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What the Class of 2011 Knows

Each fall, for a decade or more, Beloit College in Wisconsin has issued their “Mindset List” to help older professors understand the incoming freshman. The students in this year’s class, who will graduate in 2011, were born mostly in 1989.

There are 70 items on the list and if, as in number 1, the freshmen don’t know what the Berlin Wall was, I am flummoxed by some others such as Michelle Wie in item 19 and “off the hook” in item 13.

The list is a fascinating peek into how different the cultural references of young students are from elders'.

  1. What Berlin wall?
  2. Humvees, minus the artillery, have always been available to the public.
  3. Rush Limbaugh and the "Dittoheads" have always been lambasting liberals.
  4. They never "rolled down" a car window.
  5. Michael Moore has always been angry and funny.
  6. They may confuse the Keating Five with a rock group.
  7. They have grown up with bottled water.
  8. General Motors has always been working on an electric car.
  9. Nelson Mandela has always been free and a force in South Africa.
  10. Pete Rose has never played baseball.

  11. Rap music has always been mainstream.
  12. Religious leaders have always been telling politicians what to do, or else!
  13. "Off the hook" has never had anything to do with a telephone.
  14. Music has always been "unplugged."
  15. Russia has always had a multi-party political system.
  16. Women have always been police chiefs in major cities.
  17. They were born the year Harvard Law Review Editor Barack Obama announced he might run for office some day.
  18. The NBA season has always gone on and on and on and on.
  19. Classmates could include Michelle Wie, Jordin Sparks, and Bart Simpson.
  20. Half of them may have been members of the Baby-sitters Club.

  21. Eastern Airlines has never "earned their wings" in their lifetime.
  22. No one has ever been able to sit down comfortably to a meal of "liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti."
  23. Wal-Mart has always been a larger retailer than Sears and has always employed more workers than GM.
  24. Being "lame" has to do with being dumb or inarticulate, not disabled.
  25. Wolf Blitzer has always been serving up the news on CNN.
  26. Katie Couric has always had screen cred.
  27. Al Gore has always been running for president or thinking about it.
  28. They never found a prize in a Coca-Cola "MagiCan."
  29. They were too young to understand Judas Priest's subliminal messages.
  30. When all else fails, the Prozac defense has always been a possibility.

  31. Multigrain chips have always provided healthful junk food.
  32. They grew up in Wayne's World.
  33. U2 has always been more than a spy plane.
  34. They were introduced to Jack Nicholson as The Joker.
  35. Stadiums, rock tours and sporting events have always had corporate names.
  36. American rock groups have always appeared in Moscow.
  37. Commercial product placements have been the norm in films and on TV.
  38. On Parents' Day on campus, their folks could be mixing it up with Lisa Bonet and Lenny Kravitz with daughter Zöe, or Kathie Lee and Frank Gifford with son Cody.
  39. Fox has always been a major network.
  40. They drove their parents crazy with the Beavis and Butt-head laugh.

  41. The Blue Man Group has always been everywhere.
  42. Women's studies majors have always been offered on campus.
  43. Being a latchkey kid has never been a big deal.
  44. Thanks to MySpace and Facebook, autobiography can happen in real time.
  45. They learned about JFK from Oliver Stone and Malcolm X from Spike Lee.
  46. Most phone calls have never been private.
  47. High definition television has always been available.
  48. Microbreweries have always been ubiquitous.
  49. Virtual reality has always been available when the real thing failed.
  50. Smoking has never been allowed in public spaces in France.

  51. China has always been more interested in making money than in reeducation.
  52. Time has always worked with Warner.
  53. Tiananmen Square is a 2008 Olympics venue, not the scene of a massacre.
  54. The purchase of ivory has always been banned.
  55. MTV has never featured music videos.
  56. The space program has never really caught their attention except in disasters.
  57. Jerry Springer has always been lowering the level of discourse on TV.
  58. They get much more information from Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert than from the newspaper.
  59. They're always texting 1 n other.
  60. They will encounter roughly equal numbers of female and male professors in the classroom.

  61. They never saw Johnny Carson live on television.
  62. They have no idea who Rusty Jones was or why he said "goodbye to rusty cars."
  63. Avatars have nothing to do with Hindu deities.
  64. Chavez has nothing to do with iceberg lettuce and everything to do with oil.
  65. Illinois has been trying to ban smoking since the year they were born.
  66. The World Wide Web has been an online tool since they were born.
  67. Chronic fatigue syndrome has always been debilitating and controversial.
  68. Burma has always been Myanmar.
  69. Dilbert has always been ridiculing cubicle culture.
  70. Food packaging has always included nutritional labeling.

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Matty reveals how much more than a definition she took away from The Day I Learned to Use the Dictionary.]


I read this list every year and just shake my head in wonder like the old lady that I am becoming. lol

It does put things in perspective.

I think the Michelle Wie reference is because Michelle was born the same year as my daughter, 1989, who will be a Freshman in College next year.

Speaking of, does anyone have recommendations for a young woman who wants to study journalism and is looking at colleges?

My Grandson wants to be a writer and did quite a bit of research on the best school for him to attend.
He selected the University of Missouri at Columbia and started just a few weeks ago.
His home is in suburban Chicago so that may have had something to do with his final choice of schools. It is not really close to home but it is not thousands of miles away either.
Good luck to her.

Putting "Off the hook" into google proved interesting. In the meantime, they can come here and roll up or down the windows in my pickup.

When I was their age I thought the world was mine and the older generation was out of touch. I still think the world is's the younger generation that's out of touch now.

This is very scary.. however, somehow I think they'll make it. I wonder what this means for my 4 year old grandson. My grandchildren are ages 4 to 26...what a world it will be..

Dorothy from grammology

Teaching high school students helped me stay in touch with pop culture more than I am now that I'm retired. I would be amazed when I saw the blank stares after I mentioned people and events that seemed current but happened 20+ years ago.

Thanks for posting that list since it really does put things in perspective.

Thank goodness for the History channel. It's done a decent job of educating my kids, born in 85 and 89....

Reminds me of how my youngest (now 21) asked me how we cooked popcorn when I was little, if we didn't have microwaves...

What's really scarey? These are the same ones who will be managing investment funds, providing health care and police protection. What bothers me is a government statistic that shows 80% of high school graduates can not read beyond the 3rd grade level or do simple math without a doesn't bode any better for college graduates either who still graduate without any measurable reading or math skill improvement.

If this is what's happening to the future generation (the numbers were for US students only), everyone should be concerned.

"off the hook" -- remember? Somebody wouldn't set the receiver from the rotary phone "on the hook" properly. Somebody would notice an annoying noise and say, "Who left the phone off the hook?" Or, if you didn't want any calls, you'd take the phone "off the hook" so callers would get a busy signal. I seem to remember being told it was illegal to do that. Is that possible? LOL!

nor will they have played Pong, nor felt the frustration of getting through half-way dialing a telephone number and having to start over if you make a mistake because its a sloooww rotary dial. Could they believe we got through school without computers and the internet? (I was lucky - I had a "word processor"). The smell of mimeographs fresh off the press. mmmmm.....

I suppose it's only fair -- at least the cultural stuff. But the Berlin Wall? I am already in mourning about K-12 education in our country. Its decline is a national security issue, in my view. Without knowledge of history our younger citizens will be lousy voters if they vote at all. Ronni's and my former medium, TV, hasn't done much better in offering historic perspective.

I sound like an old fogey but it's not the lack of knowledge that worries me it's the reason why....

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