To bridge the generation gap, you might want to drop references to Mrs. Robinson, car radio, and even, perhaps, Bill Clinton. The Mindset List, produced yearly, is now out with the cultural touchstones of new college freshmen.
As recent high school graduates pack off to the dorms, some professors are busy editing their lectures – chucking out old cultural references that may mean nothing to a student 20 or 40 years their junior.
To help, they have the Beloit College Mindset List for the Class of 2016, 75 facts about undergraduates born in 1994.
The list can serve as an intergenerational conversation starter for the back-to-school season.
Here’s a sample of the informative and witty items:
Since these incoming freshmen were born, the United States has measured progress by a two-percentage-point jump in the unemployment rate and a 16-cent rise in the price of a first-class postage stamp.
Having grown up with MP3s and iPods, they never listen to music on the car radio and really have no use for radio at all.
The biblical sources of terms such as “forbidden fruit,” “the writing on the wall,” “good Samaritan,” and “the promised land” are unknown to most of them.
Bill Clinton is a senior statesman of whose presidency they have little knowledge.
They can’t picture people actually carrying luggage through airports rather than rolling it.
Benjamin Braddock, having given up both a career in plastics and a relationship with Mrs. Robinson, could be their grandfather.
Exposed bra straps have always been a fashion statement, not a wardrobe malfunction to be corrected quietly by well-meaning friends.
Women have always piloted warplanes and space shuttles.
The Mindset List – published by Beloit College in Wisconsin – has been profiling entering college students since the kids born in 1980 arrived on campus in 1998.
It started as a way for professors to think more critically about what cultural references they relied on when talking with young students.
“It took me five bitter years till I realized [in the mid-1990s] that you had to explain what Watergate was,” says Beloit College professor Tom McBride, an author of the list who drew parallels for his students between the Nixon scandal and Shakespeare’s “Richard III.”
“I enjoy doing the list because it keeps me young,” the 67-year-old McBride says with a laugh.
McBride and Beloit’s former public-affairs director Ron Nief immersed themselves in cultural material from 1994 and conversed with many 18-year-olds to come up with this year’s items. They are also authors of “The Mindset Lists of American History: From Typewriters to Text Messages, What Ten Generations of Americans Think Is Normal.”
Previous Mindset Lists have generated worldwide attention, prompting educators in Jamaica, for instance, to consult with the authors on how to come up with a similar list about college students on the island.
The full list can be found at themindsetlist.com (which appears to be under heavy load right now).