New college freshman have never lived in world without the Web
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MILWAUKEE -- Mention Amazon to the incoming class of college freshmen, and they are more likely to think of shopping than the South American river. PC doesn't stand for political correctness, and breaking up on Facebook is more common than any more personal encounter.
These are among the 75 references on this year's Beloit College Mindset List, a compilation intended to remind teachers that college freshmen born mostly in 1993, and set to graduate in 2015, see the world in a much different way: They fancied pogs and Tickle Me Elmo toys as children, watched televisions that never had dials and their lives have always been like a box of chocolates.
Once upon a time, relatives of the current generation swore never to trust anyone over age 30. This group could argue: Never trust anyone older than the Net.
The college's compilation, released today, is assembled each year by two officials at the southeastern Wisconsin private school. It also has evolved into a national phenomenon -- a cultural touchstone that entertains, even as it makes people wonder where the years have gone. The list is, of course, set to be available online at http://www.beloit.edu/mindset.
Remember when the initials LBJ referred to President Lyndon B. Johnson? Today, according to the list, they make teenagers think of NBA star LeBron James. And speaking of NBA legends, these kids didn't want to be like Mike. They fawned over Shaq and Kobe.
In their lifetimes, Major League Baseball has always had three divisions plus wild-card playoff teams, and every state has always observed Martin Luther King Day. The "yadda, yadda, yadda" generation that has been quoting comedian Jerry Seinfeld since they were old enough to talk also has always seen women serve as U.S. Supreme Court justices and command U.S. Navy ships.
For them, as No. 68 on the Mindset List notes, Andy Warhol is a museum in Pittsburgh.
Then there's O.J. Simpson. These students were still in diapers when the former National Football League star began searching for the killers of his former wife, Nicole Simpson, and her friend, Ronald Goldman. "Hmm, I know there was some scandal about him," said Alex Keesey, 18, a Beloit incoming freshman. "I think it was robbery or murder, maybe both."
Comments like that can be a little jarring to older folks, who imagine that everyone knows about the Simpson murder trial and subsequent acquittal. But if the generation gap has you down, get used to it. The list's authors note that technology has only accelerated the pace of change and further compressed the generational divide.
Older Americans who read previous Mindset Lists felt that life was moving too quickly, said list author Ron Nief, and now even younger people share that sentiment.
His co-author, English professor Tom McBride, predicts that the trend will only accelerate. "If you look at the jump from email to texting, or from email to Facebook, it's been faster than the jump from typing to computers," Mr. McBride said. "These generational gaps are getting smaller."
Still not feeling old? Consider this: Andre the Giant, River Phoenix and Frank Zappa all died before these students were born. They don't know what a Commodore 64 was, and Ferris Bueller could be their father.
Mr. McBride and Mr. Nief say the main lesson that professors should take from this year's list is that their incoming students have never lived in a world without the Internet.
The Internet is great for finding facts, Mr. McBride says, but there's a big difference between facts and the knowledge that comes from understanding context behind the facts.
He advises professors to teach how to supplement Internet searches with library research in scholarly journals, and to remind freshmen to dig beyond the first page or two of Google search results.
First Published August 23, 2011 12:00 am