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The Guide for the Class of 2020 List

Guide to the Beloit College Mindset List, Class of 2020

Many teachers and counselors alike have used the Mindset List over the years, sometimes as the basis for one-on-one chats, and at other times for class discussions and even personal essays. This year’s List is no different. The annual Lists are wonderful icebreakers for counselors and professors and students. They stimulate intergenerational conversations. Here are some suggestions about this year’s List.

  1. This year's entering class has grown up with Cadillac Escalades but also notes, based on various studies, that Millennials constitute a generation whose imagination is not captured by automobiles. Millennials are thought to be the least "into" cars than any other generation in the history of the auto. Is this true? If so, why? Is it because Millennials can't afford cars (due to the Great Recession and expected college debt) or because Millennials don't need cars, since they can "go anywhere" on the Internet. Or is something else going on?  
  2. This year's list also points out that cloning has always been a routine, even mundane, laboratory practice. Is this a good or bad thing? If cloning cells, for instance, comes to seem "natural," how long before it becomes hazardous, to the point of scientists trying to clone human beings. And why might that practice be perilously revolutionary?  
  3. This year's list notes the apparent end of "appointment infotainment," whereby today's entering class has grown up in a world where they never have to listen or watch any show at an appointed time but can always get it whenever they want it, on apps or streaming. Thus Millennials may be the first generation that does NOT have to show up on time. Is this a good or bad thing?  
  4. This year's list points out a remarkable fact: that for every year this year's class has been alive, over a million Hispanics have been added to the American population. Many older Americans think this fact to be one of tremendous significance. Does the younger generation agree?  
  5. As long as they've been alive, according to this year's list, books have always been read TO them on audible.com. What are the pros and cons of this by now routine technology? 
  6.  As long as they've been alive, Catholics and Lutherans have always agreed on how to get to Heaven, yet for hundreds of years Protestants and Catholics violently disagreed (and even fought wars) about whether works or faith would get one to Paradise. Is the new-found agreement a good thing--or does it simply suggest that nobody takes religion very seriously any more anyhow? 
  7. Tell them what items on this year’s List you yourself, as an older person, found most astonishing—and why. Get their reactions.
  8. Ask them to summarize the composite portrait of their generation drawn, implicitly, by this year’s List and whether or not they think it’s accurate.
  9. This year's list observes that entering college students will generally not find "Columbine" to be an infamous and iconic name, yet for an older generation it was the first and most evil of all high school massacres. Is it true that they have little knowledge of "Columbine," and if so, what are the implications? That school shootings have become so frequent that we have become dangerously numb to their enormous consequences? 
  10. Ask your charges what question they would most like to ask their parents about life when THEY were young--and why.

These are suggested topics only. You may well invent your own. Creative uses of each year’s Mindset List are extremely welcome and beneficial. These topics, again, can be used as subjects for chats, discussions, or essays (the latter can of course be exchanged in class and then discussed openly).

We welcome your own expert comments. Tell us what you did, what we got right, and what we got wrong. Good Luck!

Tom McBride, Ron Nief, Charles Westerberg

August 2016