“Latchkey kids for most of their lives, students entering college this fall think nothing of arriving home with parents still at work, then e-mailing or texting their friends, instantly updating their autobiographies on “Facebook” or “MySpace,” and listening to their iPods while doing their research on Wikipedia.”
So reads the press release for an annual “report” that is among my favorite to receive.
For the last ten years, Beloit College in Wisconsin has released an annual “mindset” list chronicling the “cultural touchstones” that have shaped the lives of first-year college and university students. The most recent chronicles the class of 2011. With most born in 1989, they represent the generation which entered the world as the Cold War was ending.
They’ve never “rolled down” a car window, and to them Jack Nicholson is mainly known as the guy who played “The Joker.” For them, Pete Rose has never been in baseball, Abbie Hoffman’s always been dead, Johnny Carson has never been live on TV, and Nelson Mandela has always been free.
As for the Berlin Wall, what’s that?
Of the seventy markers offered, here are thirty that may prove most telling – or at least are the most fun.
1. What Berlin wall?
2. Rush Limbaugh and the “Dittoheads” have always been lambasting liberals.
3. They never “rolled down” a car window.
4. They have grown up with bottled water.
5. Nelson Mandela has always been free and a force in South Africa.
6. Rap music has always been mainstream.
7. Religious leaders have always been telling politicians what to do, or else!
8. “Off the hook” has never had anything to do with a telephone.
9. Russia has always had a multi-party political system.
10. Wal-Mart has always been a larger retailer than Sears and has always employed more workers than GM.
11. When all else fails, the Prozac defense has always been a possibility.
12. U2 has always been more than a spy plane.
13. Stadiums, rock tours and sporting events have always had corporate names.
14. Fox has always been a major network.
15. They drove their parents crazy with the Beavis and Butt-head laugh.
16. Women’s studies majors have always been offered on campus.
17. Being a latchkey kid has never been a big deal.
18. Thanks to MySpace and Facebook, autobiography can happen in real time.
19. They learned about JFK from Oliver Stone and Malcolm X from Spike Lee.
20. Virtual reality has always been available when the real thing failed.
21. China has always been more interested in making money than in reeducation.
22. Tiananmen Square is a 2008 Olympics venue, not the scene of a massacre.
23. MTV has never featured music videos.
24. Jerry Springer has always been lowering the level of discourse on TV.
25. They get much more information from Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert than from the newspaper.
26. They’re always texting 1 n other.
27. They will encounter roughly equal numbers of female and male professors in the classroom.
28. Avatars have nothing to do with Hindu deities.
29. The World Wide Web has been an online tool since they were born.
30. Dilbert has always been ridiculing cubicle culture.
James Emery White
The Beloit College Mindset List for 2011, released August 21, 2007. Beloit College, 700 College St., Beloit, Wisconsin 53511 (www.beloit.edu).