Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Class of 2016 Mindset List

Did you know that today's college freshmen think blue M&M's have always co-existed with red and brown ones?

In their world Martin Lawrence has always been banned from Saturday Night Live.

Gene therapy has always been an available medical treatment.

And history has always had its own channel.

These are just a few of the cultural references that Professor Tom McBride and  Emeritus Director of Public Affairs Ron Nief, both at Beloit College in Wisconsin, have included in their Mindset List for the Class of 2016.

The popular and widely reported list contains 75 references intended as a humorous way to clue college professors into the "intelligent if unprepared adolescent consciousness" of their newest students. McBride and Nief have been producing their Mindset lists since 1998--when this group of incoming freshman were just four years old.

According to the list, one of the "cultural touchstones that shape the lives of students entering college this fall" includes this rather disturbing gem: A significant percentage of them will enter college already displaying some hearing loss. Wonder what causes that? Could it be earbuds?

They have also never seen an airplane "ticket," and they can't image people carrying their luggage through airports--everyone knows you roll your luggage!  And this is not news to their parents: They watch television everywhere but on a television.

According to McBride in the promo material for their book, The Mindset Lists of AmericanHistory, one of the reasons they began the list was "to remind faculty members and the general public that entering college students have a particular and limited range of experiences.”

But I think it goes the other way as well. For instance, in the experience of today's college freshmen, genomes of living things have always been sequenced. What does it mean when the inquiring minds of tomorrow's scientists begin from the assumption that they can access the genome of any living organism they wish to study? And in their world, women have always piloted space shuttles and fighter jets. Not a bad thing, I think.

What's even more intriguing than the list itself is the interpretation of the author's finding offered in a "Guide" for college teachers and counselors. The authors seem to find today's entering college students to be tribal, addicted to technology, and nervous when not in touch with their cohorts via that technology. McBride and Nief question whether these young adults are spoiled by their parents or conned by them, having been "sent off to college to pursue the American Dream, only to find out that their career path will be rocky and their debt load burdensome."

But they do hold out hope as they report that "members of the Class of 2016 are subtly learning some good economic habits. The male members of the class are, not uncommonly, pretty good cooks of inexpensive organic food."

You can find the entire Mindset List  and the Guide in pdf format on the Beloit College website. 

So…it is true, my dear niece Samantha, that you and your new roomies have never eaten a tan M&M?  

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