Thursday, 23 August 2012
The Amazing Cultural Gulf Between Young and Old
As the latest freshman class prepares to enter college at this time each year, Beloit College issues its annual Mindset List which, as stated on the website, gives us “a look at the cultural touchstones that shape the lives of students entering college this fall.”
The school has been doing the list for about 15 years and I never tire of it. Never tire of being reminded, at my age (now 71), of the enormous gulf of experience between me and 18-year-old students.
Beloit's introduction to this year's list tells us that the class of 2016, most born in 1994,
”...are probably the most tribal generation in history and they despise being separated from contact with friends. They prefer to watch television everywhere except on a television, have seen a woman lead the U.S. State Department for most of their lives, and can carry school books - those that are not on their e-readers - in backpacks that roll.
“[They have] spent much of their lives helping their parents understand that you don’t take pictures on 'film' and that CDs and DVDs are not 'tapes'...In these students’ lifetimes, with MP3 players and iPods, they seldom listen to the car radio. A quarter of the entering students already have suffered some hearing loss...
“They have never needed an actual airline 'ticket,' a set of bound encyclopedias, or Romper Room.
Each year a few of the items baffle me (“Billy Graham is as familiar to them as Otto Graham was to their parents.”). There are always too many sports references, and several always feel like filler with no useful impact (“Little Caesar has always been proclaiming 'Pizza Pizza.'”)
Even so, some of the list is thought-provoking – for a few minutes, anyway. Don't make too big a deal of this.
Here are a few items that are noteworthy - even, in a couple of cases, mildly shocking to me:
• The Biblical sources of terms such as “Forbidden Fruit,” “The writing on the wall,” “Good Samaritan,” and “The Promised Land” are unknown to most of them.
• The paradox "too big to fail" has been, for their generation, what "we had to destroy the village in order to save it" was for their grandparents'.
• Exposed bra straps have always been a fashion statement, not a wardrobe malfunction to be corrected quietly by well-meaning friends.
• Star Wars has always been just a film, not a defense strategy.
• While the iconic TV series for their older siblings was the sci-fi show Lost, for them it’s Breaking Bad, a gritty crime story motivated by desperate economic circumstances.
• They have no recollection of when Arianna Huffington was a conservative.
• Two-thirds of the independent bookstores in the United States have closed for good during their lifetimes.
You can read the entire 2012 Mindset List at the Beloit College website.
(Hat tip to Steve Kemp for reminding me of the list.)
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mickey Rogers: Metamorphosis