Tag Archives: school

Mindset List Highlights


Every year Beloit College releases its “Mindset List.” This list is basically an overview of the cultural world that this year’s college freshmen live in. It began in 1998 when Professor Tom McBride and Ron Nief created the list to help teachers and faculty better understand the basic differences between the world they grew up in and the one that the students now knew. It really is eye-opening when you come to the realization about how different our culture is now as opposed to 20 years ago and how an 18-year-old today might view the world.

This year is the class of 2014. These students were born in 1992. For example, these students have never lived in a world without color T.V. or CD’s,  and they likely have never even seen a drive-in movie theater. It’s strange to think, but actually being aware of little things like this can help teachers and students better communicate and relate to one another. I picked out a few of the most interesting and surprising from the list to share with you today:

THE WORLD ACCORDING TO THEM…

The terms “caramel macchiato” and “venti half-caf vanilla latte” have always been used and understood – Coffee is taking over the world!!! I, for one, am perfectly happy with it, of course. Coffee is not the devil. Coffee just told me to say that. All hail coffee. (Blank stare)

Few, if any, students know how to write in cursive – This was kind of already going out the door when I was a kid, thank God. Really unnecessary if you ask me, especially since most people can’t even spell properly in the first place. One thing at a time here people.

Colorful lapel ribbons have always been worn to indicate support for a cause – Holy crap, let’s pull it together here people! Your empathy and compassion levels are not in competition with anyone else’s and they are not measured by the amount of ribbon magnets you have plastered on your trunk or wear on your chest. Don’t get bamboozled by breast cancer awareness lawn mowers and autism shoelaces. It’s a pink nightmare out there.

Email is too slow for them – I have to admit I’ve been sucked into the texting game. I wonder how the whole thing is going to start affecting people’s patience levels? Everything seems to be available at a moment’s notice these days.

Fergie is a pop singer, not a princess – I’m sure the latter was thrilled with the emergence of the “lovely lady humps” version of her namesake. If you don’t even understand this one, it’s okay.

They never twisted the coiled handset wire aimlessly around their wrists while chatting on the phone – Oh man, I had completely forgotten about that! Those things never stayed coiled properly for longer than a week out of the box. Somewhere there are just heaps of tangled phone cord disasters that will never be undone. Don’t pull on it, you’ll just stretch it out! So what? Now home invaders have to bring their own restraining devices? Not cool.

They’ve never recognized that pointing to their wrists was a request for the time of day – The watch industry must be seriously tanking in every direction. Look at your wrist. Are you wearing a watch right now? If so, you are definitely in the minority. I haven’t put on a watch in about 6 years and it was only because I was in the army and they have this funny thing about being on time. Go figure.

“Viewer Discretion” has always been an available warning on TV shows – Not only that, but what about those channel logos in the corners? When the hell did that start up? I had never even seen one of those until I returned to the states about 10 years ago and they were on every channel. I know I’m watching Spike TV!!! Stop it with the explosions in the corner!

Czechoslovakia has never existed – I know, and I miss it so much everyday.

The dominance of television news by the three networks passed while they were still in their cribs – End result? We now have the fair and balanced FOX News! Great.

Nirvana is on the classic oldies station – Awesome. Does that make it any cooler to listen to the classic rock stations? God, I hope so. I’ll be the coolest dude around.

Having hundreds of cable channels but nothing to watch has always been routine – Hey, when I came home from school I only needed one channel. As long as that channel was the one with Duck Tales, Rescue Rangers, Tiny Toons, and Animaniacs. C’mon people, you know what I’m talkin’ about.

Their parents’ favorite TV sitcoms have always been showing up as movies – C’mon Airwolf!

…and the final mind-blowing revelation about this year’s class is??????

The artist formerly known as Snoop Doggy Dogg has always been rapping – Ouch! This one really hits home and shows my age. Seriously?!? He’s been rapping that long? I was in high school damn it! I don’t know… I guess I just always loved his doggy-style…

For the full list read on here: http://www.beloit.edu/mindset/2014.php

Aliens Vs. Apparitions


There I was, 11-years-old, brushing my teeth in the bathroom mirror, getting ready for school… and terrified out of my gourd. Toothbrush slowly shaking across my front teeth, back and forth, over and over the same spot as my bulging eyes darted between the open door leading to the dark hallway and the wall behind the shoulders of my reflection, just knowing something evil must be near. I leaned over to spit out some excess toothpaste, taking my eyes off the mirror for only a split second and when I straightened back up, there was my mother standing behind me. Her bed-head hair was twisting in contorted directions, her bloodshot eyes stared blankly at me, and her jaw lay slack from a mid-yawn pause. All in all, the most terrifying, gut-wrenching, thing I had ever seen… that morning. I screamed like I was Macaulay Culkin putting on aftershave. Toothpaste-laced spittle was flying to and fro and my hands flew up in a defensive position across my face, toothbrush bouncing off a wall somewhere, no doubt. I pushed past her and her confused face, knocking her aside as I leapt in one swift motion out of the bathroom, thorough the dark hallway, and into my bedroom where I slipped under my blanket like a poof of smoke and began sobbing uncontrollably.

That’s it!My mothered yelled at me, following my flaming smoke trail into the bedroom. You’re taking those books back today!

You see, the week before my class took its regular excursion to the library so that we could all browse around and read or checkout a book or two to take home. Trying to stir the imagination, I suppose, was the intended goal of the teacher, but her noble intentions did not take in to consideration the twisted little mind of one of her students and the near nervous breakdown it would cause an 11-year-old to have just a few days later.

Two books sitting side by side caught my attention immediately. One was about the evidence that aliens might be visiting our planet from time to time and the other was about the possibility that ghosts may be all around us, all the time. Tons of photos of smokey body shapes and eyes lurking in the background of family photos, or bearded men dressed in civil war era clothing leaning against tress. I took them both home and opened up a little can of crazy on the rest of my family.

The alien book I found very interesting and not at all scary. Little slimy midgets wearing sunglasses hurdling through time and space in flying muscle cars seemed pretty awesome to this little 5th grader. Lifeless corpses who watch you from the shadows with their dead eyes and the power to possibly posses your very soul, all while moaning and spitting blood? That seemed a little less appealing for some reason.

I was incapacitated by abject fear for weeks. Every open window into the night contained flesh rotting corpses hovering and waiting for me to look their way, so they could stare at me with deadpan eye sockets. The mirror became a portal to the netherworld where a turned back could get you a one way ticket to hellish death. Every creak and crack  was a limping, dragging, foot and every breeze a whisper or moan from a tortured soul. I was inconsolable.

I eventually got ahold of the reigns and straightened out, but to this day sometimes I just cannot control the fear once my brain turns something over. I saw the movie “The Ring,” which I understand is laughable to some people, and I couldn’t go to the bathroom or down my hallway by myself for a couple weeks… and I was 26! I mean, the hallway light was a long florescent bulb that flickered on and off! How scary is that? I was living alone with my cat (totally hetero thing to do) and I had to pick him up and take him with me at night whenever I had to go to the back of the house. After all, cats can sense spirits right? Hey, I know all about it, I saw Ghost too. Pathetic.

But when I stop and really think about it, it seems like in this world you generally fall into two categories: you’re terrified of ghosts OR you’re terrified of aliens. I know there is the group that is scared of anything and everything, and then, of course, the “I ain’t a-skeered a nothin!” group which we all know is bullshit posturing, but for the most part I think people would definitely choose one over the other.

My wife lands on the alien paranoia side. Sure she has a healthy respect for possibly ill-intentioned ghosts, but you can hardly let the word “alien” roll off the tongue without igniting a little terror and sending her fingers plunging into her ear canals. La-la-la-la-la I can’t hear you!

In basic training she was woken up in the middle of the night to pull her guard duty shift. She emerged from her tent, rubbing the sleep and exhaustion out of her eyes, only to see three moonlit shapes slowly marching towards her in the dark. They were all holding rifles, of course, and were wearing hooded gas masks as they creeped across the clearing in the woods, towards where she was standing. She was legitimately horrified that they were alien invaders for a moment and almost screamed out… which of course would not have made for a pleasant ending to her military exercise.

What is the difference? Why do I think aliens are cool, but she might need adult diapers if we ever watch “The Fourth Kind?” (Never going to happen) It seems to me that the answer to the question about which you are more fearful of might have to do with a deeper, hardwired, response that you have to fear itself.

Aliens represent an external unknown. Aliens come in and observe you from a distance or they swoop in and steal you away from your own home and place of safety and comfort. They are truly unknowable and foreign. They experiment on you in very inhuman ways and represent something that is beyond anybody’s control.

Ghosts, on the other hand, are very internal and a somewhat known variable. They are basically you, but a different version of you, a possibly evil version of you and others like you. They don’t come from afar, they come from within, and could possibly be sitting next to me as I type this out (… stop saying stuff like that.) They are dead, lifeless, cold, lost souls… and you might become one of them. You know that you could, because if ghosts are evil, you understand that you have that propensity for evil within you right now and you can see it in humanity as a whole.

So which are you? Do you pull the covers up to your eyeballs when you sleep alone at night because you’re afraid someone might come in and take you or because they are already there sitting at the foot of your bed? (stop saying things like that!)

Top Ten Ways to Squander the Best Years of Your Life


Who doesn’t love a good top ten list? Especially when the list is just sad and self-deprecating. Standing here at age 32, I look back at my teenage years and early twenties and a single tear squeaks out from my cringing eye. I hope everyone finds some humor in the travesty that was my youth:

10. Go straight home after school, do not pass go, do not collect any cool points – Who has any fun doing this? Backpack over both shoulders, hair parted cleanly on the left like a fascist dictator, broad-striped polo, overly snug blue jeans that never knew the touch of the top of my XJ-900 discount high-tops. I silently walked to and from the bus stop, head down, minding my own business everyday. Never hungout too late or forgot to call home. Good God man, do something with yourself!

9. Date a strictly religious girl in high school – Life is too short to spend it trying to breech the walls of godly servitude with the inadequacies of male teenage hormones. My days and nights spent wooing a girl who already had a man in her life. My 15-year-old game with the ladies was no match for The Jesus.

8. Play video games until eye twitches involuntarily – Nothing says “Chick Magnet” or “Life of the Party” like beating Super Mario Bros. 3 in 25 minutes and then taking polaroid pictures of the screen to prove it to all your friends at school the next day. Oh yeah, I did that. Nobody seemed to be as impressed as I thought they would be, which pretty much sums up the extent of most of the accomplishments of my youth.

7. Ferociously consume Doritos and Pepsi like they’re going out of business tomorrow – Combine this one with my video game prowess and you have a formula that can’t help but keep you from getting any action with the ladies. What does Johnny-Football-Hero have that I don’t have? Besides the fact that he is not borderline diabetic, his skin is not pale and blotchy from lack of exposure to the sun, his teeth are white and his fingers aren’t stained orange.

6. Work at a fast food joint/clean toilets in Wal-Mart – As you can see here, I got the privilege of experiencing the intricacies of the entire digestive process first hand. McDonald’s in Wal-Mart, followed by the ascension of my powerful career to stockboy in the Wal-Mart itself. Talk about having your life-force drained on a daily basis. I guess the only upside to this is things have to get better from here, right?

5. Put off getting a car/love masheen – Worst. Decision. Ever. The only means of escape that you have as a young man working a crappy job, living in a crappy apartment in a crappy town. Having a car is your own little piece of freedom and solitude. My advice for any young man/woman? Get in a car and just drive away. See where you end up.

4. Get involved with a married woman – This should seem mind-numbingly obvious… to some. To others, “It seemed like a good idea at the time.” I wish I could go back in time and kick my own ass. It wouldn’t matter I suppose. When I was 19 you couldn’t tell me anything. My 19-year-old self would look at me now and try to tell him he doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about… what a waste.

3. Have kids before you’re done growing up – Were you forced to grow up too fast after a rocky childhood? Do you work at a fast food restaurant or clean up human feces at Wal-Mart? Are you involved with a married woman? Do you have no car, money, friends, life, or future to speak of? If you answered yes to any or all of these questions then you might have what it takes to be a real moron and compound your problems infinitely!

2. Join the army – Why be miserable at home when you can do it overseas, in a desert, surrounded by people with explosives who hate you! You didn’t really want those eight years of your life from 21-29, did you? What were you going to do anyway? Start your life?

1. Marry a bona fide lunatic – Ah, the discolored and rotting cherry on top of it all. I think the fact that she got drunk before our luxurious Reno wedding should have been at least one small clue. Ya know, in case I missed the paternity and adultery issues from before. Damn, was I an astute young man or what? I spell relief with a D.

Thank God that’s all over. I’m sure my 30’s will go off without a hitch….