Beloit’s insipid list ignores that new college students were born the year Real World began

Every year at this time, Beloit College releases its Mindset List, which was originally created to remind professors that their cultural references may be dated, and the university describes it as “a look at the cultural touchstones that shape the lives of students entering college this fall.”

Actually, it’s just incredibly stupid, because most of it is just extreme overreaching to try to make shocking points so the media will pay attention and write stories that just regurgitate and oversimplify already oversimplified points, although at least The AP’s story this year included a couple disagreements with the list.

Part of the problem is the list’s phrasing, as its authors pretend as if something that happened before first-year students’ birth year is unknowable and non-existent to them, which is such an insipid assertion that I can’t believe a college professor and administrator actually make it year after year.

This year’s list says, among other things, that for 18-year-olds entering college, “Beethoven has always been a dog” and “Fergie is a pop singer, not a princess,” while they have “never written in cursive” and “never twisted the coiled handset wire aimlessly around their wrists while chatting on the phone.” Please.

In Tom McBride and Ron Nief’s effort to make such dumbass assertions, though, they forgot one major cultural marker: The Real World debuted in 1992, when 18-year-olds were born. I was reminded of this in the guidebook for first-year student orientation at Stetson University, where I teach; it listed that among other “when you were born” items, including the release of Windows 3.1 and Jay Leno’s debut as Tonight Show host.

If 18-year-olds started watching MTV at, say, age 10, their first season would have been The Real World: New Orleans, which was followed by the return to New York, Chicago, and Las Vegas. When Survivor debuted, they were eight, maybe nine.

Thus, while they were born into a world that makes stupid lists, they truly don’t know a world without reality TV. How fortunate.

about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.