The Mindset List for the Graduating High School Class of 1961 Authors note: For more than two decades the Beloit College Mindset List chronicled the experiences and event horizons of 18-year-old students as they entered college. Created by Ron Nief, director of Public Affairs at Wisconsin’s Beloit College and his Beloit College colleague, Prof. of English Tom McBride, the list was distributed internationally each August as the authors traveled the country speaking and doing interviews. It was initially intended as a reminder to those faculty facing first- year students to beware of “hardening of the references.” Over the years it became one of the most quoted “back-to-school” references and was cited by Time Magazine as a part of the “American Read on »
The Mindset List for the Graduating High School Class of 1961
Authors note: For more than two decades the Beloit College Mindset List chronicled the experiences and event horizons of 18-year-old students as they entered college. Created by Ron Nief, director of Public Affairs at Wisconsin’s Beloit College and his Beloit College colleague, Prof. of English Tom McBride, the list was distributed internationally each August as the authors traveled the country speaking and doing interviews.
It was initially intended as a reminder to those faculty facing first- year students to beware of “hardening of the references.” Over the years it became one of the most quoted “back-to-school” references and was cited by Time Magazine as a part of the “American lexicon.”
In 2019, with the authors both retired, they transferred the rights to the Mindset List to Marist College in New York.
Ron and Tom continue to receive requests to create special lists for audiences ranging from students in Mumbai going abroad to study, to a Nashville bride, a decade older than her husband-to-be, who wanted a witty “Mindset Llist” included in her nuptials.
The following list is created as if it had been published in June, 1961. It reflects the worldview and experiences of 18-year-old high school graduates sixty years ago. Hardly a comprehensive list, readers are invited to make additions.
The Mindset List for the Graduating High School Class of 1961
Students celebrating their high school graduation in 1961 were mostly born in 1943.
At the time of their birth, Thomas Watson, chair of IBM, declared that perhaps “there is a world market for maybe five computers.”
Also that year, Saint-Exupéry’s Little Prince arrived and set the tone for the new generation: “Grown- ups never understand anything for themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things to them.”
Since the “Boomer” generation dates from right after World War II, members of the Class of 1961, born in the throes of the war, represent the last dying gasp of the Greatest Generation, without doing any of the heavy lifting.
Possible classmates, also born in 1943, were Doris Kearns Goodwin, Newt Gingrich, George Harrison, and Arthur Ashe. And those departing that year to make way for a new generation included George Washington Carver, Nicola Tesla, Edsel Ford, and Beatrix Potter.
…and so, from an imagined publication on June 30, 1961…
Fortunately, The Great Depression had been declared officially over with the year they entered the world. Within a few years, their allowances would exceed what many families had had to live on for a full week during the depression years.
As babes, they were the greatest thing since sliced bread, which was still banned as part of the war effort.
And, if mom needed a new pair of shoes, she’d have to wait. They were still rationed.
Good chance that, as toddlers, dad was a member of the 52/20 Club: $20 a week for 52 weeks to help returning GIs get settled.
While the folks were very excited over their new arrival, they were also pretty grumpy over the government’s decision to start to withhold payroll taxes.
But the future held promise when Time Magazine’s 1943 Man of the Year was George Marshall. Four years earlier it had been Adolph Hitler.
For these students graduating from high school in June, 1961…
The concept of “Teenager” has evolved into a major force, designating a separate state of mind.
Stamps have always cost more than $.02.
They’ve grown up with acronyms like KP, SNAFU, MAD and UNIVAC.
SCUBA fans have always been able to breathe underwater using Jacques Cousteau’s Aqua Lung.
Presidents of the U.S. have always flown in planes, and there have always been jets.
They have always had the latest games, like Chutes and Ladders, and toys like the Slinky.
LSD has always been available for fueling trips.
Hairdos and bugs have always been controlled with aerosol sprays.
Big secrets have always been coming out of a lab in Los Alamos, N.M.
Trips to the nation’s Capital have always included a visit to the Jefferson Memorial and a look at the massive Pentagon.
There has always been an American Broadcasting Co., but the DuMont Television Network, which introduced Jackie Gleason and Bishop Fulton Sheen, didn’t survive into their teens.
They have always known how to pronounce Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and Iwo Jima.
Failure to clean their plates at dinner was often met with a parental reminder of the conditions facing the poor children in Europe (and later in China and Africa.)
When the TV showed up in the living room, dad was stuck up on the roof rotating the antenna, shouting “is that any better.” You had to keep the TV lamp on in the room while you were watching or you might go blind.
Parents, sitting in the “dens” of their “ranches” often said they would never vote for a divorced man.
Being called a JD, or accused of smoking “MaryJane” have always been a disgrace for the folks.
“Do it yourself” has become the mantra of the suburban homeowner.
They can’t imagine that the hole in the upper corner of their elementary school desks actually used to hold an inkwell.
They have checked to make sure their Timex would “keep on ticking” and that their Paper Mate pen really could write through butter.
The only burger produced faster than at the local diner is at White Castle.
Citizens of Washington, D.C., have never been able to vote in presidential elections.
The country has always had two southern kings— one in civil rights and one in rock and roll.
“Chip and dip” in that special dish on the TV table has always been central to gatherings at home.
Though they had practiced “duck and cover” in elementary school, they had hardly noticed that those rusting triangular CD fallout shelter signs were vanishing.
Subversives and fluoride are everywhere.
They left Your Hit Parade for Alan Freed on WINS Radio, and the “Doggie in the Window” for a real “Hound Dog.”
Parties have always included nachos and deep-dish pizza.
Their “children’s hour” was shared with Buffalo Bob, Clarabell, and Princess Summerfall Winterspring.
Parents read Dr. Spock before the kids got up, and Dr. Kinsey after they went to bed.
“Expecting” has always been OK; “pregnant” has not.
Radio has steadily been fading into the background, except on the “transistor” at the beach.
Parents generally agreed that even slightly crooked teeth certainly needed braces.
They drove their folks crazy with “Just the facts, ma’am” and “Say the secret word.”
Flouristan in toothpaste meant “Look Mom, no cavities,” and hexachlorophene in soap meant germ-free hands.
There was a good possibility that dealing with their teenaged independence may have driven mom to Milltown.
Superman has always been on the watch for Kryptonite.
Autism has always been diagnosed but never discussed.
Tobacco companies have always been open about the side effects of smoking, but they have always blamed the other brands.
Fortunately, rock and roll came along so that J. Edgar Hoover could stop worrying that Frank Sinatra was being groomed as a new Hitler.
Dad has applied for a Diners Club card but there are rumors of a new BankAmericard credit card, widely available already in California.
Once they got their working papers at age16, they earned at least $1 an hour.
Edward Hopper’s painting Nighthawks has always been at the Chicago Art Institute.
The concept of the American Musical Theatre has always been recognized, ever since the arrival of Oklahoma on Broadway.
“A vast Wasteland,” “Bay of Pigs,” “Freedom Riders,” and “the military industrial complex” have sparked headlines and much dinner conversation in recent months.
In their ongoing efforts to establish their uniqueness, they can point to the fact that their class year of 1961 was strobogrammatic, indicating that the number was the same when turned upside down. The next one won’t be until 6009. It just proves you really can learn something from reading MAD Magazine.
Camelot will live forever.
Dear Boomers and Millennials: We must shed the coronavirus of division and complacency among us. This is your Hopeful Leader speaking. You have been apart, for Millennials feel that capitalism has worked for Boomers but not for them, and that Boomers have gotten the lion’s share of capitalism’s benefits. Meanwhile, Boomers don’t know wy Millennials would rather look at their smart phones than look at them. But that was all before Covid. After Covid the two generations—you young and old alike—can come together. The Generation Gap will have passed, along with the virus itself. What can I say, and how shall I lead, in order to make this come about?
First, Covid has taught us that Evil is no respecter of generations. Yes, more old people have died than young people, but plenty of young people have died, too. Is Covid evil? Was it evil? Oh, yes, an evil need not intend to be evil. Anything that kills living things just because they happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong trime must be counted as evil. Anything that keeps us on lockdown, or takes away our livelihoods, or makes us distrust other people, is evil. Yes, Covid is evil, We live in a world of evil. Let us unite around the unerring conclusion that it doesn’t care whether you are young or old.
Second, Covid has taught us that we can’t escape from nature after all. We live indoors and look at screens. Only on vacations do most of us go outdoors and look at trees. The human project has been to evade nature: avoid the wind, pay no attention to where our meat comes from, believe that the Grand Canyon on youtube is almost as good as the real thing. But with Covid we have learned that we cannot run away from nature. It follows us indoors, floods our houses, shakes them to their foundations, destroys our jobs. Covid is nature’s way of saying it will do its thing no matter what we may wish. So let us, young and old alike, take this lesson to heart and face the future knowing that Nature is going to be a guest at the table and will have to be addressed. Nature doesn’t care if you’re young or old.
Third, the soldiers in this war were not young or old. They were young AND old. Doctors and nurses came out of retirement to risk their lives. Young nurses and technicians, some barely out of their teens, put their futrures in peril, their lives in danger, in ICU wards. And if you were in one of those wards, trying to breathe, you didn’t care if your nruse or doc were a Boomer or a Millennial.
Fourth, Covid was a chemistry experiment that led to disquieting truth. At some point someone performed an experiment to discvoer that water was really two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen.. There was a little explosion, and water remained in the aftermath. Covid was just such a trial, and it revealed, not water but how many Americans live on borrowed financial time, and these are old and young alike. Wherther you are an elderly person living on Social Security alone or a young person, a sjhort order cook whose bar has closed, you are screwed. You were screwed by Covid. This is the foul-tasting water that has remained after the Covid explosion. But it is not young versus old. It is those who have and those who haven’t. Let us, as young and old lalike, try to protect those who haven’t from the cliff’s edge that they have been dwelling on for the longest time; too long. May our individualism never again tempt us to think there is no such thing as society. By “us” I mean youtyh and age alike.
Covid has been the great educator. It can teach us that year of birth does not matter as much as we tought it did. But we will realize this only if leaders lead and followers take time to hear and think. I, your Hopeful Leader, have said my piece. But I must jot be the only one.
Note: Any resemblance between the Hopeful Leader and Tom McBride is entirely a coincidence.
Flus Have Always Been Spanish Tom McBride
Suppose there had been a Marist Mindset List for the college class of 10440. The first item on the List might have been: “The flu has always been Spanish.” College grads in 1940 were born in 1918, the year of the last COVD-19 scale pandemic in the United States. This was not the coronavirus, which had not yet hatched itself.
It was the Spanish Flu.
President Trump has sometimes called COVD-19 the “Chinese virus” because, he says, it came from China. The Spanish flu, though, didn’t come from Spain. It was so-called because when the flu hit Spain, which was not at war (this was the end of World War I), reports of the severity were not censored. Everything was in the open. So when people around the world first heard of this mass malady, it was all about its effects in Spain. Hence: The Spanish Flu.
This is not to say that the flu wasn’t elsewhere, including the United States, where it killed 675,000 of us. But the United States government, fearing negative effects on war morale, censored the reality of the pandemic. It insisted that this was just “an ordinary flu by another name. Nothing to see here, they said. And they threatened to jail anyone who said otherwise.
Another item from the Marist Mindset List for the Class of 1940: “Truth and falsehood have always been arbitrary terms.” This is a direct quote from the official government agency created to keep up American war spirits.
How severe was the Spanish Flu? If you extrapolate from then to today’s world population, you get aroun350 million deaths. At last count fewer than 400,000 had died on on the planet from COVD-19. The current disease would have to kill several hundred times that many in order to match the Spanish Flu. Let’s hope it falls short.
“It’s always been heard to tell white and black soldiers apart.” This could also be an item, a Spanish-flu-related item, from the Mindset List for the class of 1940. As the world was still at war, young soldiers were hit very hard by the flu, and according to some doctors and nurses, they turned so blue that it was impossible to distinguish sometimes between African-American and white soldiers.
The flu’s symptoms were ghastly. Victims bled profusely from the mouth and nose. Fever was sky-high, breathing hard and then impossible. Unlike with COVD-19, which disproportionately affects the elderly, the Spanish Flu struck the younger hardest. Older people had lived long enough to develop partial immunity, it seems, but youth had not.
Was there any treatment for Spanish flu? Again, if we turn to the hypothetical Marist Mindset List: “Enemas, whiskey and blood-letting have always been preferred treatment for slu.” These were common ways to address the disease, and it is no great shock that none of them worked, though whiskey might have at least had a sedative effect.
Enemas would have made dehydration worse, and as for blood-letting, there was already enough of that via the orifices of the face.
Another quote from the Mindset List, Class of 1940, born in 1918: “A Liberty Bond parade has always been deadly.” Because Americans were not told the truth about the Spanish Flu, the city of Philadelphia went ahead with its crowded Liberty Bond Parade in the early fall of 1918. By Christmas, over 14,000 Philadelphians had died of the bug. In effect, Americans were ambushed by the flu. It came along in the spring, receded in the summer, and then saved its worst wave by far for the autumn. And then of course Americans were told that this was all no big deal. The war came first, though by November it had ende
Could this happen today? This is unlikely, given our mass media coverage and social networking. But this was a time before radio or TV or the Internet. News tended to be local, and local governments were keeping mum, too. It was easier to fool the public, which had few resources for comparative information.
As for treatment, in 1918 antibiotics were over twenty-five years in the future. The Spanish Flu, however, was a virus, not a bacterial disease. It was an unusually virulent H1N virus, not treatable then or now by antibiotics. But if the world had had penicillin back then, it might still have saved lives in treating linked bacterial infections arising from the dreaded flu.
The Splanish Flu was far more deadly than COVD-19. Its kills rate was much higher, and in the midst of a world war, where truth is not a big priority, there was little taste for government warnings and widespread social distancing. Such isolation would have saved millions of lives. But it didn’t happen.
Having visited itself on millions and millions, who either died or survived and got immunity, the Spanish Flu finally had no more bodies to swim in. It ddrowned. Americans got back to their lives, never quite having known what hit them until some years later when they began to reflect. But by the fall of 1918, as they saw photos of bit city policemen wearing masks, and high school gyms converted into hospitals, they must have known, at least subconsciously, that this was no garden variety influenza.
Tom McBride is a co-editor of the Marist Mindset List.
- Like Pearl Harbor for their grandparents, and the Kennedy assassination for their parents, 9/11 is an historical event.
- Thumb, jump, and USB flash drives have always pushed floppy disks further into history.
- The primary use of a phone has always been to take pictures.
- The nation’s mantra has always been: “If you see something, say something.”
- The Tech Big Four–Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Google — are to them what the Big Three automakers were to their grandparents.
- Their smart pens may write and record faster than they can think.
- Nearly half of their generation is composed of people of color.
- When they pulled themselves up off the floor for the first time, they may have been hanging onto the folks’ brand-new Xbox.
- There have always been indecisive quadrennial debates regarding the future of the Electoral College.
- Oklahoma City has always had a national memorial at its center.
- Self-contained, battery-powered artificial hearts have always been ticking away.
- Because of Richard Reid’s explosive footwear at 30,000 feet, passengers have always had to take off their shoes to slide through security on the ground.
- They are as non-judgmental about sexual orientation as their parents were about smoking pot.
- They have outlived iTunes.
- Heinous, sexually-based offenses have always been investigated by the Special Victims Unit on Law and Order.
- The Mars Odyssey has always been checking out the water supply for their future visits to Mars.
- Snapchat has become their social media app of choice, thus relieving them of the dilemma of whether or not to friend Mom.
- In an unprecedented move, European nations via NATO have always helped to defend the U.S. militarily.
- They may well not have a younger sibling, as the birth rate in the U.S. has been dropping since they were in grammar school.
- PayPal has always been an online option for purchasers.
- They have witnessed two African-American Secretaries of State, the election of a black President, Disney’s first black Princess, and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement.
- As they crawled on the floor, TV headlines began crawling at the bottom of the TV screen.
- “Pink slime” has always been a food additive.
- With flyovers, honor guards, and “God Bless America,” sporting events have always been marked by emphatic patriotism.
- Only two-thirds of this generation identify as exclusively heterosexual.
- Segways have always been trying to revolutionize the way people move.
- YouTube has become the video version of Wikipedia.
- There has always been an International Criminal Court, and the U.S. has never been a signatory.
- Newfoundland and Labrador has always been, officially, Newfoundland-and-Labrador.
- There has always been an American Taliban.
- By their sophomore year, their generation will constitute one-quarter of the U.S. population.
- Apple iPods have always been nostalgic.
- They have always been able to fly Jet Blue, but never Ted and Song.
- Quarterback Troy Aikman has always called the plays live from the press booth.
- It has always been illegal to use a hand-held cell phone while driving in New York State.
- Except for when he celebrated Jeopardy’s 35th anniversary, Alex Trebek has never had a moustache.
- Face recognition technology has always been used at public events
- Skilled DJs have transitioned into turntablists.
- The Apple Power Mac Cube has always been in a museum.
- The year they were born, the top NBA draft pick came directly out of high school for the first time.
- They have always been concerned about catching the West Nile virus.
- There has always been a DisneySea in Tokyo.
- They have grown up with Big Data and ubiquitous algorithms that know what they want before they do.
- Most of them will rent, not buy, their textbooks.
- They have probably all been “gaslighted” or “ghosted.”
- There have always been “smartwatches.”
- Their grandparents’ classic comics have evolved into graphic novels.
- They have grown up with a Patriot Act that has dramatically increased state surveillance to prevent terrorism.
- Defibrillators have always been so simple to use that they can be installed at home.
- Pittsburgh’s Steelers and Pirates have never played at Three Rivers Stadium.
- Congress has always banned human cloning completely and threatened arrest for offenders.
- At least one of the murderers of the four school girls in Birmingham, Ala. in 1963 has always been in prison.
- Monica and Chandler have always been married on Friends.
- Blackboards have never been dumb.
- A Catholic Pope has always visited a mosque.
- Cal Ripken, Jr., has always been retired.
- The U.S. has always been withdrawn from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.
- Euthanasia has always been legal in the Netherlands.
- Teams have always been engaged in an Amazing Race around the world.
- Coke and Pepsi have always been competing in the sports hydration science marketplac
For more information please call Tom McBride at 608 312 9508 or email Julia Fishman at Julia.Fishman@marist.eu
How To LISTify Your Classroom
7 Lists…7 Tips
The Marist Mindset List is a famed annual event because it supplies a witty and provocative list of items about what has “always” or “never” been true in the lives of entering college students. But the Marist List is much more than a yearly event. Here we offer some teaching tips based on creative uses of—you guessed it—LISTS. Welcome to How to LIST-ify Your Classroom. Lists: They aren’t just for supermarkets or even just for mindsets any more. –T.M. (Contact: Tom.McBride@marist.edu)
List Number 1: The First Day List
We’re so familiar with making a list that we don’t ee its creative potential. To start with, every list has two parts: what’s on it and what’s not on it. Someone once said of a college dean, “He doesn’t have a black list. He just has a list, and you’re either on it or not.” That’s true of all lists: the cucumbers were either on it or not, and if not, why not? Don’t answer that.
So let’s take this principle in the classroom and in life outside it. In the classroom we always start with a list. It’s called a syllabus. It includes some things and excludes others. This is where the teacher starts: She explains what’s on the syllabus and, though less often, shares what’s NOT on the syllabus. And in doing so, in prepping to do so, she clarifies for herself and others what her aims are. She gets a better sense of her focus. “I could have included this, but I didn’t, and here’s why.” This is a great first-day starter in the classroom. The syllabus is presented, and the introduction to the course is about what’s on it but above all what’s NOT on it. Lists are revealing by the contrast between inclusion and exclusion.
Call this THE FIRST DAY LIST. But it could also be called the EXCLUSION LIST, and our point is that the two lists (inclusion/exclusion) shold be one and the same. Meanwhile, in the classroom you can go through the first-day syllabus by explaining what you left OFF and why. It’s a way to focus the course ahead of the weeks to come. Sam Goldwyn: “Include me out.”
You can do this in life, too: whatever the subject, clarify your thinking by making a list and considering what is NOT on it, and why.
And thus endeth the first List.
2: The Tracking List
In our previous episode we covered the exclusion/inclusion principle of lists. Today we consider another aspect of lists: order and ranking. Let’s start with order. In Episode 3 we’ll consider ranking.
Order: When we go to the grocery store we usually make a list based on the layout of the store. The first aisle is the section for vegetables and fruits (also those plastic juice bottles shaped like lemons), so the mangoes and carrots always head the list. Pet food and ice come last, and you can guess why.
This is the law, and order, of our grocery list, at least as long as we keep going to Super Savings Supermarket.
But what about more conceptual lists? Let’s take the art of reading. In the classroom teachers assign readings all the time. Even as you read this, there are millions of people reading their course assignments from Singapore to Greenland. But, if you’re a professor, why just assign readings in literary theory or social sciences? Why not also help your students become better readers at the same time? You can do this… by having them make a list.
How? Well, think of the grocery store layout. After you’ve been to the store a few times you get the lay (and the law) of the aisles and conform your list to it. Have your students consider a reading assignment to be like a trip to the store. Once they’ve finished reading the assignment, or “checked out,” to continue the analogy, ask them to LIST the key ideas of the reading in the orderin which they appear.
So: after your students have finished a reading, ask them to LIST each concept IN THE TIMELINE IN WHICH IT APEARS and thus to map, for themselves, how getting one concept helps them get the next one and so on. This is a wa to get students to see what reading is inseparable from navigating Space-Time.Supermarkets unfold in a certain order and according to certain “laws.” So do many reading assignments, and if they don’t, they’re like grocery stores that make you guess, each time, on which aisle the cooking oil is this time.
We’re sometimes tempted to call these sorts of lists “Law and Order Lists,” but much more encouraging is the label TRACKING LIST. The list in Part 1 was called the First Day List. The Tracking List is different. The First Day List belongs to the teacher. The Tracking List belongs to the students. And once every student has done one, then there’s some gold in the class. Students can consult their own Tracking Lists in order (note that word) to review the reading. They can start making Tracking Lists in the future in order to get a quick sense not only of what they have read but also HOW THEY HAVE READ IT: how a reading instructs them. You as teacher can have students exchange their Tracking Lists as a way of promoting both small-group and larger-group discussions of the reading.
College reading assignments aren’t like the regular layout of the Super Saving Supermarket. Each one is a little different. Butr once students have had a little practice with Tracking Lists, they’ll discover that different reading assignments in a particular field don’t vary all that much in their presentation procedures. Just as the oranges are generally in aisle 1, the thesis is generally on about page 3, or maybe about 7.5 minutes in. Still, results will admittedly vary.
Last of all, this can help professors better choose reading assignments. If such an assignment does not have some discernible law and order to to its mode of presentation, then maybe it should be left off. Exclude a lawless, virtually untrackable, reading.
3: The Ranking List
This is a common use of lists. You can find them easily on the Internet: Top 50 Things You Didn’t Know About Woodstock or Top Ten Blues Radio Stations, and so forth. Nearly everybody likes a Top 10 List. If you’re on Facebook and propose a ranking of horror movies, you nearly always, in our experience, get plenty of comments. Everyone agrees that there ought to be a ranking, if few people concur on what the ranking should be. Should “Psycho” or “Halloween I” be number one? How about “The Town That Dreaded Sundown?”
Ranking Lists in the classroom have multiple uses. Once a course is nearly over, or a section of a course is over, students can rank the readings in various orders: pleasure, clarity, usefulness, and so forth. If the course is a literature course, you could ask students to rank, say, Salinger short stories in order of greatness. The nice thing about Ranking Lists is that first of all, you can do these lists according to many, many caregories (greatness, utilitry, difficulty, etc.); and second, these rankings, once shared, are an effective discussion switch. Ask students to explain and defend their rankings. It’s a means to generate substantive analysis and excitement about a course section, as long as students are required to articulate the rationales for their judgments.
Ranking Lists can be l quirky. You can, outside the classroom, list The Top 10 Movies Set in Winter, and have a parlor discussion (if such still exists), or internet chat, about why you chose which ones in which order (our favorite is GhostStory), and why others did or did not do the same. Or: suppose (back to the classroom again) you are teaching a Shakespeare course. Ask students to list the Top !0 Shakespeare Characters Who Would Have Made a Difference If They’d Been in ANOTHER Play by Shakespeare. Suppose Iago from Othellohad been King Claudius’ number one assistant instead of Polonius (Hamlet). Suppose Hamlet had loved Juliet instead of Romeo. You could ask students to rank these in order of how much difference these transferred characters would have made. It’s an eccentric way to think about the structure and motivations and motifs in Shakespeare’s greatest plays. It’s also a stimulating one.
Or: Ask students at various times to list, in order of most to least important, what they don’t (yet) understand about course contents so far. This can reveal to you, and to them, what they’re still struggling with. Top 10 Things I Still Don’t Get.
At this point we’ll stop. You get the idea. Rankng Lists can be clarifying. They can be fun. They can be creative. You can use them in classroom ways (likely ways that we ourselves have never thought of but that you will) and all sorts of non-classroom ways, too; otherwise known as life.
4: The Always/Never List
These lists can be good for teaching and learning and good therapy for life (“life” is an extra part of this little series, at no extra cost). . What are they?
They are lists of items that describe ongoing ways of life: continuous, daily time with a reliable and repeated set of activities and mentalities. Slighty Quirky Example: Priests in small Middle Western towns in the early 1950s lived a certain way. They did predictable things each day and had immovable assumptions. There were things they “always” did (said mass, listened to confessions) and other things that they “never” did (went to a parish member’s house for dinner more than once a month, rebelled openly against the adamantine housekeepers the parish had provided for them, auctioned off merchandise for sale at parish fund-raisers).d Short stories tend to be perfect illustrations of “Always/Never” Lists, since these stories often begin with “set” ways of life that are about to be interrupted by an unpredictable event that wll form the heart of the short story. (Note: The stories of J.F. Power are good sources of the “always/never” lives of priests.)
Alwayis/Never Lists are useful for describing, in a quick and concise way, the ethos of functional (or dysfunctional) ways of life. The subject of these Lists, whether they are about priests or office workers or the French court prior to the French revolution or nuclear physics labs or McDonalds restaurant staff. is “how they do things.” There may be no rhyme or reason, we may think, for how things are done in these various worlds (or subcultures), but “we do it this way because we always have” often prevails. These worlds, however, may be creative or complacent, productive or, when viewed by the Lister and her readers, ironic.
So how are such Always/Never Lists useful, first of all, in the classroom. Let’s look at possible assignments, such as this one: In this micro-economics course thus far, we have been looking at the economic activities of smaller groups and institutions, and the theories behind these activities. Your assignment: Assume a micro-economic group of one hundred peope, all your age, and write an Always/Never List itemizing what economic activities and mindsets they would ideally do over and over agin in order to make best use of their scarce resources. Limit your List to no more than 25 items, then brief a brief essay of about 1500 words justifying it.
We’re going to stop right there. By now you know what an Alwayis/Never List is; how it captures ongoing, often subcultural, ways of life; and you are innovative enough to know how these sorts of Lists can be used to assign your students’ creative work in sociology, economics, history, literature, and even biology (the always/never behavioral rules for survival of beetles and snail darters).
But we will say one more thing: about Always/Never Lists as therapyi for life itself. Jot down your own personal A/N List and ask yourself: Is my repeated, habitual way of life the optimal one for me? What things that I always do should I do less regularly, and what things that I never do should I start doin
5: The Comparison Shopping List
The Comparison-Shopping List is on the face of it one of the least glamorous of the list genres. It is, as its name implies, a double list (at least), two lists side by side, and what is on the left is compared with what is on the right.
This is the classroom (teaching/learning) version of comparison shopping. In both the commercial and academic versions, one is looking for the better outcome. It could be the best designer beer for the money or the best argument for the available time.
Yet while the Comparison-Shopping List seems obvious, it is probably the most helpful list of all. Benjamin Franklin made it famous in his memoirs when he showed how he made decisions: by listing the pros and cons of every choice, commercial or otherwise, in a list. It helped crystallize and condense his thinking. He thought he had worked all the pros and cons in his head, but once he took quill to Philadelphia fooscap he realized he had not done so. Writing things down has a way of jogging buried memories or liberating latent ideas. And seeing the stark differences in black and white provides an overview that, at once, both hastens and exposes good decision making. You don’t always know what you think until you see what you have to say.
In modern comparison-shopping lists, price is one consideration, but it isn’t the only one. What are the others? List them. In life and in education (isn’t that part of life, too?) one is loking (shopping) for beneficial outcomes. Shopping is a human activity so pervasive that it is scarcely avoidable. Even Cro-Magnons must have done it.
But, you may ask, isn’t the comparison shopping over once the student elects to take the course? How many choices does a student have after that? Plenty, and they are not just confined to class attendance and seating choices. Students are also asked to choose between and among opposing ideas. They are asked to assess these ideas, and to choose which ones to write about. When the student shops for and “buys” the course, the shopping has just started. Yes, students ARE consumers in the sense that smart consumers make informed and reflective decisions.
Whether the professor does it or the student does, listing colliding ideas and arguments about this or that subject is a fine way to map the stuff that a course is all about. Comparison Shopping need not just be a website that contrasts package tours. It can also be a smart board that shows the differences between feminist and non-femknist existentialism or between theoretical and applied quantum physics.
And if a student is browsing for a thesis for a paper. how does she choose which governing proposition will work best for her? Which one does she know the most about? Which one is she most confident of or most comfortable with? Which one would be hardest to find supporting materials for? Suppose she were to list four or five possible theses and then, below each one, list the pros and cons of choosing each one for a paper topic. One thesis might involve hard-to-get sources but it might also be the most interesting and original one? Which should she “buy”? A Comparison -Shopping List, academic version, will help make the choices more lucid.
What the ancient Greeks called “dialectic” is central to teaching and learning. It’s point-counterpoint. In nearly every field, including quantum physics, there are serious disputes about both theory and evidence. Writing these down, whether on the board or on a screen, in Comparison List form does wonders to focus the conflicts and train lights on the controversies.
We urge you to try making a Comparison-Shopping List. It may take a while to get the hang of. Practice in the fine art of them, though, will create incentives to go back to them many more times than once. Meanwhile, remember: KAYAK is just old-fashioned dialectic in digital form.
6: The Connector List
The definition of the Connector List is nearly self-evident: it’s a list where the various items are linked in some way. But every Connector List needs a a definable universe. You can put down on a List that the great ape died in a local zoo and that your great aunt on the same day got a paper cut, but what is the tie between the two? This is the nub of a Connector List: either the definable universe is the basis for the connections, or the discovered connections slowly build up a definable universe. If your great aunt were upset by the great ape’s death, because she had once been his keeper, and in her distraction got a paper cut, then there is a definable universe established by the linkage between death and cut. The great ape and your great aunt live in the same universe. Then, before you know it, you have the basis for a promising Connector List: bonds within the universe of a great ape’s death and the people and things his passing created.
How does this work in the universe of teaching? Here are some possibilities.
First, a student may, in preparing for an exam or just testing her own understanding, put down a diverse data-set from a definable section of a course. We recommend that she do this quickly and with no regard for whether or not the items fit together snugly. Then, after 15 or 20 of these items have been listed, she can go through them and see if she can connect them. If the items seem to be non-linkable, then that may be a sign that understanding is a little thin on the ground. If they seem quite connectable, this is likely a sign of good conceptual comprehension. Or there is a third possibility: that in finding the connections the student comes upon a new and insightful way to review the material. So the possibilities are: I get this; I need to go over this stuff again; or I’ve got some great new ideas.
Second, a teacher can also use a Connector List. The professor can present such a list to the class and ask class members to connect the items. “Here is what seems to be a highly varied data-set of items, but in fact they are linkable by careful attention to the concepts of this course. Can you link them? If not, let’s see what might be going on.”
Both these methods—the study method and the instructional method—revolve around Connector Lists. They have in common: an attempt to link details with principles, specific information with abstract concepts. But within the whole idea of a Connector List is a warning. , for there are two inadequateways to learn a course: One can grasp the major principles but be sorely lacking in supporting details and examples; or one can have a great memory of details but lack a full appreciation of general principles. A wise use of Connector Lists can save one from being either a bull-shiter or a fgrinder. Connector Lists are good ways to increase one’s sense of the concepts while, in working on the connections, the linkages, promote one’s more sophisticated understanding of the nitty-gritty.
Connector Lists dwell within universes of knowledge, and you can build a universe from the top down or the bottom up, but a good student needs skill in both kinds of construction.
Or, to put it another way, one can use a Connector List to be understand a universe of knowledge, or use a Linkage List to build one.
7: The Designer List
The best way to approach a Designer List is by considering that your academic aim, whether a review or a paper or an oral presentation, is a product: a product to be designed.
Let’s start with an analogy and assume that a biological species is a product: one that is built in order to survive and flourish. So what would have to be included in such a product? Several things. The species “product” must be designed in order to acquire and use resources, such as the sun or the soil or other members of the same species or the air or accessible prey. The species product must be designed in order to recognize and escape from predators. And, since there can never be just one member of a species in order for the species to exist at all, the design must also include some way of sexual or asexual reproduction. So a Designer List here would look like this:
Capacity for Use Environmental Resources
Capcity to Recognize and Flee Predators
Capacity to Reproduce
That’s it. A short list. But you’re not done. Now comes the Devil part: the details. For instance, if you are designing what will become a cow you don’t want to give the cow lion’s teeth, because cows need to chew cud and grass. That’s how they get along in their environment. A lion lives in a different setting. A cow should have special awareness of a wolf and seek shelter if possible. A lion can easily defeat a wolf, and the wolf, if there were one, would know it. So a lion needs no special wolf-detection skills. A lion needs speed and power because it stays alive by dealing with prey and predators in the wild. A cow gets by via the supply of milk, so designing the cow to be as scary as the lion would make no sense: no one wants to milk a lion-cow!
So now the Cow Designer List (we’ll exclude the reproduction item in the interest of time) will look different:
Capacity to Use Environmental Resources: Cow
–Offers plentiful supplies of milk
–Easily approached by human milkers
–Particularly good capacity to eat and digest grass
Capacity to Recognize and Escape Predators: Cow
–Special sensitivity to the presence of wolves
–Getting protection from human beings in exchange for milk
Note, too, that there is a functionalrelationship between the two capacities (use of resources, escape from predators) and the structural details that serve those two capacities. And if you follow us this far (can there be any question of that?), you’re now ready to do a Designer List of your own. We’ll give you one big example: An AcademicDesigner List—this is after all about the classroom above all—and then turn you loose to build, following these principles, your own academic list.
We double back to a recent idea: that the purposes of the design, and the accompanying list, is to build a product. A cow is a cow-product. A paper or a presentation or a review session: they are all products. Products are poorly designed or well-designed. We used the example of a cow and a lion, but we could have used the example of a bar of soap or a smart phone. Well, we could have if we knew anything about soap.
So let’s say you are writing a paper. Well, a cow in order to be successful has to have capacities A, B, X, Y, Z, etc. What must you have? Well, you’ll need lots of things, right? You’ll need a broovy intro (one that will draw the reader into your subject); you’ll need a so-what section (why is this important?); you’ll need a thesis, a governing and unifying proposition; you’ll need supporting details; you’ll need a section anticipating criticisms and answering them; and you’ll need a conclusion that mentions some larger implications, even though you’ll say that exploring them is “beyond the scope of the present paper.”
Now that’s 5 or 6 design features. You may not need them all, but you will need most of them. Note that we put these features not in a List but in a left-to-right paragraph. They’re harder to follow that way, so it’s time for a LIST (there’s just something about a List):
And then, of course, as you decorate the Designer List you will write in the functionaldetailsthat serve each feature. Before we leave this section, here are two tips.
First, you may not be able to plot this whole thing out in a fuilly-evolved Designer List right away. You may have to build your List by doing some writing in order to test out what you know and what you think and what you need to bone up on. You should go back to the List as you go, but don’t necessarily expect to construct the finished product right away, top down, and then start to write, command-control, according to it. This, by the way, is also not how the lion and cow got here. They got here using the first method, not the second. Or so the evidence says.
Second, make sure that your details are functionalto each section. Supporting details that underlay your thesis should go in that section and not in the answering-criticisms section; or vice-versa. In other words, don’t give a lion cow’s teeth.
Your turn! Design a great product.
What sorts of Lists hae we left out? Send any comments to Tom.McBride@marist.edu
During the Middle Ages the church would put skulls on bridges in order to remind people that death was near. Time was short, so it behooved those still alive to prepare for their own demise and to get their souls ready so that they would be acceptable in the after-life. One character in a medieval play, Everyman, dawdled. He thought time was long; that he had plenty of time. He learned otherwise and barely got ready for the judgment of Heaven.
In some ways the Marist List is also a memento mori. To be sure, it’s not a skull on a medieval bridge in London or Rome in 1300. But, as our many fans tell us, it does remind older readers that they’re getting along in life; that a great deal has changed in just eighteen years; that as they age, time speeds up and gets shorter and shorter. Older reads say they thought it was just yesterday that Blackberry phones went out of business, when in fact it was nearly twenty years ago. If they extrapolate, they discover that in just another twenty years (“tomorrow”), they’ll be going out of business, too, forever.
Once you realize this truth, you tend to confront what you wil do for the rest of your life. What will you prioritize? What will you give up? How much time do you really want to spend on your smartphone? It’s been said that “each of us lives two lives, and the second life begins when we realize we have only one.”
The Marist Mindset List is an annual reminder that time is brief and passes swiftly. It’s the modern memento mori.
Looking for the latest Mindset List? You can find it on or after August 21, 2019 at our new Marist College Website (address below). We hope you like the new List. (Yes, half of the Beatles have always been dead.) To talk with the authors send an email to Tom.McBride@marist.edu or call 608 312 9508. Thanks. Here’s the new Marist address: https://mindsetlist.marist.edu
The Mindset List® has moved to a new home, and it’s one of the best and most innovative colleges in the land. To say we’re psyched is no hyperbole!
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Tom McBride, Ron Nief, Charles Westerberg