Thursday, August 24, 2006

The Beloit College Mindset

Readers of this feature know that I attended Beloit College. Once a year, the college issues its annual "Mindset List," a list of statments that are purportedly true about the entering freshman class at Beloit. For the first few years, the list was pretty instructive, especially as a reminder that young people do not share common frames of reference with those of us who are older.

What has happened, however, is that the list has become less insightful and more trite each year. As a Beloit alum, I suspect that the list tells you more about Beloit College, and the intellectual limitations of schools like Beloit, than it does about young people generally. There are a few funny ones on the list (, like the one saying that for young people, Ringo Starr has always been clean and sober. But many of the other entries are not especially helpful. An example is the one about young people not knowing that Bernard Shaw was on CNN. I've always believed that the cult of personality surrounding news readers is absurd, especially in the current context. Shaw had one important moment in his career, when he inadvertently sandbagged Michael Dukakis in the 1988 presidential debate, but otherwise he was a standard issue talking head who happened to have more melanin than some of his colleagues and rivals.

It's been a nice schtick for ol' alma mater, but the best riposte I've heard to the list is this -- young people today cannot remember when there wasn't a "Beloit College Mindset List." And that might mean it's time to give it a rest.

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