probably never heard of the Rolling Stones, R.E.M., or Elvis Costello titles either

The annual “Mindset List,” released each year by Beloit College and intended to help professors avoid references their students would fail to understand, seems increasingly to be a guide to how out of touch its creators are with the students whose mindsets they purport to be describing.

This year’s list, for example, refers to All I Ever Really Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten (a book which had its cultural blip in the sun and then justly disappeared back in the Pleistocene Era, although its corn-likker faux-folksy proud dumbness annoyingly lives on), to Wayne Newton (and his mustache, the presence or absence of which is approximately as interesting to students as that of Kaiser Wilhelm’s), and to Roseanne singing the national anthem. These are sort of meta-clueless references, in that not only would today’s students not get them, most of today’s adults would wonder what’s next, a figure of speech relating to horses and buggies?

And for a document originating from a college, there’s some awfully sloppy copy-editing going on – either that, or (per the second item on the list) it’s a trend in Beloit for karaoke machines to sport diapers.

(Unrelatedly: I tend to collect phrases whose sound I like, but sometimes the meaning or image evoked by the phrase sits awkwardly next to the phrase itself. For example, this one: “Scottish erotica.” “Sloppy copy-editing” – used above – works quite well, however.)

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “probably never heard of the Rolling Stones, R.E.M., or Elvis Costello titles either

  1. jebni

    Some of the entries are written so ambiguously that you might be misreading their intent, though. I suspect that the point of some is to indeed demonstrate their own indecipherability for a young student — isn’t that why Roseanne has *never* been back to sing the anthem? Because most of their lives have been after the fact? Or am I over-reading?

  2. 2fs

    The general logic of these things seems to be “here’s a cultural landmark that’s familiar to you, professor, but that your students are unlikely ever to have heard of because you’re forgetting how long ago it happened,” more or less. But some of the references are not only outdated for students born in 1990 (Christ that makes me feel old…), they’re outdated for anyone under the age of, like, 60 or so…or they just never were notable at all. I mean, was it news when Wayne Newton shaved his mustache? When did that happen? Does anyone who’s not 79 or a Vegas addict even care at all about Wayne Newton? In other words, it fails the first part of my formulution above: Wayne Newton *never was* a cultural moment for the generation of most professors these days.

    I think the compilers of the list are clearly reaching to get so many entries. The whole thing would be much more clever and memorable if they pared it down to say ten entries each year, so that they don’t have to dig deep for obscurities. It’d be like eighteen years from now referring to the “I am aware of all internet traditions” memelet from two months ago…

  3. Steve

    Mindset List 2026:
    #17. Today’s graduates have always “been aware of all internet traditions”.
    #18. They don’t know a world without Vampire Weekend.
    etc.. etc.

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