"Your mission, class, should you choose to accept it is..." As a college professor, I often prefaced a class assignment with that phrase from Mission Impossible, the late '60s-early '70s TV show, not the movie, until I realized that students weren't getting it. They had not a clue what I was talking about because I had fallen victim to "hardening of the references," the plague of baby boomer professors everywhere.
With the cure comes The Mindset List, developed by a dynamic duo at Beloit College. Created in 1998, the list was originally intended to warn aging faculty about using dated references. Now the list has become a cultural touchstone that illustrates the widening gap between entering freshmen and the faculty, and other adults.
The list for the class of 2017 spans from pop culture to politics, an "internationally monitored catalog of the changing worldview of each new college generation," say creators Humanities Professor Tom McBride and former Public Affairs Director Ron Nief.
The three million students who are entering college this month were born mostly in 1995. Unlike their "digital immigrants" parents and professors, they are "digital natives," so many of the 60 points on the list reflect how technology impacts their daily lives:
• With GPS, they have never needed directions to get someplace, just an address.
• They have never really needed to go to their friend's house so they could study together.
• Their parents' car CD player is soooooo ancient and embarrassing.
• Having a chat has seldom involved talking.
• A tablet is no longer something you take in the morning.
Then there are the environmental changes that they take for granted while the older generations struggled through them:
• GM means food that is Genetically Modified.
• They have never attended a concert in a smoke-filled arena.
• Smokers in California have always been searching for their special areas, which have been harder to find each year.
On a does-anything-ever change note are the political references:
• They have known only two presidents.
• Threatening to shut down the government during Federal budget negotiations has always been an anticipated tactic.
• The U.S. has always been trying to figure out which side to back in Middle East conflicts.
Beyond the list, the Beloit duo warn professors that this class lives, eats, and sleeps online. So when they bring smart phones to class it doesn't necessarily mean that they are texting. I learned that lesson recently. Like many profs, I don't allow texting in class and I noticed one student was deeply engrossed with her phone. I was about to ask her to put the phone away when she referenced a line in the magazine article we were discussing. She was reading a 3,000-word article on an iPhone screen.
Generational note: Their eyes are a lot better than ours.
For the full list see: Beloit Mindset