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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


Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post

Comments

I still think bare bra straps are an error. LOL

Fascinating stuff. Thank you

I'm with Mage on the bra straps!

I've also noted that my young women co-workers are in a phase in which they wear skirts and tops that look to me like rags. I probably look to them like a decently dressed old butch -- which I am. Different strokes.

Now I know why I can't talk to my teenage granddaughters anymore. ;-)

They don't actually roll their eyes when I speak, but the look on their faces tells me that we don't communicate well. Maybe it's because I don't speak in text message language.

And they don't give a good gosh darn when Arianna was a Republican. In fact, they don't even know who she is.

Ronni:
Worth a glance. These markers of generational change have been noted as long as people have written things down. A hundred fifty years ago, the in-crowd referred to a big event as a "sockdollager," and the first telegraph wire was strung between the east and west coasts. Tempus fugit.

I just spoke with my 6-year-old grandson on the phone (cell phones). First he told me about the 5 week old kitten who can "run 2 miles an hour - almost as fast as me" then told me with great excitement about playing a computer race game with his 11 year-old cousin on DSM and he has his own car, a Jaguar! Okey...

One old time phrase that sets us apart is when some of us say "turn the channel" versus "change the channel". The generational changes are marked. I can remember my grandmother, a Nebraska plains woman, sitting in our living room singing the "Buffalo Girls Song". My wife's grandmother, from Russia, was complaining to me about the Bolsheviks back in 1982. Time and technology changes everything but I sometimes wonder if the changing physical universe also exerts its influences on our thinking, one generation to the next, compounded over time.

I find the tribal description most interesting, and find myself wondering how this may affect the political and military future of the U.S.

Thanks Ronni, very interesting list and following comments so far. I especially like the part about DVD's being called tapes, that never gets old! :) I feel for comment above [Marc] and any other 60+ trying to connect to grandkids, it is not fair, and even myself at 31 would feel slightly sick to my stomach hearing a 6-year old highlight his day with video game achievements and sweet YouTube videos. Somebody please give me some hope! I have a 10-month old and I want to raise her in uninhabited Alaska, our last frontier! ;)

CORRECTION: I meant to sympathize with Marian's comment above, sorry Marc, yours was good too. :)

I get discouraged, too, about our grandchildren's electronic world taking away their awareness of nature and the world around them...and then something like this happens: my 5-year-old great-granddaughter developed a passion for astronomy at least 2 years ago, aided and abetted by my grandson taking her outdoors at night to study the stars, just as my daddy did with me 75 years ago. All is not lost, although I want to tell kids with gadgets stuck in their ears to look around, listen to the birds, and be in this world.

I had forgotten about this list which is always fun and illuminating to read -- especially the items with communication implications.

I remember when A. Huffington came to our community to try and catapult her then husband into being our Calif. Governor. She was so obviously the candidate. He didn't win, thank heavens. Have wondered if she was always a Republican, or had a change of view, but have never bothered to take the time to research what she may have said about that change.

I'm having a difficult time writing here, 'cause every time I start to comment on something, I think, "Gee, that's a topic I want to write about on my blog." Oh, well! Glad you remembered to post on this.

If the young male teens can expose their underwear to some level (droopy shorts) I'm guessing the young females feel that exposed bra straps are along the same "fashion" guidelines.

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