Beloit College Mindset of 2014
As an educator, I appreciate the concept of this. When teaching adults, context is very important. The most important word in adult education is “Why?”. Up until about ten years old, kids are pretty good at rote memorization, with no context. I always say, if you were trying to teach the alphabet to adults, you would start out with, “A, B, C, D–” and someone would interrrupt and say, “But why does B come after A?” If you didn’t have an answer, most of them couldn’t learn the order.
So, we use cultural touchpoints to set context. We relate concepts to shopping in a store or popular movies and TV shows.
However, what happens when your students don’t know your touchpoints?
I remember, quite a few years back, teaching a class in Act, which is a contact management database used frequently by salespeople. We had a number of different appearances we could use for it (you might think of them as “skins” in modern parlance). One of them was a Rolodex…and a good half of the students had no idea what it was supposed to represent. 🙂
Starting in 1998, Tom McBride, Keefer Professor of the Humanities, and former Public Affairs Director Ron Nief, have put together a sort of cheat sheet for professors at Beloit College. It’s intended to help the professors relate better to the students, by pointing out those students’ perception of the world, based on when they have grown up.
It’s important to note that this is created by people not of the freshman generation. You can’t ask people what they don’t know, of course. You could ask them who their favorite movie stars are…but it’s hard to ask them who they consider unimportant movie stars.
This year’s list appears to demonstrate to me some of those differences in perception. For example, there is #46:
46. Nirvana is on the classic oldies station.
I’d be quite surprised if many 18-year olds think of a “classic oldies station”. If they have stations at all, they are ones they created on Pandora…and they aren’t based on genres or eras.. I think they tend not to have the same kind of stratification that earlier generations had. They might listen to Lady Gaga, Madonna, Ella Fitzgerald, and Edith Piaf, one after the other. They won’t necessarily be gender-focused like that, either. They are less likely to classify their music at all.
I was mentioning this, and someone asked me how the young people find someone like Elvis or Glenn Miller. This is an incredibly social group (not face to face, necessarily). They send each other music. They are in online forums…”Does anybody have a recommendation…?” There are also online referrals: “People who bought this also bought this”, a lot of that done by computers.
Pandora is a popular music site, and it uses “musical genomes” to find similar music for you…the listener doesn’t even need to know who the artists are, much less what era they are.
Similarly, this year’s list has this:
12. Clint Eastwood is better known as a sensitive director than as Dirty Harry.
That might be true, but I would guess a Dirty Harry reference might still work. After all, he was going to be a videogame. :) The first movie is available on streaming Netflix, even if it isn’t on Hulu.
Still, the list makes some interesting points, and is definitely worth reading.
This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog.