You are currently viewing the printable version of this article, to return to the normal page, please click here.

Class of 2014 unfamiliar with watches, cursive

- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 17, 2010

MILWAUKEE | For students entering college this fall, e-mail is too slow, phones have never had cords and their childhood computers are now in museums.

The class of 2014 thinks of Clint Eastwood more as a sensitive director than as Dirty Harry urging punks to "go ahead, make my day." Few incoming freshmen know how to write in cursive or have ever worn a wristwatch.

These are among the 75 items on this year's Beloit College Mindset List. The compilation, released Tuesday, is assembled each year by two officials at this private school of about 1,400 students in Beloit, Wis.

The list is meant to remind teachers that cultural references familiar to them might draw blank stares from college freshmen, most of whom were born in 1992.

Remember when Dr. Jack Kevorkian, Dan Quayle or Rodney King were in the news? These youths don't.

Ever worry about a Russian missile strike on the U.S.? During these students' lives, Russians and Americans have always been living together in outer space.

Being aware of the generation gap helps professors craft lesson plans that are more meaningful, said Ron Nief, a former public affairs director at Beloit College and one of the list's creators.

Mr. Nief and English professor Tom McBride have been assembling the Mindset List for 13 years. They say it has given them an unusual perspective on cultural shifts.

For example, as item No. 13 on the list says, "Parents and teachers feared that Beavis and Butt-head might be the voice of a lost generation."

With far edgier content available today, such as "South Park" or online videos that push the envelope, there's something quaint about recalling the hand-wringing that the MTV cartoon prompted, Mr. Nief said.

"I think we do that with every generation — we look back and say, 'What were we getting so upset about?'" he said. "A, kids outgrow it and B, in retrospect we realize it really wasn't that bad."

Another Mindset List item might reflect a shift in Hollywood attitudes. Item No. 12 notes: "Clint Eastwood is better known as a sensitive director than as Dirty Harry."

A number of incoming freshmen said they partially agreed with the item, noting that they were familiar with Mr. Eastwood's work as an actor even if they hadn't seen his films.

"I know he directed movies, but I also know he's supposed to be sort of badass," said Aaron Ziontz, 18, from Seattle.

Jessica Peck, a 17-year-old from Portland, Ore., disagreed with two items on the list — one that says few students know how to write in cursive, and another that suggests this generation seldom, if ever, uses snail mail.

"Snail mail's kind of fun. When I have time, I like writing letters to friends and family," she said. "It's just a bit more personal. And yes, I write in cursive."

Miss Peck did agree with the item pointing out that most teens have never used telephones with cords.

"Yes, I've used them, but only at my grandparents' house," she said.

That's the sort of comment that can make a person feel old.

Mr. McBride jokes that he's not immune from feeling ancient just because he compiles the items. But the 65-year-old said the lists also can reveal a larger truth about tolerance.

The "Beavis and Butt-head" item suggests that maybe parents shouldn't overreact every time a controversy arises, he noted.

For example, maybe it's no big deal if college freshmen misspell words when they text, and maybe their attention spans will be just fine even though they grew up in the Internet age, he said.

"There's something about the resilience of human nature that renders these gloom-and-doom prophecies moot after a while," he said. "I can't say for sure, but it looks like the track record of these very anxious prophets has not been impressive over the years."

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.