Wednesday, August 19, 2009

2009 Mindset List

Every fall, a new crop of students walk onto the campus of Beloit College, a small, private, liberal-arts school in southern Wisconsin, to being their college careers. In anticipation of this event, the college prepares what it calls The Mindset List, which it uses to prepare its staff and professors for just how these incoming freshmen see the world. For instance: professors can refrain from using examples from before the students' time, or they can sort of tailor their teaching to incorporate those historical events. While it is not really intended for this, the national media has a tendency to latch onto this list as a sort of barometer of the passing of time. And it's amazing. I look at some of the points on this list and it amazes me because I remember these things happening as events, not as just normalities of life. Some of them will surprise you. Because most of this year's freshman class, who are generally regarded as the Beloit College Class of 2013 even though no one finishes college in four years anymore, was born in 1991, you need to prepare to feel REALLY old as we look at some of the more interesting points on the 2009 Beloit College Mindset List.

- They have never used a card catalog to find a book. I am not so sure about this one, because I am sure there is a nerdy nerd-mo-tron or some kid from a tiny town that has used a card catalog to find some sort of book, but by in large I believe it. Most kids these days won't know what a card catalog is, let alone know what to do with one. I bet though, that any eight-year-old can probably sign you up for an account with Amazon.

- Salsa has always outsold ketchup. I did not know that was true today; I am shocked that it was true in 1991. I know that salsa is healthy and delicious and that long ago it started being used on WAY more than just tortilla chips, but wow. Maybe it's because I am from the Midwest, but I ear ketchup on EVERYTHING and when I was a kid I ate it on even more stuff. Blows my mind.

- Rap music has always been mainstream. Thanks Run DMC.

- Earvin "Magic" Johnson has always been HIV-positive. Actually, in the article I read about the Mindset list that let me know it was out for this year, they noted that many of the kids polled for the 2009 Mindset List didn't actually know that Magic Johnson played basketball for the Los Angeles Lakers. Now, seeing him run up and down the court in those short shorts and knee pads sort of makes me wish I didn't remember that part, but still those born in 1991 only know him as an AIDS awareness advocate. That's good because that means he's been a successful advocate for the eradication of the terrible disease, but it's also too bad because he was one hell of a basketball player.

- State abbreviations in addresses have never had periods. Okay, few people realize just how much of an oppressive institution the United States Postal Service (USPS) has been over the years. First of all they make me have a PO Box even though they refuse to deliver mail to the Worldwide Headquarters. Second of all they imposed a five digit code on every home in America, making the city and state that you write on the envelope basically obsolete. Despite that, just to be jerkwads, they forced us to change the way we wrote those cities and states, specifically the states. Back in the day if you were going to send a letter to your buddy at school in Boston you could address it to him in Boston, Mass. If you were asking for money from your Auntie you would write to her in Alliance, Neb. Bellingham, Wash. Fort Worth, Tex. And so on and so forth. Then, the USPS decided that every state needed to have a two-letter abbreviation. That's why we now have MA, NE, WA, and TX. And Nova Scotia is NS because they made Canada follow suit. And I can never remember the difference between AR, AK, AL, and all the other A-states. Or the M-states for that matter. But the incoming freshmen have never known anything different.

- Condoms have always been advertised on television. So we have all been sluts and man-whores since 1991. Interesting. Good thing we can't advertise cigarettes on television though.

- Bobby Cox has always managed the Atlanta Braves. I am not even sure that a lot of people in the sports world have realized this one but it's pretty impressive. Eighteen years at the helm of the same team means that you are good at what you do or the owners don't care, and to be honest in this world of extreme impatience this just plain doesn't happen anymore. Except when you are talking about Bobby Cox and the Atlanta Braves.

- They have never seen Saved By the Bell. Well, this isn't true. First of all, Saved By the Bell can be seen all the time as reruns, so I would doubt that they have never stumbled upon it. Second of all, Saved By the Bell ran as new episodes from 1989-1993, so they were like two-ish when they stopped making new episodes, so they could have seen it even though they probably didn't know what the hell they were watching. That being said, I get where Beloit College is going with this particular point. They have never been exposed to it at the level that say, my sister or I have been, and so even if they stumbled upon it while flipping channels it probably didn't mean a whole lot to them. I bet they'd like Saved By the Bell: The College Years if they'd seen it though.

- Someone has always been asking "Was Iraq worth a war?" Okay, this one is sort of laid out in an awkward manner, but the crux of the point is this: during these kids lifetimes the United States has always been in Iraq. That's strange to think about. First with George H.W. Bush, then with the planes and the No-Fly Zone during the Clinton era, and then full-on again during the George W. Bush administration. We've always been over there doing whatever we do over there. I remember the First Gulf War, and I remember the Second Gulf War, and there are vast differences between how those military actions were seen here at home, but those kids stepping onto the Beloit College campus for the first time this fall will always have known that we were in Iraq fighting and won't know that we once pumped arms and ammo and money to Saddam Hussein when he was fighting with Iran. Leave that to the history professors to explain I suppose.

- There has always been blue Jell-o. Does anybody eat blue Jell-o? I mean at a time other than Fourth of July? I didn't think so. But it's apparently been there for almost twenty years, which is longer than I can say for those slacker blue M&M's, which haven't been around for nearly as long but of which these slacker kids probably think have been around since the beginning anyway.

- They have always eaten Berry Berry Kix. The only people who eat Berry Berry Kix are the ones eating the blue Jell-o.

These are just a few of the high points from the list, which, when you read it, has more the air of something I have done as opposed to something done officially by member of academia or a think tank housed in some soulless Washington D.C. office building housed just inside the Beltway. And that makes sense, because like I noted before, the list isn't meant for media consumption and usage, it's just meant for the men and women at Beloit College to help understand their incoming freshman a little better. It sill speaks wonders on our society and the passage of time. And it makes one feel awfully old, doesn't it?

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