The (Academic) Mindset List

I know I am being a party-poop, but I find this so-called Mindset List endlessly irritating. First, there’s the weirdly inflated claim by its authors– it’s the public relations team speaking here, no doubt– that the list is “a globally reported and utilized guide to the intelligent if unprepared adolescent consciousness.”  In truth, the list says almost nothing interesting– especially this year– or revelatory, unless you see it as a reflection of a very insulated academic culture forever afraid that outside those ivory walls the worlds has left them behind.

It’s a sentimental nudge to the quaint idea of the professor lost in his or her books. Who can afford that anymore? A few items on the list– mostly about women– seem to suggest substantive change, but most of it is just plain silly: “O.J. Simpson has always been looking for the killers of Nicole Simpson and Ronald Goldman.”  Or: “Jim Carrey has always been bigger than a pet detective.”  What 18-year-old knows who OJ Simpson is? What academic saw “The Pet Detective“? This isn’t a description of of consciousness, or epochal events, it’s a list of  marketing’s biggest hits.

The list, as Henry Ford said, is bunk. Very little of it has any impact on students’ educations or on how we communicate with them.  Students need a list to explain to them what has happened to education in the last two or three decades: “Standardized tests have made teaching critical thinking an uphill battle; science has been conflated with religious irrationality; professors have almost never had a full-time job, tenure has always been a dirty word.”  These are the things that will continue to have a profound influence on “the adolescent consciousness.”

About Ray Watkins

I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. I grew up in Houston, as a part of what we only half-jokingly call the Cajun Diaspora. At a certain point during the Regan administration, I had to leave, so I served in the Peace Corps, Philippines, from 1987-89. I didn't want to return to the United States just yet, so I moved to Paris, France, where I lived for three years or so. I then moved back to Austin, Texas, where I had received my Masters Degree, and (eventually) began a Ph.D., which I completed in 1999. I spent a year at Temple University and then accepted a position at Eastern Illinois University where I worked until May of 2006. I now work exclusively on line (although that may change) for Johns Hopkins, the Art Institute Online, and I can be reached most easily via email: raywatkins [that 'at' symbol]

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