From the Mindset List

WILL COVID-19 CLOSE THE GENERATION GAP: A Marist Mindset Memo

by Tom McBride

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   Read on »

WILL COVID-19 CLOSE THE GENERATION GAP: A Marist Mindset Memo

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.

THE FLU HAS ALWAYS BEEN SPANISH: The Pandemic Mindset List

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.  

The Marist College Mindset List, Class of 2023

  1. Like Pearl Harbor for their grandparents, and the Kennedy assassination for their parents, 9/11 is an historical event. 
  2. Thumb, jump, and USB flash drives have always pushed floppy disks further into history.
  3. The primary use of a phone has always been to take pictures.
  4. The nation’s mantra has always been: “If you see something, say something.”
  5. The Tech Big Four–Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Google — are to them what the Big Three automakers were to their grandparents.
  6. Their smart pens may write and record faster than they can think.
  7. Nearly half of their generation is composed of people of color.
  8. When they pulled themselves up off the floor for the first time, they may have been hanging onto the folks’ brand-new Xbox.
  9. There have always been indecisive quadrennial debates regarding the future of the Electoral College.
  10. Oklahoma City has always had a national memorial at its center.
  11. Self-contained, battery-powered artificial hearts have always been ticking away.
  12. 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. 
  13. They are as non-judgmental about sexual orientation as their parents were about smoking pot. 
  14. They have outlived iTunes.
  15. Heinous, sexually-based offenses have always been investigated by the Special Victims Unit on Law and Order.
  16. The Mars Odyssey has always been checking out the water supply for their future visits to Mars.
  17. Snapchat has become their social media app of choice, thus relieving them of the dilemma of whether or not to friend Mom.    
  18. In an unprecedented move, European nations via NATO have always helped to defend the U.S. militarily.
  19. 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.
  20. PayPal has always been an online option for purchasers.
  21. 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.
  22. As they crawled on the floor, TV headlines began crawling at the bottom of the TV screen. 
  23. “Pink slime” has always been a food additive.
  24. With flyovers, honor guards, and “God Bless America,” sporting events have always been marked by emphatic patriotism. 
  25. Only two-thirds of this generation identify as exclusively heterosexual.
  26. Segways have always been trying to revolutionize the way people move. 
  27. YouTube has become the video version of Wikipedia.
  28. There has always been an International Criminal Court, and the U.S. has never been a signatory.
  29. Newfoundland and Labrador has always been, officially, Newfoundland-and-Labrador.
  30. There has always been an American Taliban.
  31. By their sophomore year, their generation will constitute one-quarter of the U.S. population.
  32. Apple iPods have always been nostalgic.
  33. They have always been able to fly Jet Blue, but never Ted and Song.
  34. Quarterback Troy Aikman has always called the plays live from the press booth.
  35. It has always been illegal to use a hand-held cell phone while driving in New York State.
  36. Except for when he celebrated Jeopardy’s 35th anniversary, Alex Trebek has never had a moustache.
  37. Face recognition technology has always been used at public events
  38. Skilled DJs have transitioned into turntablists.
  39. The Apple Power Mac Cube has always been in a museum. 
  40. The year they were born, the top NBA draft pick came directly out of high school for the first time.
  41. They have always been concerned about catching the West Nile virus.
  42. There has always been a DisneySea in Tokyo.
  43. They have grown up with Big Data and ubiquitous algorithms that know what they want before they do.
  44. Most of them will rent, not buy, their textbooks. 
  45. They have probably all been “gaslighted” or “ghosted.”
  46. There have always been “smartwatches.”
  47. Their grandparents’ classic comics have evolved into graphic novels.
  48. They have grown up with a Patriot Act that has dramatically increased state surveillance to prevent terrorism.
  49. Defibrillators have always been so simple to use that they can be installed at home.
  50. Pittsburgh’s Steelers and Pirates have never played at Three Rivers Stadium.
  51. Congress has always banned human cloning completely and threatened arrest for offenders.
  52. At least one of the murderers of the four school girls in Birmingham, Ala. in 1963 has always been in prison.
  53. Monica and Chandler have always been married on Friends.
  54. Blackboards have never been dumb.
  55. A Catholic Pope has always visited a mosque.
  56. Cal Ripken, Jr., has always been retired.
  57. The U.S. has always been withdrawn from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.
  58. Euthanasia has always been legal in the Netherlands.
  59. Teams have always been engaged in an Amazing Race around the world.  
  60. 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 LIST-ify Your Classroom: 7 Lists…7 Tips

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—LISTSWelcome 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 

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): 

Fascinting Introduction 

Great Importance

Succinct Thesis

Supporting Details 

Answered Criticisms

Larger Implications

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 

IS THE MARIST LIST A MEMENTO MORI?

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. 

The MARIST Mindset List, Class of 2023

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

A Mindset List® Perspective: The 1st Man to Put America 1st

THE FIRST MAN TO PUT AMERICA FIRST

 Charles Lindbergh’s Plot to Make America Great Agai

By Tom McBride

Charles Lindbergh never said he wanted to Make America Great Again. But he did say, as does the current American president, that he wanted to put America First.He may well have plotted to make America great again, but he never said it out loud. This was seventy-eight years ago. Time has been rude to Lindbergh. Recently the author of a new book about him (Robert Zorn) discovered, in an airport discussion, that Millennials had never heard of Charles Lindbergh. Yet once he was world-famous as an almost sublimely pioneering aviator. He was prominent in the America First Committee. The year of the Committee’s founding, 1940, Lindbergh was still idolized for his famous solo air journey from New York to Paris thirteen years before. His middle name was Augustus, and for millions he was an august figure indeed, both solitary in the air and, speechifying, on the ground.

In retrospect, the Lindbergh of the 1940s is a profile in dark ruminations, stated in all the fervent diligence that he had been taught as a boy in the upper Middle West. A stoic, aw-shucks Americanism, as seen in Lindbergh’s brief political career, after the start of World War II in Europe but before the attack on Pearl Harbor, emerges as the carrier of fascist potential. Perhaps it was only a mutation of mid-twentieth-century patriotism. But the raw materials for racialist repression were present from the start.

 

Lindbergh did not issue from a political vacuum. Nor did his followers. Having famously landed in Paris in 1927, he was no Dorothy who just happened to set down in Oz. Instead, he was a political thinker with many followers in Dorothy’s isolationist Kansas. He was hardly alone in his convictions. Many of his countrymen thought of American Jews as urban and foreign—as potentially alien squatters with no fealty to any land. Today we might call them “citizens of the world” and mean it as a compliment, though it would not be thought a compliment, perhaps, by the hyper-Americans of (say) Frankfort, Indiana, certainly not in 1940. (Nor would it have been a compliment more recently to Prime Minister Theresa May, who, promising a hard exit from trans-national Europe, stated that citizens of the world are lamentably citizens of precisely nowhere.) Lindbergh conceded that a very limited number of useful Jews might be good for the United States. Today he might have said that some of them, “I assume, are good people.” There were millions of U.S. citizens who believed in the 30s and 40s that white European races were superior, though few of them could articulate this opinion as well as Lindbergh, who praised, in a grand historical survey, German efficiency and science; British government and commerce; and French understanding of, in his translucent words, “how to live.”

But Lindbergh and others, especially in the Middle West, did not believe that British superiority, for instance, was ideological. It was racial. The British had discovered how to run government for the same reason the Germans discovered how to operate machines: because they were white.

Thus for Charles Lindbergh the real tragedy was not that Germans were killing Semitic Jews, though he wished they wouldn’t. It was that Germans were killing Brits (in the Blitz) and vice-versa. During the 1938 wave of violence against Jews known as Kristallnacht, Lindbergh confided to his diary that he understood Germans had a “difficult” Jewish problem but did not understand why they were dealing with it in such a riotous way. Lindbergh was offended—aesthetically. This didn’t seem like Germany at all. Of course they would do a better job during the Holocaust. By then Lindbergh, banned by Franklin Roosevelt from flying combat missions in the war, was doing so on the sly, but against Japan, not Hitler.

America Firsters, which included the young Kingman Brewster, future and revered president of Yale (he later recanted) were isolationists. It is vital to know why they (not all of them) were such: not only because they were in the middle of the country and felt secure from attack from overseas and saw no need to pick fights with nations that could otherwise never get at them. It was also because they, like Lindbergh, felt that America was no mongrel race but a lovely blend of the best (German, English, French) that augured greater white genius than even the Europeans had displayed. One does not wish to sully or dilute this unparalleled racial ingenuity. One wants to isolate it; let it thrive. One does not wish to kill it off by interfering in a tragic civil war between Nordic types in Europe.

Let the American farmers in Kentucky and Indiana not fight Germans but stay home and breed. They could do little better for America than that.

To be comprehensive and fair, many Americans also felt the U.S. entrance into World War I (The Great War) had been a horrendous squandering of time and treasure. The world was to be made safe for democracy, and yet now the Europeans were at it again. This time, the United States should stay out. If Lindbergh was a racialist, he was also a peacenik! Lindbergh and his ilk, and even those who did not agree with him about Jews, vowed “no more stupid wars.”

Lindbergh is not to be condemned for wanting peace. It is why he wanted it, and for what ends, that besmirch his historical repute. This was rather evident even at the time. Roosevelt confided to aides that, since he might die at any time, he needed to say something: that he thought Lindbergh was a Nazi. This could be viewed as a self-serving remark, because Roosevelt thought America should fight Hitler (the sooner the better) while Lindbergh did not. Yet a review of the historical record does bear Roosevelt out to this extent: Lindbergh, at least pre-December 7, 1941, would likely rather have had the Nazis win than sully America’s Caucasiann greatness by interfering with combat in Europe.

For Lindbergh democracy was nice, but race was nicer. Lindbergh himself had come from the upper Middle West of a Scandinavian family. His father (C.A.L., Senior) had been a Minnesota Congressman of isolationist enthusiasm long before. Lindbergh, Jr. was a loner—he had flown to Paris famously as the “Lone Eagle”—and he remained an intensely solitary (and even secretive) man until his death in the early 1970s. He hated the American culture of chaotic celebrity exposure, in which he himself was trapped, both before and after the infamous kidnapping and murder of his first son, and believed that the United States, awash in trivia and foreign/urban values, had lost its way and was tossing away its greatness, as he himself might have tossed away excess weight on the skyway to Paris. But that shedding was necessary and technical. This one was cultural and tragic.

He thought America could use a cleaning of some type and admired Hitler for the heroic sanitation and efficiency he had brought to Germany. (Nazi propaganda films depicted Jews as vermin: a public health problem.) He had even thought of living there; and Hitler’s chief architect, Albert Speer, offered to design and build his family a house, perhaps brutally spacious (we might conjecture) but also highly functional. It might well have been something Lindbergh would admire. One of Lindbergh’s French friends finally dissuaded him. It would be unwise if not immoral, he admonished. Not everyone loved Hitler and many thought that, in time, he would maybe even cause millions of deaths in stupid wars.

It is likely that Lindbergh was sincere, even decently comported, if also stubborn and racialist. Like most reactionary thinkers, he had a Golden Age to which he cleaved with all his might. For Lindbergh this was probably “before Jews and coloreds and cities.” Lindbergh’s boyhood in Minnesota was a paradise of pristine rural beauty, sandy hills and prairies and unspoiled lakes, and the sacred obligations that citizens of small and homogenous towns tend to honor. It is highly unlikely that Sinclair Lewis, who won a Nobel Prize satirizing the provincialism of just such places, would have been the Lone Lucky Lindy’s favorite author. To bring back such an august age of time’s sylvan past, Lindbergh wanted Germany to fight the Soviets, not Britain and surely not the United States of America. But he did say that, once Communism was done, Russia might become a useful American ally. Was he unwittingly predicting 2018? .

To give Lindbergh his due one must note that he did not believe he was plotting against America, for “America” is one of Wittgenstein’s family resemblance words, whose meaning depends on its particular use. What did America mean to Lindbergh such that he thought he was not scheming against it but trying to save it? It was not the America of liberal democracy but of ethnic purity. This is complex. Lindbergh was not opposed to liberal democracy and must have thought it was a good venue by which the genius of white Europeans could be promoted. But if it brings alien forces, then it must be adjusted. It is not that Lindbergh admired democracy less but that he liked Western European white heritage more. Here again the Lone Eagle did not fly alone. This was a time when millions of Americans worried that Italian immigrants were not truly white and that those whose last names end in a long vowel are not entirely to be trusted. .

For Lindbergh the real plotters against America were American Jews, who wanted to get America into war against the Nazis (perhaps because he thought their bankers had invested in munitions), and the British, who wished the same result. Lindbergh stated publicly in Des Moines that the plot against America was a conspiracy by Jews, whom he had never much liked, and the British, for whom he now tempered his approval. In his diary he admitted that he could not entirely blame either the Jews or the British for trying to serve their own self-interests and survival. But then he glides into the subject of History itself, in which he had a keen and rather “scientific” interest. “Peace,” he averred, is a virgin that dares not show her face to the world without the shield of “Strength.” This was a law of History. But there was at least one other. Lindbergh said to his uncritical journal that he regretted the German invasion of Poland, but that Germany was only doing what would soon become normal for all. He went on to say that right and wrong is one thing in the eyes of the law but quite another in the eyes of History. Add to Lindbergh’s suspicions of democracy and his admiration of white nativism a dose of pop Darwinism, and a sizable dash of historical determinism.

 

 

Charles Lindbergh was made in America. His roots go back to Thomas Jefferson, who manifested major American contradictions. Author of a great short statement propounding equality under the law, he also owned slaves. Prophetic about slavery knifing the country in half, his worries about “a fire bell in the night” did not prevent him from owning and coupling with slaves. While he expressed the founding principles of liberal democracy in universal terms—the right of all to pursue liberty and happiness—he also thought the essential goodness of the American experiment was to be found much more locally in its self-sufficient farmers. He was suspicious of larger cities and too-accessible credit and national bankers alike. He lived in a time when there were fewer people in the entire country than now live in Greater New York City. Might he not have agreed with Noel Coward: “The higher the buildings, the lower the morals.” For Jefferson American democracy was uniquely supported by the blend of roughhewn individualism and communal obligation found on its farms.

Lindberg was also a rural idealist. A celebrity who got multiple ticker tape parades in America’s great cities, he remained a man of the Heartland. Unlike Jefferson, he did live to see the great teeming and polyglot cities. Unlike Jefferson, he lived to discover an ethnically cleansed pseudo-Darwinism that fused well with his love of small town America. He lived out the principles of liberal democracy—he, like his arch-nemesis the Committee to Save the Democracies, vied for public opinion, hearts and minds. Whatever President Roosevelt’s suspicions of him might have been, he never thought he was treasonous to America—not his America anyhow. And that’s the real America, the great one. Others just might enemies of the decent people.

 

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