The Mindset Lists of American History

Brian Williams, NBC Nightly News — “Indispensable! The list has become one of the highlights of the year in our newsroom. It’s excellent — at teaching us history — and making us feel really old….The Mindset List has taught us all — journalists, pollsters, historians — that we’ve been tracking the wrong trends and covering the wrong things!”

Jim Simon, Seattle Times — “Wonderfully entertaining, irreverent and insightful…McBride and Nief should be hailed as America’s cultural timekeepers.”

James McManus, author of Positively Fifth Street — “No one keeps closer tabs on our evolving sense of history and popular culture than Tom McBride and Ron Nief. The Mindset Lists of American History will startle you with what the members of each new freshman class have never (or always) known. For the Class of 1910, children had always worked seven-day weeks in factories. A century later, students have never heard of Cassius Clay. A wall throughBerlin? Apartheid inSouth Africa? Who knew?”

The Associated Press – “Mesmerizing…”

Now available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and in bookstores and libraries, The Mindset Lists of American History: From Typewriters to Text Messages, What Ten Generations of Americans Think is Normal, published by John Wiley and Sons, is an outgrowth of the internationally popular annual Beloit College Mindset List. The Lists, distributed each August for the past 13 years, reflect the world view of 18 year-old entering college students each fall.

Ron Nief, former director of public affairs at Beloit College, and Beloit College Professor of English and Keefer Professor of the Humanities Tom McBride have created a book that looks at ten generations, from the time of their grandparents, born about 1880, to a speculative look at the world that awaits a generation born two years ago.

“One reason we began the List was to remind faculty members and the general public that entering college students have a particular and limited range of experiences,” notes McBride. “This was no less true of the high school classes of 1918 or 1944, and it’s the sort of deliciously ironic thing that our book will showcase. It’s a neat new way to trace American social history. What was it like, for example, to be the first generation to enjoy the luxury of zippers on clothes?”

“A rewarding aspect of the annual Mindset List is the way in which it has prompted conversation, in the classroom, at conferences and in the media,” Nief adds. “We hope the book will do the same thing, particularly among generations in the same family. We anticipate multiple generations of families gathering once again at the breakfast or dinner table to talk about what people did before remote controls, voice mail, and touchtone phones. We may revolutionize mealtime and bring back Tang and Ovaltine.”

The book and Mindset List techniques are currently being tested in the history curriculum at the secondary level, and course ideas are being developed for post-secondary use. An educational supplement is being developed for use with the book when it is published. Many teachers have made use of the daily questions that appear on the Mindset List Facebook page.

For inquiries or to order, please call the Turtle Creek Beloit College Bookstore at 608-363-2375 or order a copy from

Also by the same authors: The Mindset List of the Obscure.