Aug 20, 2010

What Freshmen Don’t Know

Born in the year Queen Elizabeth declared an Annus Horribilis, members of the class of 2014 have never found Korean-made cars all that unusual, and the availability of hundreds of cable channels has always been the norm. They come armed with iPhones and BlackBerries, on which making a phone call is less important than surfing the web. This is a generation accustomed to instant access—“awash with a computerized technology that will not distinguish information and knowledge.”

Each August since 1998, Beloit College has released the College Mindset List, the brainchild of Tom McBride, Keefer Professor of the Humanities and Ron Nief, former public affairs director. Designed to clue professors into what their new frosh experienced growing up, the list traditionally signals the start of the academic year.

Items on the list reflect the cultural and political world views of today’s 18-year-olds. For the class of 2014, China has always been an economic threat and Sam Walton, Bert Parks, and Tony Perkins have always been dead. Although the America they inherit is one of soaring trade and budget deficits, this generation has never known the terror of Russian missiles aimed directly at the United States.

Here are some highlights:

• Few in the class know how to write in cursive.
• Email is just too slow, and they seldom if ever use snail mail.
• “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.
• John McEnroe has never played professional tennis.
• Clint Eastwood is better known as a sensitive director than as Dirty Harry.
• Doctor Kevorkian has never been licensed to practice medicine.
• Colorful lapel ribbons have always been worn to indicate support for a cause.
• Fergie is pop singer, not a princess.
• DNA fingerprinting and maps of the human genome have always existed.
• Leno and Letterman have always been trading insults on opposing networks.
• Computers have never lacked a CD-ROM disk drive.
• “Viewer Discretion” has always been an available warning on TV shows.
• Czechoslovakia has never existed.
• Adhesive strips have always been available in varying skin tones.
• Bud Selig has always been the Commissioner of Major League Baseball.
• Russians and Americans have always been living together in space.
• Nirvana is on the classic oldies station.
• Food has always been irradiated.
• There have always been women priests in the Anglican Church.
• Ruth Bader Ginsburg has always sat on the Supreme Court.

Kinda makes you feel old.

For the complete list, visit the Beloit College website.

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