Milwaukee 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.