “I can’t believe it” factor. These editorialized facts aren’t “I can’t believe it” moments. These facts are “we’re surprised it’s only been 18 years” facts.  And #20: “They have always been searching for Pokemon” feels less politically charged than men “smooching” on TV or President Bill Clinton being an “aging” husband.

So, maybe, since the Beloit Mindset List simultaneously celebrates and bemoans Those Young Whippersnappers, it’s time for the writers and researchers to shift a little younger too. They, themselves, have been doing this list since 1997 (and I discovered this fact on Wikipedia even)! Importantly, 18 years isn’t a long time anymore. Like the Napster example, things that started in 1999 have changed, evolved, died, and been reborn.

That’s not to say a few of the items on the list of sixty don’t resonate, but they’re more interesting for small talk and Facebook posts. Like, hey, did you know the 1999 kids are the Last of the Millennials (#2)? So prepare yourselves for the inevitable onslaught of “Generation Z is Made of Aliens” articles.


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