Since 1998, the annual Mindset List has circulated internationally as a way of reminding college professors everywhere that they aren’t just teaching courses, they’re also teaching students. The Mindset List has generated books, prompted international discussions and lists and speaking appearances around the country. The list, initiated in the early days of the internet, has been a popular component of back-to-school talks, faculty orientations and sermons for two decades.
“With contributions from parents and academics around the world, the List has tracked cultural change, stimulated intergenerational conversation, and just made older people feel even older,” noted co-editors Tom McBride, author and Beloit emeritus professor of English, and Charles Westerberg, Beloit College sociologist. “We have enjoyed our 20 plus years of association with Beloit College, where the List began,” said Ron Nief, Public affairs director emeritus at Beloit College.
These three original authors have moved on to new projects in their retirement but will continue their battle against “hardening of the references” at their website, themindsetlist.com. Here are some salient observations from this year’s Mindset List, followed by a few added by this author.
A lot can change in just 18 years, but these same 18 years also make up the mindset—or “event horizon”—of today’s entering college students. Born in 2000, the first year of the new millennium, these students are members of the College Class of 2022. They are the first class born in the new millennium, escaping the dreaded label of “Millennial,” though their new designation—iGen, GenZ, etc. — has not yet been agreed upon by them.
For the Class of 2022, human beings have always been living — not just traveling — in space. There have always been space tourists willing to pay the price. The Mir space station has always been at the bottom of the South Pacific. Mass market books have always been available as Ebooks. Films have always been distributed on the Internet. They have always been able to refer to Wikipedia. People loudly conversing with themselves in public are no longer thought to be talking to imaginary friends.
“You’ve got mail” would sound as ancient to them as “number, please” would have sounded to their parents. Robots have always been able to walk on two legs and climb stairs.
Presidential candidates winning the popular vote and then losing the election are not unusual. They have never had to deal with “chads,” be they dimpled, hanging, or pregnant. They’ve grown up with stories about where their grandparents were on 11/22/1963 and where their parents were on 9/11/2001. The United States has always been in Afghanistan. They have grown up afraid that a shooting could happen at their school, too.
Among the iconic figures never alive in their lifetime are Victor Borge, Charles Schulz, and the original Obi-Wan Kenobi Alec Guinness. Among their classmates could be Madonna’s son Rocco, Will Smith’s daughter Willow, or David Bowie and Iman’s daughter Alexandria. When filling out forms, they are not surprised to find more than two gender categories to choose from. Mifepristone or RU-486, commonly called the “abortion pill,” has always been available in the U.S. Investigative specials examining the O.J. Simpson case have been on TV annually since their birth. Oprah has always been a magazine. The Prius has always been on the road in the U.S.
While these and more observations are apt, there are a few societal changes this author notes that have come about since 2000 that ring more soundly with African Americans. Since elementary school, the idea of a Black US President has been a reality for the Class of 2022. Black congressmen and women are so numerous, that even astute politicos can’t keep up with how many, who and where they are.
The number of Black billionaires has been climbing. Oprah Winfrey, an HBCU alumna, has become an established icon of Black success and staying power while staying out of scandal. Black quarterbacks in the NFL are the norm, not the outlier, with some teams having had 1st, 2nd and 3rd string signal callers. Black artists have started their own labels and called their own shots in the recording industry.
Outside the United States, no longer is country music what foreigners think of as American music — it’s actually rap / hip/hop. For all of their lives, Beyonce and Jay-Z have been active artists.
Also, sadly, for the Class of 2022, pornography has always been readily available free on the internet, as has hate speech, violent videos, and “fake news.” Hooking up online has essentially replaced in person meetings. Men have always had an option to pop a blue pill to help them perform sexually. They have never had the freedom to arrive at an airport a few minutes before takeoff and run to the terminal gate. They have grown up having to have a passport just to visit Canada or Mexico. They have witnessed the decline of civility in everyday discourse, and watched as our nation has and our neighborhoods have become filled with gun violence and murder. Reality TV has replaced reality, and our youth are seeking to escape more and more into virtual reality. One thing hasn’t changed: every late night television broadcast network talk show host is still a white male.
To focus a few of the original authors’ points… our Class of 2022’s grandparents remember where they were on April 4, 1968 and their parents remember where they were the night Barack Obama was first elected, even if they can’t recall the exact date (November 4, 2008). These kids may encounter a wide variety of options in the category of race, as well as gender. Among the folks never alive for the class of 2022 who died in 1999 are Curtis Mayfield, Walter Payton, Wilt Chambelain, and Stanley Kubrick; among those who died in 1998 are Eldridge Cleaver, Kwame Ture (nee Stokely Carmichael), and Flip Wilson.