Remember paper airline tickets? Or when you used to watch only TV on television, and listen to music only on a radio? Or when exposed bra straps were a fashion faux pas and not a fashion statement?
In 1994, when this generation of incoming college freshmen was born, Kurt Cobain and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis would die, Nelson Mandela would become president of South Africa, O.J. Simpson would be arrested and accused of murdering his wife and the “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers” TV show would be a year away from ending its long run.
Each August since 1998, Beloit College in Beloit, Wis., has released the Beloit College Mindset List. Co-created by Tom McBride and Ron Nief, the list has become a key look at the cultural touchstones that shape the lives of students entering college each fall.
This year’s list, released Tuesday, says Michael Jackson’s family, and not the Kennedys, constitutes U.S. royalty to this generation of college freshmen. Those freshmen might never have seen an airplane ticket, and many of them will enter college with significant hearing loss, the list said.
Nief told ABCNews.com Tuesday night that he and McBride conceived of the list to remind college educators of the need to keep their references current. Nief said there was a lot of discussion back then from older people who thought that younger folks were not as smart as they themselves had been when they were young.
“There were a lot of lists starting to show up on what was a relatively new thing at that point, the Web, and a lot of them were kind of mean-spirited. They involved ‘these kids aren’t very smart, they’re not as smart as I was.’ And we figured this was sort of baby boomer arrogance,” Nief said.
He and McBride were talking “and decided that it had nothing to do with the knowledge that these students had, it was the experiences in their lives, that they had a different set of experiences that made them different, and we started putting those things that had never been true for them, or had always been true that weren’t true for their parents, and we started to put this list together and it circulated,” he said.
Nief and McBride follow trends, scour media and talk to young people and their parents in order to come up with their lists every year. The list also has a Facebook page, which provides lots of valuable feedback from parents and their children.
“We hear almost daily from parents telling us about what we call mindset moments, about situations where they’re talking to their kids and suddenly realize they’re getting a blank stare back, that [the children] really don’t get what they’re talking about. On the other hand, we get notes from young people saying, ‘I wish my parents would stop calling my CDs ‘tapes,’” Nief added.
Below is the Mindset List for the Class of 2016
- They should keep their eyes open for Justin Bieber or Dakota Fanning at freshman orientation.
- They have always lived in cyberspace, addicted to a new generation of “electronic narcotics.”
- 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.
- Michael Jackson’s family, not the Kennedys, constitutes “American Royalty.”
- If they miss “The Daily Show,” they can always get their news on YouTube.
- Their lives have been measured in the fundamental particles of life: bits, bytes, and bauds.
- Robert De Niro is thought of as Greg Focker’s long-suffering father-in-law, not as Vito Corleone or Jimmy Conway.
- Bill Clinton is a senior statesman of whose presidency they have little knowledge.
- They have never seen an airplane “ticket.”
- On TV and in films, the ditzy dumb blond female generally has been replaced by a couple of “Dumb and Dumber” males.
- 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’.
- For most of their lives, maintaining relations between the United States and the rest of the world has been a woman’s job in the State Department.
- They can’t picture people actually carrying luggage through airports rather than rolling it.
- There has always been football in Jacksonville but never in Los Angeles.
- Having grown up with MP3s and iPods, they never listen to music on the car radio and really have no use for radio at all.
- Since they’ve been born, the United States has measured progress by a 2 percent jump in unemployment and a 16 cent rise in the price of a first-class postage stamp.
- Benjamin Braddock, having given up both a career in plastics and a relationship with Mrs. Robinson, could be their grandfather.
- Their folks have never gazed with pride on a new set of bound encyclopedias on the bookshelf.
- The Green Bay Packers have always celebrated with the Lambeau Leap.
- Exposed bra straps have always been a fashion statement, not a wardrobe malfunction to be corrected quietly by well-meaning friends.
- A significant percentage of them will enter college already displaying some hearing loss.
- “The Real World” has always stopped being polite and started getting real on MTV.
- Women have always piloted war planes and space shuttles.
- White House security has never deemed it necessary to wear rubber gloves when gay groups have visited.
- They have lived in an era of instant stardom and self-proclaimed celebrities, famous for being famous.
- Having made the acquaintance of Furby at an early age, they have expected their toy friends to do ever-more unpredictable things.
- Outdated icons with images of floppy discs for “save,” a telephone for “phone,” and a snail mail envelope for “mail” have oddly decorated their tablets and smartphone screens.
- “Star Wars” has always been just a film, not a defense strategy.
- They have had to incessantly remind their parents not to refer to their CDs and DVDs as “tapes.”
- There have always been blue M&Ms, but no tan ones.
- Along with online viewbooks, parents have always been able to check the crime stats for the colleges their kids have selected.
- Newt Gingrich has always been a key figure in politics, trying to change the way America thinks about everything.
- They have come to political consciousness during a time of increasing doubts about America’s future.
- Billy Graham is as familiar to them as Otto Graham was to their parents.
- Probably the most tribal generation in history, they despise being separated from contact with their similar-aged friends.
- Stephen Breyer has always been an associate justice on the U.S. Supreme Court.
- Martin Lawrence has always been banned from hosting “Saturday Night Live.”
- Slavery has always been unconstitutional in Mississippi, and Southern Baptists have always been apologizing for supporting it in the first place.
- The Metropolitan Opera House in New York has always translated operas on seat-back screens.
- A bit of the late Gene Roddenberry, creator of “Star Trek,” has always existed in space.
- Good music programmers are rock stars to the young women of this generation, just as guitar players were for their mothers.
- Gene therapy has always been an available treatment.
- They were too young to enjoy the 1994 World Series, but then no one else got to enjoy it either.
- The folks have always been able to grab an Aleve when the kids started giving them a migraine.
- 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.
- Simba has always had trouble waiting to be king.
- Before they purchase an assigned textbook, they will investigate whether it is available for rent or purchase as an e-book.
- They grew up, somehow, without the benefits of “Romper Room.”
- There has always been a World Trade Organization.
- L.L. Bean hunting shoes have always been known as just plain Bean Boots.
- They have always been able to see Starz on Direct TV.
- Ice skating competitions have always been jumping matches.
- There has always been a Santa Clause.
- NBC has never shown “A Wonderful Life” more than twice during the holidays.
- Mr. Burns has replaced J.R.Ewing as the most shot-at man on U.S. television.
- They have always enjoyed school and summer camp memories with a digital yearbook.
- Herr Schindler has always had a list; Mr. Spielberg has always had an Oscar.
- Selena’s fans have always been in mourning.
- They know many established film stars by their voices on computer-animated blockbusters.
- History has always had its own channel.
- Thousands have always been gathering for “million-man” demonstrations in Washington, D.C.
- Television and film dramas have always risked being pulled because the story line was too close to the headlines from which they were “ripped.”
- “The Twilight Zone” involves vampires, not Rod Serling.
- Robert Osborne has always been introducing Hollywood history on TCM.
- Little Caesar has always been proclaiming “Pizza Pizza.”
- They have no recollection of when Arianna Huffington was a conservative.
- Chronic fatigue syndrome has always been officially recognized with clinical guidelines.
- They watch television everywhere but on a television.
- The “Pulp Fiction” meal of a “Royale with Cheese” and an “Amos and Andy milkshake” have little or no resonance with them.
- Point-and-shoot cameras are soooooo last millennium.
- Despite being preferred urban gathering places, two-thirds of the independent bookstores in the United States have closed for good during their lifetimes.
- Astronauts have always spent more than a year in a single space flight.
- Lou Gehrig’s record for most consecutive baseball games played has never stood in their lifetimes.
- Genomes of living things have always been sequenced.
- The Sistine Chapel ceiling has always been brighter and cleaner.