What Are They Thinking? The Beloit College Mindset List

Every year at this time, the staff at Beloit College send out their new student Mindset List as a way to make everyone clutch their chest and feel the cold hand of death.

This list was originally created and shared with their faculty each year, so the faculty would understand what some of their own cultural touchstones might mean, or not mean, to the incoming freshmen. They also wanted the freshmen to know it was not cool to refer to '80s music as "Oldies."

This year's incoming Beloit freshmen are typically 18 years old, born in 1999. John F. Kennedy Jr. died that year, as did Stanley Kubrick and Gene Siskel. And so did my hope for a society that sought artistic and intellectual pursuits for the betterment of all humanity. Although it may have actually died when I heard about this year's Emoji Movie.

Before I throw my hands up in despair, here are a few items from the Mindset list for the class of 2021.

They're the last class to be born in the 1900s, and are thankfully the last of the Millennials, although Baby Boomers and Gen Xers won't shut up about them for another 60 years or so. (And yes, we plan on being around that long.)

"Donald Trump," said the list, "has always been a political figure, as a Democrat, an Independent, and a Republican." The list did not mention anything about his giant pumpkin head or dangerous racism and rampant crotch grabbing.

The class of 2021 has "always been searching for Pokemon." And a girlfriend.

They were never able to use a Montgomery Ward catalogue as a booster seat. Partly because the company went out of business in the year 2000, but also because they weren't subjected to the shocking lack of child safety laws from when I was a kid.

Steve Young and Dan Marino have been retired almost as long as the Beloiters have been alive. And I've grunted whenever I sit down since they were 10.

"They have never found Mutual Broadcasting or Westinghouse Group W on the radio dial." Also, they don't have a radio dial, it's digital. Also, they don't have a radio, they have a phone. Also, they don't know what a radio is, they stream their music.

They are the first generation who didn't have to flip a phone to use it. Instead, their phones have always been a video game, direction finder, Internet browser, and way for my kids to send me stupid emojis in text messages. It's also been an opportunity for said children to throw punctuation rules to the wind and ignore my demands for proper spelling at all times.

Oldest daughter: U mad, big D?

Me: U r grnded 2 wks.

Oldest daughter: Sad face.

Only she didn't type "sad face," she typed one of those stupid emojis, which I will not dignify by repeating here.

Beloit says that emojis have always been around "to cheer us up." I disagree. Emojis do not cheer me up. In fact, I'm disgusted that someone in Hollywood ever greenlit The Emoji Movie. I come from a long, proud heritage of using punctuation-based emoticons — like >8-( — which is my grumpy-old-man-hates-emojis emoticon.

Also, it's a kitty cat.

Speaking of phones, blackberries have always been a fruit, not a failed telecommunications device whose creators refused to keep up with the smartphone craze, only to have their decision blow up in their collective faces.

Similarly, Motorola and Nokia have been rapidly shrinking telecommunications giants. Thanks to Androids and iPhones, Motorola sounds more like a failed Transformer and Nokia is what my Ford loving brother-in-law said about my car in his driveway.

Our students "may choose to submit a listicle in lieu of an admissions essay," said Beloit College. And the faculty all shuddered as one.

Beloit College applicant: Hey BC, u up? 4 me 2 b a student, that is.

Beloit College: No, please go away. Ask the University of Wisconsin.

Speaking of computers, Beloit's incoming freshmen have mostly "grown up in a floppy-less world." That will change in about 30 years.

"Globalization," says Beloit, "has always been both a powerful fact of life and a source of incessant protest." Globalization is also a shining example of irony: Who do you think made all the poster board and markers for their protest signs? Because no one makes fair trade, soy-based organic poster board in this country.

When they were toddlers, they may have taught their grandparents how to use Skype. But they still can't do anything about the VCRs constantly flashing 12:00. Especially since the VCR started becoming obsolete in 1995, and the last commercial movie released on VHS was in 2006. (It was A History of Violence, starring Viggo Mortensen and Ed Harris.)

I've finally reached the age where my kids could easily be incoming freshmen at Beloit College. The only difference is we raised them right. They understand things like what a radio is, what a floppy disk looks like, and how a VCR works.

I just wish they'd stop calling '80s hair bands Combover Metal.

Photo credit: Sifiboy31 (Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain)

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