Archive for Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Wear a wristwatch? Write in cursive? Use e-mail? Not the Class of 2014

August 17, 2010


— For students entering college this fall, e-mail is too slow, phones have never had cords and the computers they played with as kids 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 born mostly in 1992.

Of course, it can also have the unintended consequence of making people feel old.

Remember when Dr. Jack Kevorkian, Dan Quayle or Rodney King were in the news? These kids 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.

Nief and English professor Tom McBride have assembled the Mindset List for 13 years. They say it’s 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, Nief said.

“I think we do that with every generation — we look back and say, what were we getting so upset about?” he said.

Another Mindset List item reflects a possible shift in Hollywood attitudes. Item No. 12 notes: “Clint Eastwood is better known as a sensitive director than as Dirty Harry.”

Two other items on the list say few students know how to write in cursive, and suggest this generation seldom if ever uses snail mail.


Jennifer Alexander 7 years, 9 months ago

Wow. Times are changing. I was born in 1981. I remember being in 2nd grade learning to write cursive. By 3rd grade, I was so good that I was in the pen club. I didn't have to write in pencil anymore. I was so proud of myself.I still write in cursive to this day.

avoice 7 years, 9 months ago

Why would they "not know" how to write in cursive? My kids are still in high school & junior high and were taught cursive writing in early elementary. I doubt that these college students "don't know" how to write in cursive, but perhaps they simply haven't practiced the art since 5th grade.

bad_dog 7 years, 9 months ago

If they don't know how to write in cursive, how do they sign their names? Certain documents still require hand-written signatures.

ivalueamerica 7 years, 9 months ago

Often illiterate people know how to sign their name, but that does not equate to them being able to read or write. I would say the same applies here. I am sure they learned to sign their name without learning how to write regularly in cursive.

That would NEVER fly in my house, I make everyone hand write thank-you notes and send them snail mail after parties, and presents, but I know that some schools are not focusing on penmanship as they once were.

bad_dog 7 years, 9 months ago

IVA, I get it. "X" marks instead of signatures can be legally acceptable substitutes, as well. IMHO, if students can sign their names, then they CAN write in cursive and simply opt not to in favor of something else like texting. Cursive writing is so "old school", after all. Thank God they still have keyboards on their phones so they'll hopefully remember what those quaint printed symbols on the buttons mean. That is until they decide printed letters are too much hassle as well.

jonas_opines 7 years, 9 months ago

Actually, nothing sums this up for me more than the text-question info service that went by the name KGB. I have a message board that I sometimes frequent on the topic of a manga/anime that I watch, and there are quite a number of HS kids there, so I asked them if it bothered them, and most had at most a nodding acquaintance with the reference, if that, and it had no influence over them. It was an interesting revelation.

Times be a changin'.

Ricky_Vaughn 7 years, 9 months ago

We used to have "Handwriting" in elementary school.

The only thing we did with computers then was play Oregon Trail and Number Munchers...

Commenting has been disabled for this item.