MILWAUKEE – For most teens starting college this fall, a chat has seldom involved talking, GM means food that’s Genetically Modified and a tablet is no longer something you take in the morning.
Each August since 1998, Beloit College has rolled out its internationally known Mindset List, which reflects the world view of entering first-year students and was originally aimed at giving faculty witty glimpses of the pop culture that has shaped the lives of incoming freshmen, so they can avoid dated references.
The examples that opened this story are just a sampling of what’s on this year’s list. Over time, the list has become a public relations gold mine for the small liberal arts college in Beloit, Wis., each year, generating a million hits on its website.
The Class of 2017, born in 1995, would be the last to have its own Mindset List, though, if two anonymous professors – one from a large public university and the other from a community college – have their way, a long shot, to be sure.
The two – who write as “John Q. Angry” and “Disgruntled Prof” and say they have no connection to the college – launched a blog this week called Beloit Mindlessness, “dedicated to the mockery and eventual destruction of the Beloit Mindset List.”
Why all the hate?
The list “is a poorly written compendium of trivia, stereotypes and lazy generalizations, insulting to both students and their professors, and based on nothing more than the uninformed speculation of its authors,” according to Beloit Mindlessness. “It inspires lazy, inaccurate journalism and is an embarrassment to academia.”
The Mindset List is the brainchild of Ron Nief, emeritus director of public affairs for Beloit College, and Tom McBride, an English professor there.McBride said they “welcome critiques of all sort” because the list is intended to spark discussions.
“The most important thing, I believe, is the two at beloitmindlessness seem to be in a distinct but very small minority,” McBride said Tuesday, after this year’s list was released.
“Millions seem to look forward to the list every year – we get constant contacts about it, and the number of hits on the Beloit College website each year is in excess of one million,” he said. As a discussion-starter, the list provides a chance for those of different generations to trade “when I was 18 stories,” McBride said, “and it’s a great stimulus for discussion of such issues as the cost of college, the perils of multitasking, the meaning of entering ‘cyberspace,’ and whether or not this ‘sharing’ generation – for that’s what we think they are – will become the next great force in American life.”
The anonymous bloggers aren’t the only critics. Over time, “Beloit’s professors ran out of things like ‘the AIDS crisis’ and delved deeper into arcana or just meaningless incidents,” a Salon article said. “Aside from the hackiness of the puns, the thing that jumps out is that the majority of these things governing a student’s ‘mind-set’ are actually not that important,” the Salon article said.