No, we’re not talking about hermits, or some kind of Austin Powers secret agent cryogenically frozen in 1967. We’re talking about the class of 2011—the freshmen that have, or soon will, arrive on college campuses in the upcoming weeks.
Their perspective has once again been captured by Beloit College in Wisconsin, which has for the past decade released the Beloit College Mindset List. Its 70 items provide a look at the cultural touchstones that have shaped the lives of today’s first-year students, most of them born in 1989. It is the creation of Beloit’s Keefer Professor of the Humanities, Tom McBride, and Public Affairs Director Ron Nief.
Latchkey kids for most of their lives, students entering college this fall think nothing of arriving home alone; and, these days, they accept as normal discourse e-mailing or texting their friends, and updating their summer vacation exploits on “Facebook’ or “MySpace,’ (a word of insight—if you want to keep up with what is REALLY going on with your teenager, get an account on one of those two social networks).
For the incoming freshman class, Humvees (minus the artillery) have always been available to the public, they have grown up with bottled water, and General Motors has always been working on an electric car. Food packaging has always included nutritional labeling.
“Off the hook’ has never had anything to do with a telephone, and music has always been “unplugged.’ Meanwhile, MTV has never featured music videos, U2 has always been more than a spy plane—and this group was too young to understand Judas Priest’s subliminal messages.
Wolf Blitzer has always been serving up the news on CNN, Fox has always been a major network, and Time has always worked with Warner. They learned about JFK from Oliver Stone and Malcolm X from Spike Lee, and virtual reality has always been available when the real thing failed.
You can find the full list—and lists from previous years—at http://www.beloit.edu/~pubaff/mindset