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The Book

The Mindset Lists of American History: From Typewriters to Text Messages, What Ten Generations of Americans Think is Normal (John Wiley and Sons,2011) is an outgrowth of the annual Beloit College Mindset List. The Lists, distributed each August since 1998, reflect the world view of 18 year-old entering college students each fall.

Ron Nief, former director of public affairs at Beloit College, and Beloit College Professor of English and Keefer Professor of the Humanities Tom McBride have created a book that looks at ten generations, from the time of their grandparents, born about 1880, to a speculative look at the world that awaits a generation born two years ago.

The Mindset Lists of American History Web

“One reason we began the List was to remind faculty members and the general public that entering college students have a particular and limited range of experiences,” notes McBride. “This was no less true of the high school classes of 1918 or 1944, and it’s the sort of deliciously ironic thing that our book will showcase. It’s a neat new way to trace American social history. What was it like, for example, to be the first generation to enjoy the luxury of zippers on clothes?”

“A rewarding aspect of the annual Mindset List is the way in which it has prompted conversation, in the classroom, at conferences and in the media,” Nief adds. “We hope the book will do the same thing, particularly among generations in the same family. We anticipate multiple generations of families gathering once again at the breakfast or dinner table to talk about what people did before remote controls, voice mail, and touchtone phones. We may revolutionize mealtime and bring back Tang and Ovaltine.”

The Mindset Lists of American History and Mindset List techniques are now being used in courses at the secondary and post-secondary level. An educational guide has been developed and is available at Many teachers have also made use of the daily questions that appear on the Mindset List Facebook page.

The book is available online and wherever books are sold.  For an autographed copy, please call the Turtle Creek Beloit College Bookstore at 608-363-2375.


Brian Williams, NBC Nightly News -- “Indispensable! The list has become one of the highlights of the year in our newsroom. It’s excellent -- at teaching us history -- and making us feel really old….The Mindset List has taught us all -- journalists, pollsters, historians -- that we've been tracking the wrong trends and covering the wrong things!"

Jim Simon, Seattle Times -- “Wonderfully entertaining, irreverent and insightful…McBride and Nief should be hailed as America’s cultural timekeepers.”

James McManus, author of Positively Fifth Street -- "No one keeps closer tabs on our evolving sense of history and popular culture than Tom McBride and Ron Nief. The Mindset Lists of American History will startle you with what the members of each new freshman class have never (or always) known. For the Class of 1910, children had always worked seven-day weeks in factories. A century later, students have never heard of Cassius Clay. A wall through Berlin? Apartheid in South Africa? Who knew?"

See the Beloit College Mindset List webcast (viewable in the Microsoft Silverlight player)

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Speaking Engagements

Each year, the authors speak around the country to education, library, professional, civic, and business groups and are available for workshops, conferences, and book signings.

Some recent and upcoming presentations include:

EDUCATION -- Utah State University; Murray State (Ky.) University; Madison (Wis.) Area Technical College; Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society; The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI); Highland (Ill.) Community College; Framingham (Mass.) State University; University of North Texas; Jump$tart Coalition for Financial Literacy; Alpha Gamma Rho; Lincoln Land Community College (Ill.)

LIBRARY AND MUSEUM GROUPS -- The American Library Association; Missouri Library Association; The New England Library Network; The Chicago  History Museum

ADMISSIONS -- The ACT National Compass Conference; Association for College Admissions Counseling conferences in Illinois, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and New England; CFES: College For Every Student.

PROFESSIONAL AND CIVIC GROUPS -- NASA; NCAA; NCHELP National Debt Management Conference; Rotary International North American Youth Exchange Network; The National Association of State Retirement Administrators