SELF-CHALLENGE: Write a column that has nothing to do with the pandemic, politics, or my dog.
Here we are on January 6, 2021. Today and hover boards once seemed impossibly futuristic. I can remember when 1984 was a foreboding shadow still years into the future. Knock, knock – that milepost is thirty-seven years in the past.
New Year’s is as close as we ever get to a fresh start and a good time to stop and readjust our mindset. Every August Marist College (and previously, Beloit College) issues its “Mindset List.” It reminds professors (and the rest of us) that the new cadre arrives with a fresh and different cultural context. The touchstone events of our young lives (for me: three assassinations, the Beatles, Woodstock, and the Selective Service lottery) may not even be a blip on the in-coming class’s consciousness.
Here are a few items from the 2024 Mindset List for the class that arrived (or didn’t during the pandemic) last September:
- “Emerging artists and designers in the class of 2024 will explore race relations beyond Black Lives Matter into a deeper understanding of how Whiteness has shaped bias and influence in contemporary American culture.
- Incoming students will rely on smart devices for shopping, interactive wellness-centered consumer experiences, and engaging in the social good.
- The class of 2024 may view the idea of “banned books” as an artifact from the past, but the Harry Potter series has been banned somewhere in America for their entire lifetimes…
- Incoming students are willing to pay for their privacy. Privacy is now a commodity, and they value privacy for their real relationships.” (Marist.edu)
The Mindset List goes on to reminds us that the group who entered college this fall, or who sought work after high school rather than more education, were born after after 9/11. Putin has always ruled Russia and we have always been at war in Afghanistan. This new cohort has been aware their entire lives that climate change is a crisis, and at the same time has heard a chorus of science-deniers growing louder.
The beginning of a new year is a good time for all of us to re-set our mindsets. Ask yourself what assumptions you need to update and how does your historical perspective need to be updated? Many of us went to school when Columbus was still a hero and the Founding Father’s got a pass for their racism. Back then Neanderthals were made fun of as dummies but now we know they weren’t and their DNA is in us. Likewise, self-serving male interpretations of archaeology and anthropology have been skewered by the discovery that women warriors existed for thousands of years all around the globe. Just like computer software, we need on-going mindset updates.
Here is some fresh data to start your update (from BBC News, “100 things we didn’t know last year”):
- Georgetown University sold 272 slaves in 1838 to pay its debts.
- Pigeons can distinguish real words from nonsense.
- Fish can recognize individual human faces.
- Rainbows can occur at night.
- Bees spit water at each other in hot weather.
- Sadness causes more car accidents than tiredness.
- Most dogs prefer praise to food. (Sorry, couldn’t resist).