Wednesday, August 18, 2010

“Go West, Young College Grad” has always implied “and don’t stop until you get to Asia…and learn Chinese along the way.”... item #3 in the annual Beloit College Mindset List for 2010 which you can view here.

I'm a big fan of the annual Mindset List for many years.  However, every year, I question/wonder about the accuracy of a few items on the list.  My critiques are rather petty and earlier today I was highlighting a few items on the list that I disagreed with via Twitter.  For example, item #64 states that "The U.S, [sic] Canada, and Mexico have always agreed to trade freely." became official on January 1, 1994.  These three countries probably came to agreement in 1992 (when most of the class of 2014 were born) or 1993 but it wasn't "official" until 1994...  I also disagree with item #28 "They've never recognized that pointing to their wrists was a request for the time of day."  My daughter who will be in the class of 2027 (estimated) knows what that means!

In reviewing the 2010 Mindset list I was happy to see item #3 “Go West, Young College Grad” has always implied “and don’t stop until you get to Asia…and learn Chinese along the way.”  I agree with this item but I don't think it is entirely accurate.  I was in college in 1992 (class of 1993 myself) and I never felt guided or compelled to go to Asia or learn Chinese during or after my undergraduate studies.  I was an exchange student in Germany twice during high school and studied abroad for a semester in Spain during my undergraduate studies and I considered myself to be focused on international issues and careers and China was never on my radar.  Further, I have been connected to various institutions of higher education in the U.S. continually since I graduated from college and frequently have interacted with undergraduate students and if my memory serves me I don't think China was a topic of conversation in the 1990's among college students and young professionals.  My wife and I participated in the Lincoln Friends of Foreign Students program [University of Nebraska-Lincoln] during our five years living, working and studying in Nebraska and one of our students was from China which opened my understanding of China and of his culture.  Our discussions [in 1997] focused on U.S. perception of China, the movie Red Corner and Chinese President Jiang Zemin's visit to the United States.

Things changed, however, when I arrived in Chicago in 2000 to work at the University of Chicago as an Assistant Director in the Office of International Affairs.  I served as the Fulbright Program Adviser [still do] and since that time I have seen a slow and steady increase in the number of undergraduate students interested in China and learning Chinese and my knowledge/understanding of this trend has rapidly grown since I moved to the Office of the Dean of Students in The College where I now work as Senior Adviser for International Initiatives.  I speak with a large number of students interested in China who want/need to study there and learn the language.

To be sure, this item on Asia/China in the Mindset List is not directly related to study abroad.  I do think that a review of the available data on U.S. students studying in China as well as the number Chinese language course offerings/enrollments at U.S institutions can be helpful in understanding this trend.  In my personal timeline above [of my time in and exposure to college aged students] I have seen the interest in China and the Chinese language increase dramatically [my "data" should be viewed as anecdotal].  As much as possible I try to pay attention to the news and world events and one cannot help but notice China's meteoric rise as an economic powerhouse the past decade and in particular since the early 1990's [see my previous IHEC Blog summary post on China's astounding economic rise here].  

I guess my issue with item #3 of the Mindset List is that recent college graduates in the U.S. were not really pushed towards China in the 1990's and that this is really more true for the past decade of the 2000's.

What do others think?  Please leave a comment or two!

Photo credit:  Riebart


  1. #53 is my least favorite of all. It's not like this is the first class not to know or care about Dallas. I'm twelve years older than them and I couldn't care LESS about Dallas!

  2. China can't be ignored anymore. Even I, an India, am interested in knowing China, more importantly, the language. I believe, Chinese language can open a door to understand 1 billion people for me.

    There are many free website online one can use or pay good money for quality language product.

    Good article