This is the 18th year that Beloit College has released its annual College Mindset List. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this cultural gem, prepare to feel old, like very, very old. The folks at Beloit have cultivated a list of generational characteristics those entering college this fall all share. For example, having been born circa 1997, these college freshman are also the same age as the release of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (you have permission to gasp), and may think of the turn of last century as the twentieth, not the nineteenth. The list hopes to give college professors a clear snapshot into the pictures of the lives these 18 year olds grew up in, ultimately helping them to better understand the mindset of the college freshman in their class.
I left for college in the fall of 1990, having only ever watched TV on an actual TV, and never having used a cell phone. Johnny Carson was still on every night, O.J. Simpson was still known only for being a famous running back, and microfiche was the library’s only quasi electronic resource. I carried a word processor the size of a small piece of carry on luggage, a bright yellow Sony Walkman, and a trunk full of Benetton sweaters into my freshman dorm room. This year’s college freshman? Well, here are a few things Beloit College shares about just where they may be coming from;
Since their birth;
1. Hybrid automobiles have always been mass produced.
2. Google has always been there, in its founding words, “to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible.”
3. They have never licked a postage stamp.
4. Email has become the new “formal” communication, while texts and tweets remain enclaves for the casual.
5. Four foul-mouthed kids have always been playing in South Park.
6. They have grown up treating Wi-Fi as an entitlement.
7. The announcement of someone being the “first woman” to hold a position has only impressed their parents.
8. Charlton Heston is recognized for waving a rifle over his head as much as for waving his staff over the Red Sea.
9. Color photos have always adorned the front page of The New York Times.
10. Cell phones have become so ubiquitous in class that teachers don’t know which students are using them to take notes and which ones are planning a party.
11. The Airport in Washington, D.C., has always been Reagan National Airport.
12. Their parents have gone from encouraging them to use the Internet to begging them to get off it.
13. They have avidly joined Harry Potter, Ron, and Hermione as they built their reading skills through all seven volumes.
14. Attempts at human cloning have never been federally funded but do require FDA approval.
15. Phish Food has always been available from Ben and Jerry.
16. Kyoto has always symbolized inactivity about global climate change.
17. When they were born, cell phone usage was so expensive that families only used their large phones, usually in cars, for emergencies.
18. The therapeutic use of marijuana has always been legal in a growing number of American states.
19. The eyes of Texas have never looked upon The Houston Oilers.
20. Teachers have always had to insist that term papers employ sources in addition to those found online.
21. Playhouse Disney was a place where they could play growing up.
22. Surgeons have always used “super glue” in the operating room.
23. Fifteen nations have always been constructing the International Space Station.
24. The Lion King has always been on Broadway.
25. First Responders have always been heroes.
26. CNN has always been available en Español.
27. Splenda has always been a sweet option in the U.S.
28. Humans have always had the ability to use implanted radio frequency ID chips—slightly larger than a grain of rice.
29. TV has always been in such high definition that they could see the pores of actors and the grimaces of quarterbacks.
30. Mr. Jones and Mr. Smith have always been Men in Black, not their next-door neighbors.
31. The proud parents recorded their first steps on camcorders, mounted on their shoulders like bazookas.
32. And among those who have never been alive in their lifetimes are Princess Diana, Notorious B.I.G., Jacques Cousteau, and Mother Teresa.