The World View of this Year’s Freshmen

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As the summer comes to a close with Labor Day weekend, this week’s blog takes a lighter look at higher education.  Since 1968, Beloit College has been publishing something called “The Mindset List.” Created by Ron Neif, emeritus director of public affairs at Beloit College, the list was originally created as a reminder to faculty and administrators to be careful of the references they use around today’s students.

Now co-authored with Tom McBride, a professor at Beloit College, The Mindset List helps all of us to remember the changing worldview of our incoming students.  In the past decade, this list has been widely quoted at the beginning of the academic year and provided perspective and humor for faculty and parents struggling to keep up with this new generation.

This year’s list identifies 75 items.  If you are interested in reading them all (and looking at the lists from past years), they can be found on  Here are a few samples:

Most of this year’s freshmen, the Class of 2016, were born in 1994.  For these students:

  • “Michael Jackson’s family, not the Kennedys, constitute 'American Royalty’ ”
  • “If they miss The Daily Show, they can always get their news on YouTube”
  • “Robert DeNiro is thought of as Greg Focker’s long-suffering father-in-law, not as Vito Corleone or Jimmy Conway”
  • “Bill Clinton is a senior statesman of whose presidency they have little knowledge”
  • “They have never seen an airplane ‘ticket’ ”
  •  “For most of their lives, maintaining relations between the U.S. and the rest of the world has been a woman’s job in the State Department”
  • “They can’t picture people actually carrying luggage through airports rather than rolling it”
  •  “Their folks have never gazed with pride on a new set of bound encyclopedias on the bookshelf”
  • “Star Wars has always been just a film, not a defense strategy”
  •  “They have had to incessantly remind their parents not to refer to their CDs and DVDs as ‘tapes’ ”
  • “They were too young to enjoy the 1994 World Series, but then no one else got to enjoy it either”
  • “Before they purchase an assigned textbook, they will investigate whether it is available for rent or         purchase as an e-book”
  •  “They grew up, somehow, without the benefits of Romper Room
  • “History has always had its own channel”
  • “They watch television everywhere but on a television”
  • “Point-and-shoot cameras are soooooo last millennium”


Keeping with the lighter approach to this week’s blog, but at least looking for some international flavor, John Curry, a professor at the University of Bath, has compiled the best student excuses given by students for not completing an assignment.  According to Curry, students have moved from the classic, “my dog ate my homework,” to more generationally appropriate excuses like my pet erased my work from my computer or my dog ate my USB stick.

But students in England seem even more creative with excuses that include “ghosts, erupting volcanoes and the outbreak of civil war.”  One of his students suggested that he had been held as a spy in China, another that he had been declared legally dead.

The Mindset List helps us to understand that the times do, in fact, change.  The list of excuses reminds us that some things never change.  Here’s hoping for a great academic year for every generation!

(As always, your comments and questions are welcome.)


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Guest Tuesday, 29 July 2014