This year's crop of 18-year-old college freshmen were born after the end of the Cold War and not long after the fall of Berlin Wall.
To many of the students, Pete Rose has never played professional baseball during their lives. Mass murderer Ted Bundy has always been dead.
Each August for the past decade, the college in Wisconsin has compiled the Beloit College Mindset List. Its 70 items provide a look at the cultural touchstones that have shaped the lives of today’s first-year students, most of them born in 1989.
This year's version of Beloit College's Mindset List will send professors scurrying to the library to bone up on pop culture so they can understand the culture that shapes the class of 2011.
The 10-year-old list is the creation of Ron Nief, 64, communications director for Beloit and self-proclaimed world's leading authority on useless 18-year-old news. It is eagerly sought by teachers, military officers, ministers and others who hope to bridge the cultural divide to communicate with young people.
"Adults see young people as some kind of dark continent. We are to some extent living in parallel universes," says list co-author Tom McBride, 62, a Beloit English professor. These are, after all, the kids whose peers are teen golf phenom Michelle Wie, American Idol winner Jordin Sparks and, metaphorically speaking, Bart Simpson.
The remnant of the Berlin Wall is in danger of crumbling because Berlin has no money for restoration.
Latchkey kids for most of their lives, students that are entering college this fall think nothing of arriving home with parents still at work. They email or text their friends, instantly update their autobiographies on “Facebook” or MySpace, and listen to their iPods while doing their research on Wikipedia.
As usual, the students remind their elders how quickly time has passed.
Beloit College's Mindset List for the class of 2011.
Most of the students entering college this fall, members of the Class of 2011, were born in 1989. For them, Alvin Ailey, Andrei Sakharov, Huey Newton, Emperor Hirohito, Ted Bundy, Abbie Hoffman, and Don the Beachcomber have always been dead.
- Wayne's World
- Humvees, minus the artillery, have always been available to the public.
- Rush Limbaugh and the "Dittoheads" have always been lambasting liberals.
- They never "rolled down" a car window.
- Michael Moore has always been angry and funny.
- They may confuse the Keating Five with a rock group.
- They have grown up with bottled water.
- General Motors has always been working on an electric car.
- Nelson Mandela has always been free and a force in South Africa.
- Pete Rose has never played baseball.
- Rap music has always been mainstream.
- Religious leaders have always been telling politicians what to do, or else!
- "Off the hook" has never had anything to do with a telephone.
- Music has always been "unplugged."
- Russia has always had a multi-party political system.
- Women have always been police chiefs in major cities.
- They were born the year Harvard Law Review Editor Barack Obama announced he might run for office some day.
- The NBA season has always gone on and on and on and on.
- Classmates could include Michelle Wie, Jordin Sparks, and Bart Simpson.
- Half of them may have been members of the Baby-sitters Club.
- Eastern Airlines has never "earned their wings" in their lifetime.
- No one has ever been able to sit down comfortably to a meal of "liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti."
- Walmart has always been a larger retailer than Sears and has always employed more workers than GM.
- Being "lame" has to do with being dumb or inarticulate, not disabled.
- Wolf Blitzer has always been serving up the news on CNN.
- Katie Couric has always had screen cred.
- Al Gore has always been running for president or thinking about it.
- They never found a prize in a Coca-Cola "MagiCan".
- They were too young to understand Judas Priest’s subliminal messages.
- When all else fails, the Prozac defense has always been a possibility.
- Multigrain chips have always provided healthful junk food.
- Michael Moore
- U2 has always been more than a spy plane.
- They were introduced to Jack Nicholson as "The Joker."
- Stadiums, rock tours and sporting events have always had corporate names.
- American rock groups have always appeared in Moscow.
- Commercial product placements have been the norm in films and on TV.
- On Parents’ Day on campus, their folks could be mixing it up with Lisa Bonet and Lenny Kravitz with daughter Zöe, or Kathie Lee and Frank Gifford with son Cody.
- Fox has always been a major network.
- They drove their parents crazy with the Beavis and Butt-head laugh.
- The "Blue Man Group" has always been everywhere.
- Women’s studies majors have always been offered on campus.
- Being a latchkey kid has never been a big deal.
- Thanks to MySpace and Facebook, autobiography can happen in real time.
- They learned about JFK from Oliver Stone and Malcolm X from Spike Lee.
- Most phone calls have never been private.
- High definition television has always been available.
- Microbreweries have always been ubiquitous.
- Virtual reality has always been available when the real thing failed.
- Smoking has never been allowed in public spaces in France.
- China has always been more interested in making money than in reeducation.
- Time has always worked with Warner.
- Tiananmen Square is a 2008 Olympics venue, not the scene of a massacre.
- The purchase of ivory has always been banned.
- MTV has never featured music videos.
- The space program has never really caught their attention except in disasters.
- Jerry Springer has always been lowering the level of discourse on TV.
- They get much more information from Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert than from the newspaper.
- They’re always texting one another.
- They will encounter roughly equal numbers of female and male professors in the classroom.
- They never saw Johnny Carson live on television.
- They have no idea who Rusty Jones was or why he said "goodbye to rusty cars."
- Avatars have nothing to do with Hindu deities.
- Chavez has nothing to do with iceberg lettuce and everything to do with oil.
- Illinois has been trying to ban smoking since the year they were born.
- The World Wide Web has been an online tool since they were born.
- Chronic fatigue syndrome has always been debilitating and controversial.
- Burma has always been Myanmar.
- Dilbert has always been ridiculing cubicle culture.
- Food packaging has always included nutritional labeling.