Every year the administrators at Wisconsin’s Beloit College put together a list of information about incoming freshmen that is shared with the school’s professors. It’s not a list of student names, or the books they’ll need to order for class. Instead, professors are told about the “cultural touchstones that shape the lives of students entering college this fall.”
It is called the Mindset List.
The list was first developed in 1998 by Tom McBride and Ron Nief, faculty members at Beloit, with the goal of helping the school’s professors avoid “dated references” and understand the perspective of the next generation.
So how is the class of 2014 different from previous classes? They’re more digital, of course.
First and foremost, few entering college this year have ever written in cursive. And this mobile phone generation has “never twisted the coiled handset wire aimlessly around their wrists while chatting on the phone.”
They also rarely use e-mail. Why? Because it’s just too slow. And you can imagine how much they use snail mail: “rarely.”
Another insight that shows how quickly things change is this one: The class of 2014 has “never recognized that pointing to their wrists was a request for the time of day.” They don’t own watches and instead use their cellphones to tell the time.
The class also believes that there have always been “hundreds of cable channels but nothing to watch” and that “Russians and Americans have always been living together in space.”
In addition to the items about digital habits, the list includes a trove of cultural references that can either make you feel really old or remind you how quickly life moves, especially in this digital age.