In late August every year, since 1998, Beloit College has published the “Mindset List,” a rundown of the perceptions and cultural experiences of the year’s incoming freshman college class. The list is out.
It’s a great list every year. But here are some particularly interesting things to think about for the class of 2016. These students were born in 1994. For these kids:
1. Kurt Cobain, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, and Richard Nixon have always been dead.
2. Bill Clinton is a senior statesman. They have little memory of him as an actual president and no knowledge of him as an up-and-coming Arkansas governor. “I never inhaled.” What?
3. Someone like Benjamin Braddock of The Graduate could be their grandfather. Mrs. Robinson, in theory, could be their great-grandmother.
4. Many of those icons on their computer screens—“images of floppy discs for ‘save,’ a telephone for ‘phone,’ and a snail mail envelope for ‘mail’”—reference things they’ve never actually used.
5. Star Wars is a movie franchise, not a defense strategy against the Soviet Union. (Indeed, explaining President Ronald Reagan’s Star Wars to the class of 2016 will likely result in laughter and many questions.)
6. “Who shot J.R.?” is not a relevant question. The Mr. Burns assassination attempt on The Simpsons is much more familiar to today’s freshmen.
7. The Real World has always been on television. They probably don’t remember when MTV regularly featured music videos.
8. They do not, the list points out, generally watch television on real televisions.
9. People do not carry luggage through airports; they roll it.