Beloit College (Beloit, WI) just released its Mindset List for the Class of 2014. The list highlights the cultural touch points that distinguish this year’s freshman class, born mainly in 1992, from the rest of us dinosaurs. If you remember when Ice T (reference #24) was a rapper, and not a veteran actor on a hit TV show, then reading this list will make you feel geriatric.
Despite the fact that this author felt compelled to call for check in times at her nearby assisted-living facility, Beloit’s intention, one hopes, is not to make you feel old. The school hopes that understanding their students’ unique world view will help professors plan better lessons with cultural references that students can relate to.
Sadly, many instructors do not make any effort to incorporate current events, popular media, and real-world examples into their classes, and they disparage colleagues who do as pandering dopes. Here’s why that attitude is dead wrong:
First, faculty, you are the ambassadors of the material. The amount of relevance a student assigns to the subject matter is directly tied to how relevant they think YOU are. If you can’t draw connections between your course content and the realities of contemporary life, how can you expect them to?
Second, integrating the occasional pop culture or news reference into a lecture is a sign of respect. Yes, respect. When you demonstrate your knowledge of the events and culture touch points that influence their lives, it is the pedagogical equivalent of saying to students, “you matter.” Students are more receptive to teachers and mentors who recognize the worth of their own life experiences. In that way, students are like the rest of us.
Here are a few tips to get you started:
Finally, find cultural ambassadors—a group of young people in your personal or professional life with whom you talk regularly and who can administer regular doses of youth culture. The generational divide is only as vast as we allow it to be.
Borrow and share lesson ideas with other instructors or make a comment.