August 17, 2010

"This list isn't about the mindset of the class of 2014. It's about the mindset of the people who write it."

"It's about what makes them feel ancient. It's not about how college students think at 18; it's about how we think at 40 and 50 and 60. It's about how we think about the markers we once drove into the ground to mark what we considered Now, and how alarming it is to note that they are farther away than they used to be."

NPR reacts to the new Beloit College "mindset list."

From the list:
1. Few in the class know how to write in cursive....

17. Trading Chocolate the Moose for Patti the Platypus helped build their Beanie Baby collection....
19. They never twisted the coiled handset wire aimlessly around their wrists while chatting on the phone.
(Have they ever used a dial on a phone?)
42. Potato has always ended in an “e” in New Jersey per vice presidential edict.
Okay. That one distracted me. (I'm distractable, and no, I wasn't the youngest in my class when I was a schoolkid. I was the oldest.) This gets me to something I wanted to talk about. Yesterday, I was reading the "Religion" chapter of Thomas Jefferson's "Notes on the State of Virginia," and I came across this:
The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbour to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.
That's the famous quote I was looking for. But read on:
... Reason and free enquiry are the only effectual agents against error. Give a loose to them, they will support the true religion, by bringing every false one to their tribunal, to the test of their investigation. They are the natural enemies of error, and of error only. Had not the Roman government permitted free enquiry, Christianity could never have been introduced. Had not free enquiry been indulged, at the aera of the reformation, the corruptions of Christianity could not have been purged away. If it be restrained now, the present corruptions will be protected, and new ones encouraged. Was the government to prescribe to us our medicine and diet, our bodies would be in such keeping as our souls are now. Thus in France the emetic was once forbidden as a medicine, and the potatoe as an article of food.
So Dan Quayle gets a boost from Thomas Jefferson. (And so does Tom Coburn, who recently pressed Elena Kagan with the question: "If I wanted to sponsor a bill and it said Americans, you have to eat three vegetables and three fruits every day and I got it through Congress and that’s now the law of the land, got to do it, does that violate the commerce clause?")

ADDED: I found the facsimile of the manuscript on line and determined that Jefferson did write "potatoe." See for yourself.

38 comments:

Ignorance is Bliss said...

If I wanted to sponsor a bill and it said Americans, you have to eat three vegetables and three fruits every day and I got it through Congress and that’s now the law of the land, got to do it, does that violate the commerce clause?

No, that does not violate the commerce clause. It violates the tenth amendment, because it is not supported by the commerce ( or any other ) clause.

Hagar said...

In defense of Dan Quayle - at least on that particular point - please note that the teacher set him up for it.
If you can remember the scene; he was half sitting on a classroom table and twirling something in his hand. It was a cheater card on which the teacher had spelled out "POTATOE" for him in preparation for the quiz photo op.

Wv: Unhabbeg - Wahhabi apostate

HDHouse said...

Hey there freshman--what time is it?......

Mr. D said...

I'm a Beloit alum -- glad to see the ol' alma mater is doing such a good job of marketing itself.

Bill said...

A lot of the stuff about the transience of pop culture is rather banal, but this caught my eye:

"10. A quarter of the class has at least one immigrant parent, ..."

Pogo said...

""It's about what makes them feel ancient."

And they tell him,
"Take your time. It won't be long now.
'Til your drag your feet to slow the circles down.

or


Sic transit G. L. O. R. I. A. Gloo-hooriaaaa.
G. L. O. R. I. A. Gloo-hooriaaaa.

jamboree said...
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jamboree said...
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jamboree said...

I've always love these lists.

I don't know if these lists are getting more and more banal or my own youth is getting so far behind me that I've forgotten about its times (as I tend to do), but almost everything in here does seem like it's been around a huge amount of time, and so doesn't have that "weirding me out" effect.

The only one that gave me any pause at all was "Fergie". Has "Fergie 2" really been around 20 years? Thought it was more like 10.

I have one that tends to freak out boomers: The first bunch of Xers are in their 40s now and people Kurt and Courtney's kid's age are now the "young people" - entering college this fall.

A few 50-something boomers have assumed I'm a boomer and when I correct them, they look at me like "you're not a kid" and I have to say, "Didn't say I was. I'm 41 years old. That's upper Gen X now. No reason to rope me into your gen." hahahaha And they freak out. Can't say, but I think a lot of them still think of "younger people" as being born in the 70s. (It's not my looks. If anything I look slightly younger than my age. It's just that they think someone my age, with a child who is such-and-such an age, should be a boomer and that's changed.)

Texting. I noticed a few years ago that only the old people use email, but it doesn't freak me out too much because once I started texting at work I didn't want to use email either. A 60ish manager demanded we check are email once day because she hated to text, and it seemed like such a hardship. lol. You know, you have to *get out the computer and turn it on* or *go home* and LOG ON and it just takes a lot of time.

Younger people use their phone more than their computer unless its a speciality. In that sense it's getting MORE like the old days of my 80s teenhood with heavy computer use and processing power only usable for a heavily geeked niche market and the popular sociable people staying away from them as much as possible.

By 'old people" I mean pretty much everyone over 34 or so. (Apologies to 35- yr-olds everywhere for depressing you...)

jamboree said...

Just saw this one: One way or another, “It’s the economy, stupid” and always has been.


This is what I'm talking about. This shouldn't even be on the list because it is not applicable to only freshman in college. Other than the short dotcom bubble in the very late 90s, this is all I remember as well. There has never been a sustained boom since I can remember - and my memory stretches back to maybe Carter, but I really only started paying attention upon graduation which was when the expression was first coined.

It's been a really really LONG time since the US has had a healthy economy. My young-for-an-uncle, who is a boomer, tells me tales of being able to take a year off school and come back and know you have a good job waiting for you, of being able to actually support a family on "minimum wage" (in CALIFORNIA!!!!) if you had to, etc. He would have been 20 in about 1970.

I just listen like he's telling me fairy tales about a world made out of ice cream and peppermint sticks.

I have never never known a generalized, healthy boom - only specific bubbles that threaten to bring down the economy- derivatives, real estate, dotcom.

Sounds great.

Joe said...

The constant use of "always" irritated me. Only a dummy would think that X always was this or that.

Then there's "J.R. Ewing has always been dead and gone. Hasn’t he?"

Even for those of us who know who J.R. Ewing is, who the hell cares? I didn't care then and still don't.

And the very next one: "The historic bridge at Mostar in Bosnia has always been a copy."

Ooh, the author has to let everyone know they went to Bosnia or know something about it. Does anyone give a shit about ANY bridge in Bosnia. Good grief, if you're going to pull stuff out of your ass, at least make if funny.

They need to make the list more sarcastic:

* They aren't whining about how great the "good old days" were.

* They don't think the 50's were that great.

* They actually know how to use computers.

* They don't pay for porn.

* They know it's Scy-Fy channel, not Sci-Fi channel.

* What the hell is an Apple II?

(seriously, who wrote this list? An eighteen year old today likely never saw an Apple II let alone touched one.)

* They think you're a total ass for trying to be hip and modern.

* They know that most of what you teach is a total waist of time but were told they had to listen to you drone on and on to be successful in life.

TosaGuy said...

A few years ago on a community message board I was embattled with some bitter boomer-aged white-guilt liberals on some issue or another. These folks called everyone who disagreed with them on community (law enforcement, housing, schools) issues a racist to the point that a fable could be written called "the liberal who cried racist"

Anyway, I used this tactic of listing how things were different to us younger folks (40 and under) with regard to race. The Civil Rights bills were always law, MLK was always dead, we went to schools that were always unsegregated, etc. The response was that us 'young' people were completely ignorant and didn't see the racism inherent in society. We were simply deluding ourselves that anything had improved in this country regarding race (this was before THE ONE was elected).

According to this anecdotal sample, to these people nothing in society had improved regarding this particular issue. I have since met a number of these folks in person and they are decent people, but you can still see that wistful longing for the 1960s when they thought they were relevant. It's a sad thought, because people only cease to be relevant when they choose to be.

While a listing of trivialities, the exercise is useful in providing perspective on what informs other people's points of view. It's a good grounding exercise that hopefully will keep us 80s kids from becoming the equivilent of 60s burnouts.

edutcher said...

The one about writing cursive, going back to teachers and ADD, etc., is a real killer.

The Blonde's favorite nephew, AP student and product of one of Ohio's most highly rated school districts, can't even print better than something one would expect from a first grader. He says, when asked about improving his penmanship, "I'll just use the computer".

The idea that handwriting is obsolete is a real stunner.

Hagar said...

In defense of Dan Quayle - at least on that particular point - please note that the teacher set him up for it.
If you can remember the scene; he was half sitting on a classroom table and twirling something in his hand. It was a cheater card on which the teacher had spelled out "POTATOE" for him in preparation for the quiz photo op.


Whomever put that on the list was just trying to be a smartass. As I've said before, it seems to be a convention in the Midwest - The Blonde spells it that way, too.

Pogo said...

I always spell "POTATOE" with a coupla 7s, an asterisk, and the color blue.

TosaGuy said...

In WI it should be spelled patayta, since that is the way everyone seems to pronounce it. It's a peeve to this non-WI native.

ALP said...

edutcher said:

The Blonde's favorite nephew, AP student and product of one of Ohio's most highly rated school districts, can't even print better than something one would expect from a first grader. He says, when asked about improving his penmanship, "I'll just use the computer".

The idea that handwriting is obsolete is a real stunner.
*********************

I guess here is another area where the rest of the world beats the pants off us...

Having worked in the area of immigration law for 10 years, I saw numerous documents that included hand writing from around the world.

Individuals from India and China have stellar penmanship - astonishingly clear and readable English text. A friend educated in India told us that you were required to use a fountain pen for your homework - you didn't even get the luxury of a ball point pen, and using pencil would get you a zero grade for that assignment.(he is now in his late 20's, so fairly young).

Pogo said...

In Wisoconsin they spell "POTATOE" like this:

"FRIES"

Pogo said...

And they misspell Wisconsin, too.

Gabriel Hanna said...

There are a lot of things that are the same though.

Kids today have listened to songs from the Beatles and Jimi Hendrix, in commercials if nowhere else. They wear peace symbols and describe things as "cool".

Now all of you who were teenagers in the 60s and 70s--how many of you could name a song from Guy Lombardo or Eddie Cantor? How many of you used the word "copacetic", and wore zoot suits with chains hanging to your ankles?

Geoff Matthews said...

The Stari Most was destroyed in November of 1993. So all of these students have drawn breath while the original was still standing.

Unless they are 17.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stari_Most

traditionalguy said...

Is Carolingen Miniscule in danger of becoming a dead handwriting?

Ralph L said...

It's been a really really LONG time since the US has had a healthy economy
You're out of your mind if you think the 70's had a healthy economy. Inflation, shortages, strikes, heavy industry dying. My town had 20% unemployment for years. Much like the last 2 years, the only thing that grew was government.

HDHouse said...

so Ann, you say patata and I say batata because I like them better...and if you have more than one, you say it patotoes or did...

Perhaps instead of a Jeffersonian boost you found Jeffersonian error when he left off the plural making "s" therefore leaving Dan Q. puzzled, incorrect and outstanding in his field.

AJ Lynch said...

Althouse you need a poll on who is dumber?

Quayle [not the commenter]
Biden
Janet Napolitano
GW Bush
Obama

Synova said...

My kids were all very concerned when Billy Mays died but they hardly noticed that Michael Jackson died at the same time other than to see him on all the magazine covers and wonder who he was.

The Crack Emcee said...

While I generally agree with that Jefferson quote, it still reads as though spilling from an untouchable perch, like he'd know what madness these claims have since unleashed, on our wallets and limbs alike.

I call bullshit.

Synova said...

"I started texting at work I didn't want to use email either."

I text my kids a lot.

My problem with it is that it's slow poking to type one finger at a time on a tiny "keyboard" so it's much faster to type an email, and like many people over forty, my eyes are sort of going. I don't need to wear glasses for most things, so reading a text means the extra step of getting my glasses out of their case, etc.

Synova said...

"Anyway, I used this tactic of listing how things were different to us younger folks (40 and under) with regard to race. The Civil Rights bills were always law, MLK was always dead, we went to schools that were always unsegregated, etc. The response was that us 'young' people were completely ignorant and didn't see the racism inherent in society. We were simply deluding ourselves that anything had improved in this country regarding race (this was before THE ONE was elected)."

I'm over forty and I feel that way about feminism.

In any case... I think that there are still converts among young people, once they sit in a college class and someone explains how what they know is all wrong... but talk to a kid before that point about racism, sexism, or gender/gay issues and they're going to think you're nuts.

Expat(ish) said...

I did a "job talk" to a bunch of high school students and passed about my last stack of JCL on punchcards. As usual they had no idea what it was.

So I told them the same thing I always do: when you're at my age (prime of earnings) the things you learned at your age will be worthless.

Love to see teachers turn purple.

-XC

bagoh20 said...

I suspect there are Jeffersons around today, but they take a beating on the internets. There may be one in here right now.

Paddy O said...

Pogo, "I always spell "POTATOE" with a coupla 7s, an asterisk, and the color blue."

Ha!

I literally laughed out loud, but I refuse to get into the habit of writing LOL.

Richard Fagin said...

Time to take the aftermarket electronic ignition modules out of the 64 1/2 Stang and the 66 Vette and point breaker points back in. I want cars that will still run after the Iranians set off a nuke to knock out our electronic world with a big EMP.

I have no idea how I'm going to use credit cards to buy gas, though.

William said...

It must have been cool to live during the Ming Dynasty or the Middle Kingdom or any of those stagnant ages where the world you were born into was the world in which you died. In those days as you aged, you could accumulate wisdom. Nowadays, you become progressively dumber and clumsier as you age. My computer, my phone, my remote control all have many keys and functions which I do not understand and which I have no wish to understand. As time goes by, I become more and more an ignorant, resentful peasant.....If the world would just hold still for a decade or two, I'm sure I could become a more well adusted person.

MadisonMan said...

10. A quarter of the class has at least one immigrant parent, ...

I wonder how this percentage has changed through history.

AST said...

There weren't any real spelling rules at that time. With the rise of text messaging and Twitter, we're slowly reverting to that state.

Witness the wv: traintak

A.W. said...

well certainly the list is lame in many respect. like they claim that the kids don't know clint eastwood is dirty harry.

um, seriously? there is this new invention. its called TELEVISION. and on this thing there are channels. in fact there are something like 1000 of them on my satelite. and they have to show something on it, so they often show movies. and often they show movies that are not new, but in fact old. in fact there are whole channels devoted to showing "classic" movies and even if it is not a classics channel, it still might show classic old movies, like Dirty Harry.

I mean seriously, right now there is a video game out called Red Dead Redemption. Its basically Grand Theft Auto in the Wild West. it is basically a playable "spaghetti" western. so that is a game, being sold to the "youngins" that is specifically harking back to a genre of movies made famous by clint eastwood, before he became dirty harry.

what complete pap.

Ann Althouse said...

HDHouse said... "Perhaps instead of a Jeffersonian boost you found Jeffersonian error when he left off the plural making "s" therefore leaving Dan Q. puzzled, incorrect and outstanding in his field."

If you look closely at the facsimile, you'll see a second "potatoe" crossed out. It's the way he spelled the word.

Ann Althouse said...

You know how there are "fingerling" potatoes, that look like fingers? Maybe "toe" is there because we see toes.