Tuesday, August 17, 2010

AND A CERTAIN FUN-LOVING GUNSLINGER HAS ALWAYS BEEN A STARTING NFL QUARTERBACK: The last time we talked about the Beloit College freshman "mindset list" (2006), I focused on how much of the list was based on "technological advances today's kids are accustomed to," as opposed to things which our generation got to enjoy or learn which theirs did not.

Witness, then, these highlights of the mindset of this year's entering Class of 2014, the majority of whom were born in 1992:

1. Few in the class know how to write in cursive.
2. Email is just too slow, and they seldom if ever use snail mail.
8.. With increasing numbers of ramps, Braille signs, and handicapped parking spaces, the world has always been trying harder to accommodate people with disabilities.
12. Clint Eastwood is better known as a sensitive director than as Dirty Harry.
18. Fergie is a pop singer, not a princess.
19. They never twisted the coiled handset wire aimlessly around their wrists while chatting on the phone.
21. Woody Allen, whose heart has wanted what it wanted, has always been with Soon-Yi Previn.
26. Unless they found one in their grandparents’ closet, they have never seen a carousel of Kodachrome slides.
50. Toothpaste tubes have always stood up on their caps.
71. The nation has never approved of the job Congress is doing.


  1. Heather K10:22 AM

    My dad was telling a story this weekend of how my youngest brother (b. 1986) had no idea how to use a rotary phone a few years ago when they were cleaning out my grandmother's house.  He just stared at it, pushed the buttons, and stared some more when that was unsuccessful.  I swear I have made him watch old movies, so I don't understand how it flummoxed him.  But I also do not fully understand how he was puzzled by the back door of newer Chicago buses where there is no handle and you just push the door to open it.  Clearly the kid has functional issues.

  2. 50. I call b.s.  Go stand in the toothpaste aisle at your favorite megastore and I wager you a majority are still good old-fashioned tubes.

    I lament the loss of cursive.  I still and always write more quickly in cursive.  Not more legibly, mind you...

  3. Carmichael Harold11:03 AM

    <span>Wait. . .where did cursive go, and why didn't anyone tell me?  Now that it's gone, I want to petition my elementary school handwriting teacher for a grade change</span>

  4. Agreed re: the toothpaste! I heard them discussing this on GMA this morning while I brushed my teeth with toothpaste from a regular, non-standing tube and I laughed when I heard that. I guess the GMA hosts don't do their own shopping since they seemed to totally buy into this one.

  5. Genevieve11:43 AM

    They're still teaching it in elementary schools in NoVa.  At least in ours.  There's a workbook and everything.

  6. patricia11:51 AM

    I feel like some of those things are dated even as they appear on the list (since a raison d'etre of the list is ostensibly to remind faculty how quickly references are dated).  Like, does any incoming freshman know who Doctor Kevorkian is?  Or J.R. Ewing?  Maybe Woody Allen, but definitely not Soon-Yi Previn.

    Still some of the stuff on the list did make me goggle: no Czechoslovakia (32), the Fergie one, John McEnroe never having played professional tennis (11).  There is so much on this list that makes up my cultural framework that has little resonance for them.  I'd say it was the same for me as a teenager and my parents' culture, except that we've all been beaten over the head with 60s and 70s references for so many years, it's really not the same.  And the Boomers not relinquishing any pop culture control means that many of the things that shaped my youth will likely fade unheeded into the background.

    Hmpf.  Am I allowed to be a grumpy old granny well before my time?  Because I think I'm at least halfway there.

  7. The Child is learning cursive in 3rd grade. Georgia.

  8. My Turning Point into Cultural Irrelevance came a couple of years back when I was teaching a class about how to do literary criticism research. The whole class was doing papers on Milton's Paradise Lost.  I asked the kid in the front row what his topic was and he answered, "Satan."  I stopped myself just in time from doing a Church Lady impression because I realized that happened before he was born.

  9. Joseph J. Finn12:30 PM

    Ugh, old man moment.  Church Lady first appeared in 1986, the year before I started high school.

  10. isaac_spaceman12:31 PM

    People use toothpaste?  We just use spray enamel.

  11. Charles Carmicheal12:34 PM

    The problem with this analysis is there is significant bleedthrough on both the historical front and the cultural front. Unless these kids live in bubble (whichis somewhat implied by their unique use of technology) they still come in contact with ideas, events and memes aimed at older segments of the population. My son who was born in 1985 has a an avid fandom for The Beatles (not introduced by me) but he was introduced by the culture at large. I was born in 1956 and by the time I was self-aware, British Palestine was over and done, but for some reason I've always been aware of it.

    Still, theconcept is fun.

  12. Jordan12:38 PM

    Coiled handset wire? As one of the younger readers of this blog, I don't get that one.  The phone on my desk (as well as every other one in our office--not to mention The Office, which uses the same phones) has that.  As did the phone in my dorm.  And we definitely had a rotary phone when I was growing up, but it was probably gone by the 90's.  Here's one: Chinese Democracy is the only GNR album of new material released in their lifetimes.

  13. What I see, as a college librarian are the following:
    1. They most likely never used a print index to identify articles for a paper.
    2. If they have ever used an actual card catalog with the cards and the drawers, it was most likely back in elementary school.
    3. They can't fathom life without cell phones.  If they didn't have them as kids, their parents most likely did.  What this means is: Plans are always able to be changed at the last minute because you can just call whoever you're going to meet.  You don't need specific meeting plans, because you'll just call whoever you're meeting when you get there (no more: meet me under the clock tower, I'll be the one with the red scarf). You probably don't need a map, or even driving directions printed out, because, again, you'll just call as you get close, if your phone doesn't have GPS that is. Oh, and you most likely remember by heart very few phone numbers.
    4. The idea that you would turn in a research paper, with citations and a works cited page, that was written by hand double-spaced on notebook paper (as I did in high school) is strange. OF COURSE, you type a paper in Word and print it out to hand in.

    That's the technological side of things.  Culturally what I see is the influence of so-called "helicopter parenting." When I went to freshman orientation for college, the only people who brought parents were the socially inept.  Now, if you didn't bring at least one (and probably both) of your parents to orientation, you'd be the very small minority at the state school I work at.  Kids are also much more likely to be in touch with their parents more often and are closer to them: seeking their input on decisions, keeping them up to to date with daily goings-on, etc.

  14. Watts1:01 PM

    I should amend number three on my list avove - they're unlikely to CALL you on the cell phone, much more likely to TEXT.  I am like the young'uns in this way.

  15. Robin1:14 PM

    Agreed about the list already being dated.  I doubt my brother (born 1990) knows who Woody Allen is, much less Soon-Yi Previn, and he's not particularly sheltered. 

    Also I was born in 1984 and I didn't know who John McEnroe was until last summer, when I saw him on Curb Your Enthusiasm.  My father-in-law was concerned for me.

  16. slick1:22 PM

    I made a reference to Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan in a seminar for law students a few years back and all I got were blank stares.  Soon after, I heard Def Leppard on an oldies station.  It was a demoralizing week.

  17. I would say about 10% of people who casually refer to the region actually remember to distinguish between the Czech Republic and Slovakia.  So to these kids, Czechoslovakia is still in existence.  But, apparently, things that stopped existing before you were born NEVER EXISTED!  It is as if it never happened, like the Civil War!  

  18. The only top-10 Prince hit during their lifetimes was "The Most Beautiful Girl in the World." They probably don't understand why he didn't play it at the Super Bowl.

  19. Anonymous1:34 PM

    I think I was on the edge of this because my parents did not go with me to the orientation day, and I wasn't thinking I would need them (they weren't going to school), but EVERYONE else had at least one parent if not both and often grandparents in tow.  WEIRD.  This was summer of 97.

  20. Heather K1:35 PM

    that was me

  21. The whole process of doing research papers that I remember -- go to the library, go to the card catalog, use microfilm for newspaper, have individual 4x6 cards for each new fact (containing a citation to source) ... they don't do that at all anymore, do they?

  22. KarenNM1:49 PM

    For me, this list isn't so much of "look at all the things that kids these days don't know", but more of "look at all these cultural experiences/references that you take for granted and kids today may not be familiar with."  I work on a college campus and it's a helpful reminder, as the year begins, that college kids now days are different than when I was in school (gulp - almost 20 years ago). 

    Also, number 2?  Totally true.  Kids these days don't use email.  And with that, I'm off to a team meeting to, among other things, remind a bunch of students to check their email on a daily basis, because that's how professors want to communicate with them.

  23. Maddy1:57 PM

    I'm in the class of 2014 (not at Beloit, though, at Scripps!)  We learned cursive in 3rd grade and then never used it again.

  24. Marsha1:58 PM

    I made a BEATLES reference in class last year that got blank stares. This is not ok.

  25. Marsha2:00 PM

    Not even remotely, Adam. Of course, the idea of "citation to source" is pretty alien to most of them.

    And Wikipedia is NOT a credible source. Seriously, people.

  26. Maddy2:06 PM

    Ok, we know who The Beatles are.  (Or I guess most of us do...)

  27. I still used Microfiche/film in researching my Note in Spring 2001, though that was largely because I was dealing with newspaper archives from the 1870s, which (at least at the time) were not electronically available.

  28. lisased2:09 PM

    My husband and I went out to dinner a few years ago. Our waiter's name was Nick. We immediately launched into John Cusack's "Nick's your buddy, Nick's your pal" monologue from "The Sure Thing". We were met with a blank stare. "You should really see that movie, " my husband said. "I'll have the steak." I had a lot of wine.

  29. J. Bowman2:10 PM

    The first math class I taught was story-problem heavy, and one of my first problems would always be about how Maria needed to build a fence or buy some apples or some such thing, and I would have it written on the board, and I'd go through all of the things Maria needed to consider, and then I'd pause to let them think about the problem and the first steps toward the solution. After a few seconds, I would say, "So... how do we solve a problem like Maria's?"

    Invariably, one girl would laugh.

  30. Watts2:11 PM

    Adam, IF a college student of today were to actually use a research tool other than Wikipedia and/or Google, they would most likely be able to write an entire paper without ever having to set foot in the library building.  You remotely access a full-text database (including old newspapers - we have the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal back to their inception), you probably write the paper as you go (notecards? outlines? Aren't you cute, old man.), and you use RefWorks or Zotero to insert and format your citations and then generate the bibliography.

  31. Maddy2:15 PM

    People who use Wikipedia cite (yes, we do that) (welllll, we use Noodlebib) another more credible website as the source of their information.  Usually people just use it for basic background info anyway, so you can cite World Book or Encyclopedia Britannica.

    But I did outlines all though high school (because we often had to turn them in with our papers), and I'll probably do outlines (maybe not strictly formated outlines, but I'll know roughly what points I want to make before I start writing) in college.

    Hee, this is fun.  I'm sorry my generation is destroying the world/making you all feel old.

  32. lisased2:17 PM

    I bought a card catalog at an auction last year, and it's been inteesting to see people's reactions when they see it. Some smile and ask where I got it; younger people ask me why I need a dresser with so many drawers, and why is it out in the living room? The scary thing is, I moved it recently into another room with my twentysomething cousin's help, and we discovered a label from the Library of Congress in a drawer. "Where's that?" he asked. "About 20 minutes from here. You should go sometime," I replied.

  33. Maddy, tell us about your mindset!  How much of this is bullshit, and how much makes sense?

  34. bill.2:24 PM

    don't worry, one day you'll be yelling at the android kids to get their hovercrafts off your astrolawn.

  35. Watts2:25 PM

    Aw, Maddy, you do make me feel old, but you're not destroying the world. When I've been able to do semester long seminars I've been so impressed with our students.  The quickness I see delights me. There's an... adaptability that I see sometimes that I don't necessarily remember in my own peers at that age.

    And outlines may not be a generational thing - when I was in school, I'd sometimes write the rough draft of my paper and then make the outline from that. Sssh, don't tell Mrs. Wilson.

  36. Maddy2:45 PM

    A lot of this does make sense (there are a bunch of names on the list that I don't recognize, or if I do, I don't really know who they are).  There were actually some things on here that surprised me (Walmart used to sell handguns over the counter?  Cross burning wasn't protected speech?) and many of the things here that are written as if they are surprising seem normal to me.  But.  I still check my email regularly, as do most of my friends.  I know that Fergie is a princess, although I will admit that one confused me for a looong time.  I know who Beethoven and Michelangelo are and if someone points to their wrist I will (pull out my cell phone) and tell them what time it is.

  37. Meghan3:05 PM

    I realize it's not a credible source for research papers but it is for internet arguments, right?

  38. The nation ever approved of the job Congress was doing?

  39. On the other hand, I can attest that current law students are extremely well versed in the world of Ferris Bueller.

  40. bill.3:57 PM

    more dystopian: one day you'll be telepathically yelling at the zombie spawn to get the hell off your radioactive wasteland

  41. You meant that the information I inserted into the Phillie Phanatic's wiki page 3-4 months ago which has yet to be removed has not become true by default?

  42. D'Arcy4:43 PM

    I don't think they meant that toothpaste is sold exclusively in tubes that stand on their caps, just that this year's freshman class has never known a world where that wasn't an option. And my students, who are only in 7th and 8th grade, are into the Beatles, Michael Jackson, AC/DC and a bunch of other band that were big when I was a teen or even before. They also tell me all the time that they can't read cursive, but my daughter learned it in second grade this past year.

    I'm close to the age of most of the bloggers here (I think) and some of the things on that list meant nothing to me. Maybe it's an American thing.

  43. J. Bowman7:02 PM

    There was also the time (~5 years ago) that I was sitting on a couch in a grad student office, waiting for a study group to begin. One of my groupmates came in and asked if he could join me on the Group W bench. I laughed. Six other people stared at us like we were speaking Chinese.

  44. Marnie7:13 PM

    Just for reference: I graduated high school in 2001, college in 2005 and I do remember having individual note cards for each fact. I think we did that when we first started learning how to write a research report. Probably in middle school? But I guess this new generation is light years different from my own - as most people my age got cell phones in high school and college. Also I wrote a thesis in college and I used underground newspapers (from a collection), newspaper articles from the morgue of the Evening Bulletin and other articles on microfiche.  To me real research still involves primary sources....

  45. spacewoman9:18 PM

    What Evening Bulletin are we talking about?  I used to deliver an Evening Bulletin on my bike.  Merging the "print media is heading out" with the "helicopter parenting" segments of this show, I'm guessing Kids Today do not deliver newspapers on their bikes any more.

  46. kenedy jane9:48 PM

    It was interesting to see you refererence helicopter parenting.  My daughter is about to start her sophomore year of college and I have been amazed at her school's approach to parents.  She attends Texas A&M which has a culture that is all its own but they encourage (expect?) a parent to attend the New Student Conference with the student.  They use this time to welcome you to the family but also make clear that the students are adults and will be making their own decisions.  (ie, if they decide to sign a contract mid-semester for a more expensive dorm, the bill will be in the mail).  They plan the schedule so that in the evening you have the opportunity to help your child figure out the first semester's classes but the students meet on their own the next day to go through the actual process of signing up for classes and figuring out how to solve the 'class is already full' problem.  This seemed to allow both the kids and parents a nice balance of easing into college.

    They also have a national mom's organization.  (Full disclosure: yes, I am a member.)  This organization started back in the days when A&M was a boys military academy and the moms worried about them and wanted to support them.  Now the clubs raise money and do support the university but also provide a chance for social gatherings.  I think it is genius - it keeps parents feeling involved in the school without being on campus all the time in the middle of their kids' lives.

  47. This one, I can tell you, can be overcome by strong parenting.  We made a playlist for my older son that alternated Wiggles and Beatles songs.  Now almost 5, he has outgrown the Wiggles and asks for just the Beatles when we are in the car.  Hearing him belt out "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" is hysterical.

  48. bristlesage9:51 AM

    Maddy, hooray for Scripps--I'm class of '00 and loved my time there.  Enjoy!

  49. Watts1:30 PM

    Here at UGA, during orientation, they have to post signs to keep parents out of the area where students do their registration for classes for their first semester.  They tend to hover right at the line anyway and you can't stop texting...

  50. Jenn.4:06 PM

    Congrats, Maddy!

  51. Maddy1:21 AM

    Thanks guys!