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You’re Not Growing Old. They Are Getting Younger

Each August since 1998, Beloit College has released the Beloit College Mindset List. It provides a look at the cultural touchstones that shape the lives of students entering college this fall. The purpose of this list was originally created as a reminder to faculty to be aware of dated references, and quickly became a catalog of the rapidly changing worldview of each new generation. The Mindset List website at www.beloit.edu/mindset.

The class of 2014 has never found Korean-made cars unusual on the Interstate and five hundred cable channels, of which they will watch a handful, have always been the norm. Since “digital” has always been in the cultural DNA, they’ve never written in cursive and with cell phones to tell them the time, there is no need for a wrist watch. Dirty Harry (who’s that?) is to them a great Hollywood director. The America they have inherited is one of soaring American trade and budget deficits; Russia has presumably never aimed nukes at the United States and China has always posed an economic threat.

Nonetheless, they plan to enjoy college. The males among them are likely to be a minority. They will be armed with iPhones and BlackBerries, on which making a phone call will be only one of many, many functions they will perform. They will now be awash with a computerized technology that will not distinguish information and knowledge. So it will be up to their professors to help them.  A generation accustomed to instant access will need to acquire the patience of scholarship. They will discover how to research information in books and journals and not just on-line. Their professors, who might be tempted to think that they are hip enough and therefore ready and relevant to teach the new generation, might remember that Kurt Cobain is now on the classic oldies station. The college class of 2014 reminds us, once again, that a generation comes and goes in the blink of our eyes, which are, like the rest of us, getting older and older.


A Portion of Beloit College Mindset List for the Class of 2014

Most students entering college for the first time this fall—the Class of 2014—were born in 1992.

Few in the class know how to write in cursive.

Email is just too slow, and they seldom if ever use snail mail.

Buffy has always been meeting her obligations to hunt down Lothos and the other blood-suckers at Hemery High.

“Caramel macchiato” and “venti half-caf vanilla latte” have always been street corner lingo.

With increasing numbers of ramps, Braille signs, and handicapped parking spaces, the world has always been trying harder to accommodate people with disabilities.

A quarter of the class has at least one immigrant parent, and the immigration debate is not a big priority…unless it involves “real” aliens from another planet.

Colorful lapel ribbons have always been worn to indicate support for a cause.

Korean cars have always been a staple on American highways.

DNA fingerprinting and maps of the human genome have always existed.

Leno and Letterman have always been trading insults on opposing networks.

They have never seen a carousel of Kodachrome slides.

Computers have never lacked a CD-ROM disk drive.

Czechoslovakia has never existed.

Second-hand smoke has always been an official carcinogen.

Adhesive strips have always been available in varying skin tones.

American companies have always done business in Vietnam.

Having hundreds of cable channels but nothing to watch has always been routine.

They first met Michelangelo when he was just a computer virus.

Galileo is forgiven and welcome back into the Roman Catholic Church.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg has always sat on the Supreme Court.

They have never worried about a Russian missile strike on the U.S.

The Post Office has always been going broke.

The nation has never approved of the job Congress is doing.

One way or another, “It’s the economy, stupid” and always has been.

Silicone-gel breast implants have always been regulated.

The rest of the list is available at www.beloit.edu/mindset

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