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The Class of 2011

Yesterday I blogged about teachers as folks head back to school. Today, it's the students. Specifically the Class of 2011, which starts college this fall.

Yesterday tiny Beloit College in Wisconsin released its annual Mindset List. The list provides an idea of the culture and climate the incoming freshman class has grown up in.
And it is always an eye-opener for older folks, even those of us who are only a few years older.

This year's list contains 75 things that reflect the way times have changed during these kids lives. For instance, they never feared the Soviet Union and there's only been one Germany, meaning Cold War is just as alien as Cola War to these kids.

They've only known Presidents named Bush and Clinton.

They've never taken a domestic airline flight that allowed smoking, nor are they likely to have endured bad airline food. By the way, those smoke-free planes have pretty much always been owned by bankrupt airlines during their lives.

They've never known life without bar codes, Starbucks, Wal-Mart, dolphin-free tuna, disposable contact lenses and DNA testing.

Lucille Ball, Gilda Radner and Billy Martin were all dead before most of them were born. How could a sports fan today never have experienced George Steinbrenner fire Billy Martin from his job as manager of the Yankees? Or never have to wonder if St. Louis Cardinals meant a football team or a baseball team? They've never known the Olympics without professional athletes. They don't even know what a skyhook is! Where have you gone Kareem Abdul-Jabar? A nation turns its lonely eyes to you.
Woo woo woo. Woo woo woo.

Technology is nothing for these whipper-snappers. In their short lives, fax machines grew in popularity and then became nothing special, while e-mail is already giving way to text messaging. Wirless is how they stay connected.

As children, the college newbies always had mini-vans. I guess that means they missed out on the treat of sitting facing out the rear window in the back of a wood-panelled station wagon, huh? The list also says "They never played the game of state license plates in the car." This one had me confused. Why didn't they play this? Cars still have license plates. And every state has its own designs. Perplexed, I e-mailed one of the people who put the list together. Beloit Director of Public Affairs Ron Nief wrote back:

"The emergence of headphones, Walkmen, Gameboys, DVD players, etc has isolated the kids in the back seat and restricted any sort of exchange with the family in the front seat. (A national story I spotted just last week phrased it differently, noting the demise of "I Spy" as a travel pastime.) 10-15 years ago, we needed the games because there was no common agreement on any one radio program for the whole car.
Technology made it possible for each generation to entertain themselves."

In my family we played the Alphabet Game, where you went through the alphabet searching for words outside the car starting with each letter.
I never thought about the demise of games like that as part of the deteroration of the family unit and bonding, but I guess it is.

The Mindset List really does put things in perspective for you. I often think of some things that have gone the way of the Dodo in my life. Remember when you actually had to fold open milk cartons? Now I they all have round spouts on the side with screw-on caps and pull-tab safety seals. Heck, back when I was a kid, playground equipment and toys were still made out of metal. Now everything is sterilized plastic. Where’s the fun without the risk of tetanus?

Yes, we are getting older, and thanks to technology time is passing by more quickly than ever. Don't believe me? Consider this: When the Class of 2011 arrives at their institutions of high-learning next year, many of them they will have lived their entire life after the Iran-Contra Affair, the bombing of Pan-Am Flight 103, the merger of Time, Inc. and Warner Communications, the Exxon Valdez, the death of the Ayatollah Khomeini and the premiere of The Simpsons.

By: Kevin Wuzzardo


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