Once again some place called Beloit College has released a new Mindless List for the class of 2012. According to the hype the Beloit College Mindless people put out, the list "provides a look at the cultural touchstones that shape the lives of students entering college." Hmm, we'll see about that. They also say that the "List is shared with faculty and with thousands who request it each year as the school year begins." Thousands of people request this? I find that hard to believe. More likely Beloit College thrusts this on everyone. But let's focus on the claim that this list has anything to do with the cultural touchstones of incoming college students.
"For these students, Sammy Davis Jr., Jim Henson, Ryan White, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Freddy Krueger have always been dead."
If they've always been dead, then are they really cultural touchstones? Does this even make sense? And is Freddy Krueger really dead? He seems to live on in a cable wasteland.
2. Since they were in diapers, karaoke machines have been annoying people at parties.
How is this a touchstone for them? Were they in their diapers singing karaoke?
6. Shampoo and conditioner have always been available in the same bottle.
This seems to be the sort of thing a generation will bond over, a true "touchstone."
8. Their parents may have dropped them in shock when they heard George Bush announce “tax revenue increases.”
Yeah, that seems pretty likely, because their parents no doubt believe every politician's promise and are just shocked when one is broken.
9. Electronic filing of tax returns has always been an option.
And certainly a touchstone of these kid's lives, because no doubt they've been electronically filing all along.
15. Martha Stewart Living has always been setting the style.
The style for whom? These incoming students? Does that seem likely?
22. Clarence Thomas has always sat on the Supreme Court.
And they care about this? Or is it just their leftist professors who care about this?
24. We have always known that “All I Ever Really Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.”
But have any of them read this book, or even heard of it?
26. Wayne Newton has never had a mustache.
Which is an item of central concern for 18-year-olds, who are notorious Wayne Newton fans.
29. Roseanne Barr has never been invited to sing the National Anthem again.
31. They have never been able to color a tree using a raw umber Crayola.
And this is a touchstone for them how exactly?
35. They never tasted Benefit Cereal with psyllium.
This can hardly be a touchstone for them, then. Plus, I don't even know what the hell this is.
38. Lenin’s name has never been on a major city in Russia.
Again, if it's never been on a major city, then how exactly do they touch this stone?
39. Employers have always been able to do credit checks on employees.
And I'm sure all these students have had their credit checked many times.
40. Balsamic vinegar has always been available in the U.S.
And these kids have been buying it in droves.
42. Their parents may have watched The American Gladiators on TV the day they were born.
Shouldn't they have been in the hospital giving birth? I guess people who watched American Gladiators didn't think about that sort of thing. Even if their parents were watching this, were the children watching it as well?
43. Personal privacy has always been threatened.
Because no one's personal privacy was ever threatened before 1990.
47. They never heard an attendant ask “Want me to check under the hood?”
I hate to break it to the oldsters compiling this mindless list, but I've never heard that either. Well, maybe in an old movie.
50. They have never known life without Seinfeld references from a show about “nothing.”
Seinfeld started before they were born and ended when they were young. Do Seinfeld references abound among 18-year-olds?
51. Windows 3.0 operating system made IBM PCs user-friendly the year they were born.
Yep, and they all have vivid memories of this.
52. Muscovites have always been able to buy Big Macs.
Even if they ever knew this, they didn't care.
53. The Royal New Zealand Navy has never been permitted a daily ration of rum.
WTF? The Beloit people are really reaching with this one.
54. The Hubble Space Telescope has always been eavesdropping on the heavens.
"Eavesdropping on the heavens"? Who writes this stuff? I can just imagine all these incoming college students, standing on the quad, gazing into the night sky, saying in unison, "Ahh, the Hubble Space Telescope is still eavesdropping on the heavens. What a comforting thought!"
55. 98.6 F or otherwise has always been confirmed in the ear.
Not in my house.
56. Michael Milken has always been a philanthropist promoting prostate cancer research.
Is that what he's up to these days? Does it seem likely that 18-year-olds, even those with prostates, care enough about this to know who Michael Milkin is?
I guess the question is, what constitutes a cultural touchstone. I would argue a cultural touchstone for a generation, if such even makes sense, would be something that most people in the generation would remember that generations on either side of them probably wouldn't, except in the case of boomer culture which they manage to thrust on the rest of us for 40 years, as if that "classic rock" from the 1960s had anything other than nostalgiac appeal. But I digress.
Music seems to be a good cultural touchstone. Most pop music of any decade sucks, but teenagers rememeber it while the rest of us typically avoid it. Television's good as well, because some shows appeal to children only in a certain era. The question is, how can something be a cultural touchstone for a generation if most people in that generation aren't even aware of it? The Royal New Zealand Navy? A television show popular on the day they were born? A book none of them have read? A crayon none of them have used? This doesn't even make sense.
Every year the Beloit College Mindless people flounder around to find something that tells us about these incoming college students. Once again they've failed. All this list does for me is point out what gibberish supposedly educated people can put out on the Internet. It also tells me that if I ever have kids, I wouldn't send them to Beloit College. But, as the Beloit Mindless people would no doubt say, there's no such thing as bad publicity.