The Lists

by Jeff Oaks

My dear friend Heidi posted this on Facebook today:

So, here it is… The Beloit College Mindset List for the Class of 2020

Students heading into their first year of college this year are mostly 18 and were born in 1998. Among those who have never been alive in their lifetime are Frank Sinatra, Phil Hartman, Matthew Shepard, Sonny Bono, and Flo-Jo.

Since they arrived on this planet….
1. There has always been a digital swap meet called eBay.
2. Grandpa has always been able to reach for the Celebrex.

3. They never heard Harry Caray try to sing during the seventh inning at Wrigley Field.

4. There have always been Cadillac Escalades, but they just don’t seem to be all that into cars. 

5. West Nile has always been a virus found in the U.S.

6. Vladimir Putin has always been calling the shots at the Kremlin.

7. The Sandy Hook tragedy is their Columbine.

8. Cloning has always been a mundane laboratory procedure.

9. Elian Gonzalez, who would like to visit the U.S. again someday, has always been back in Cuba.

10. The United States has always been at war.

11. Euros have always been the coin of the realm…well, at least part of the realm.

12. Serena Williams has always been winning Grand Slam singles titles.

13. SpongeBob SquarePants has always lived at Bikini Bottom.

14. The Ali/Frazier boxing match for their generation was between the daughters of Muhammad and Joe.

15. They have never had to watch or listen to programs at a scheduled time. 

16. James P. Hoffa has always been president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

17. Surprise: There has always been sex in the city.

18. John Hinckley has always been able to get out of the hospital to go for a walk.

19. Each year they’ve been alive the U.S. population has grown by more than one million Latinos. 

20. TV ads for casinos have always been permitted to mention that there is actually gambling going on in there. 

21. Vaccines have always been erroneously linked to autism.

22. Laws against on-the-job harassment have always applied to parties of the same sex. 

23. Even as the national mood gets glummer, there has always been an annual prize for the most humorous American.

24. Catholics and Lutherans have always been in agreement on how to get to heaven.

25. To greet them with some cheery news, when they were born, India and Pakistan became nuclear powers.

26. If you want to reach them, you’d better send a text—emails are oft ignored.

27. They disagree with their parents as to which was the “first” Star Wars episode.

28. “Nanny cams” have always been available to check up on the babysitter.

29. NFL coaches have always had the opportunity to throw a red flag and question the ref.

30. Bada Bing – Tony and Carmela Soprano and the gang have always been part of American culture.

31. They have no memory of Bob Dole promoting Viagra.

32. Books have always been read to you on

33. Citizens have always been able to register to vote when they get their driver’s license.

34. Bluetooth has always been keeping us wireless and synchronized.

35. X-rays have always been digital allowing them to be read immediately.

36. Exxon and Mobil have been one company—and it doesn’t own any gas stations.

37. They have always eaten irradiated food.

38. A Bush and a Clinton have always been campaigning for something big.

39. Physicians have always had unions.

40. Some have always questioned the sexual orientation of certain Teletubbies.

41. Snowboarding has always been an Olympic sport.

42. Students have always questioned where and by whom their sweatshirts are made.

43. While chads were hanging in Florida, they were potty training in all 50 states. 

44. Presidents have always been denied line item veto power.

45. Nigeria has always been a constitutional republic with a civilian government.

46. The once-feared Thalidomide has always been recognized as a cancer fighting drug. 

47. DreamWorks has always been making animated creatures heroic and loveable.

48. Deceased men have always been able to procreate.

49. John Elway and Wayne Gretzky have always been retired.

50. They have never seen billboard ads for cigarettes.

51. The New York Stock Exchange has never reported its ups and downs in fractions.

52. Airline tickets have always been purchased online.

53. There have always been iMacs on desks.

54. Instant, tray-less ice cubes have never been a novelty.

55. Robots have always been surgical partners in the O.R.

56. Peregrine falcons have never been on the endangered species list.

57. Outstanding women basketball players have always had their own Hall of Fame in Knoxville, Tenn.

58. Newt who?

59. War films have always shown horrific battle scenes inspired by Saving Private Ryan.

60. Michael J. Fox has always spoken publicly about having Parkinson’s disease.
#7, 10 strike me especially. 


I try to remind myself every few years to talk to them about what has shaped their imaginations: 
If they learned to type before learning to write longhand or cursive.
If their governing mythology is about catching Pokemon.

Their great hero myth is a boy who survived because of his mother’s sacrifice. 

The great antagonist is a man who shouldn’t be named but who survived because he hid his soul in things by means of murder. 

They may never have seen the Milky Way (a thing I read the other day which broke my heart).

They have always had medication to deal with their anxieties, depressions, and attention problems.

They’ve grown up being told the government is broken, too large, dangerous, lazy.

Many of them are likely to believe that anything that discomforts them is “offensive”.

They may have travelled widely; they may speak another language.

Illegal is a person–an illegal–and not an adjective.

A terrorist, a rapist, a sexual offender is potentially always nearby.

The only forms of disagreement they might have seen have been public: protest, boycott, and threats of violence. 

What are their models for civil engagement: dialogue, discussion, listening, rethinking in light of facts? 

Who are their images for courageous, ethical adults?
Except for getting rich, why are their reasons for living? 

Which of their heroes has ever had to work for a living? 

Who are their role models for surviving broken hearts, a friend’s betrayal, a controlling parent, the death of a loved one?