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Each year, Beloit College in Wisconsin releases the “Mindset List,” a description of how students entering college that fall see the world.
Originally, the list was a way for professors to keep current with their references. But it’s also an interesting marker of the passage of time, and how what feels new and ephemeral to one generation can seem old and permanent to another.
As the older brother of a sophomore in a Montgomery County public high school, I’m struck by how different his experience growing up in the county is from my experience, even though I graduated only 10 years ago.
The county is a much more diverse and urban place than the one I grew up in, and I can only imagine how different it must feel for people older than me. But what may seem like a big change is in fact a series of smaller, incremental changes today’s youth simply absorb and accept. As they enter adulthood and eventually become community leaders, that outlook will inform the way the county continues to evolve.
With that in mind, I wanted to craft a “mindset list” for teenagers growing up in Montgomery County today. As a point of reference, kids in high school today were generally born between 1997 and 2000.
And here it is, the MoCo Mindset List, 2014 edition:
– Downtown Bethesda has always had an Apple Store, and downtown Silver Spring has always been home to the American Film Institute.
– Rockville has never had a mall, there have always been two malls in the county named “Westfield,” and White Flint Mall has always been dying.

– In any case, hanging out with friends doesn’t mean asking for a ride to the mall, but rather jumping on Skype or Gchat.
– If they are going out, it’s to some place with “town center,” “town square”, or “downtown” in its name.
– Traffic in Montgomery County has always been terrible.
– Going to D.C. has never been scary, and they know someone (a sibling, a family friend, etc.) who lives in a trendy neighborhood like H Street or Columbia Heights. They aspire to live there one day, too.
– Ride On buses have always been free for them.
– They go to Rockville Pike for authentic Chinese food, Silver Spring for the best Ethiopian, and Wheaton for everything else.
– They’re used to picking up groceries at both Whole Foods and Lotte Plaza.
– The Metro has always gone to Shady Grove and Glenmont.
– Poolesville High has always been a magnet school, Northwood High was never closed, and Clarksburg High was never a middle school.
– Friends invite them over to a family party with the warning that English may be a second language.
– With a few exceptions, they’ve gone to public schools where no one ethnic or racial group is in the majority.
– Kids in East County have always been able to “pick” their high school and, in some cases, their middle school.
– They know friends or neighbors who ditched expensive private schools for public school during the recession. (East County corollary: They know friends or neighbors who moved to another part of the county or to Howard County when they reached high school.)
– The SAT has always had a top score of 2400.
– Bringing cell phones, tablets, and laptops to school is not only allowed, it’s encouraged.
– The Redskins have never played at RFK Stadium.
– D.C. has always had a baseball team.
– Hot 99.5 FM has always been a Top 40 station, and they’ve never heard of WHFS. That is, if they even listen to the radio.
– The age for getting a provisional driver’s license in Maryland has always been 16 and 6 months, and they’ve never been able to drive their friends before age 18.
This is by no means a complete list.
What do you think shapes the worldview of young people in Montgomery County today? How do you think that’ll affect the county’s path in the coming years?
Dan Reed is an urban planner who grew up in Montgomery County and remembers eating Gifford’s ice cream before it was on Bethesda Row. He sits on the board of Action Committee for Transit, an organization dedicated to sustainable transportation in Montgomery County. He also writes at Just Up The Pike, a blog about Silver Spring, and Greater Greater Washington, a regional blog about planning. 

Photo via MCPS