Beloit College Releases
the Class of 2004 Mindset List


Beloit, Wis.— First-year students—those formerly know as freshmen—are descending on the campuses of America, loaded with cell phones, Palm Pilots, CD burners and other essential items, hardly even imagined a short time ago. They are prepared to dive into courses taught by wise and all-knowing faculty who may be ten or 50 years their senior.

This year’s first-year students, members of the Class of 2004, were generally born in 1982, the year the E.R.A went down to defeat, AIDS was designated a top priority after it killed 164 people, the Weather Channel and CSPAN went on the cable, and Phil Gramm became a Republican.

For several years, Beloit College has prepared a list of some of the things that differentiate the frame of reference of entering students from that of their teachers and mentors. After all, students of 18, for whom the fall of the Berlin Wall was a topic of their parents’ conversation, know little of the fears of the Cold War and nuclear annihilation. For their younger teachers, Watergate is a distant memory; for their distinguished senior professors—the ones with a pile of vinyl LPs in the closet —the Crash and the Depression probably shaped their lives. Courses on American history now need to include Vietnam and the sixties, not to mention the development of electronic communication.

According to Beloit College’s Keefer Professor of the Humanities Tom McBride, “We assemble this list out of a genuine concern for our first-year students, and as a reminder to the faculty of the gap that may exist between generations. Education is the best remedy for the situation, but we start out with varying points of reference and cultural touchstones.”

Prof. McBride, Beloit’s Director of Institutional Research Richard Miller, and Director of Public Affairs Ron Nief annually prepare “The List” from their own “not terribly serious” research and from the contributions of faculty and staff. It is then distributed to faculty just before the first week of classes. Each year it is requested by hundreds of educators, clergy, business people, and journalists who use it to demonstrate how quickly gaps develop in the way we perceive and express ideas.

The 50-item “Mindset of First-Year Students in the Class of 2004” list has been shared with faculty and staff at the 154 year-old liberal arts college as they welcome the new class.

1. Most students entering college this fall in the class of 2004, were born in 1982.
2. Grace Kelly, Elvis Presley, Karen Carpenter, and the E.R.A. have always been dead.
3. Kurt Cobain’s death was the “day the music died.”
4. Somebody named George Bush has been on every national ticket, except one, since they were born.
5. The Kennedy tragedy was a plane crash, not an assassination.
6. Huckleberry Finn has always been a “banned book.”
7. A “45” is a gun, not a record with a large hole in the center.
8. They have no clue what the Beach Boys were talking about when they sang about a 409, and the Little Deuce Coupe.
9. They have probably never lost anything in shag carpeting.
10. MASH and The Muppet Show have always been in re-runs.
11. Punk Rock is an activist movement, not a musical form.
12. They have always bought telephones, rather than rent them from AT&T.
13. The year they were born, AIDS was found to have killed 164 people; finding a cure for the new disease was designated a “top priority” for government-sponsored research.
14. We have always been able to reproduce DNA in the laboratory.
15. Wars begin and end quickly; peace-keeping missions go on forever.
16. There have always been ATM machines.
17. The President has always addressed the nation on the radio on Saturday.
18. We have always been able to receive television signals by direct broadcast satellite.
19. Cities have always been trying to ban the possession and sale of handguns.
20. Watergate is as relevant to their lives as the Teapot Dome scandal.
21. They have no idea that a “presidential scandal” once meant nothing more than Ronald Reagan taking President Carter’s briefing book in “Debategate.”
22. They have never referred to Russia and China as “the Reds.”
23. Toyotas and Hondas have always been made in the United States.
24. There has always been a national holiday honoring Martin Luther King, Jr.
25. Three Mile Island is ancient history, and nuclear accidents happen in other countries.
26. Around-the-clock coverage of congress, public affairs, weather reports, and rock videos have always been available on cable.
27. Senator Phil Gramm has always been a Republican.
28. Women sailors have always been stationed on U.S. Navy ships.
29. The year they were born, the New York Times announced that the “boom in video games,” a fad, had come to an end.
30. Congress has been questioning computer intrusion into individuals’ personal lives since they were born.
31. Bear Bryant has never coached at Alabama.
32. They have always been able to afford Calvin Klein.
33. Coors Beer has always been sold east of the Mississippi, eliminating the need for Burt Reynolds to outrun the authorities in the Smokey and the Bandit films.
34. They were born the same year that Ebony and Ivory lived in perfect harmony.
35. The year they were born, Dustin Hoffman wore a dress and Julie Andrews wore a tuxedo.
36. Elton John has only been heard on easy listening stations.
37. Woodstock is a bird or a reunion, not a cultural touchstone.
38. They have never heard a phone “ring.”
39. They never dressed up for a plane flight.
40. Hurricanes have always had men’s and women’s names.
41. Lawn darts have always been illegal.
42. “Coming out” parties celebrate more than debutantes.
43. They only know Madonna singing American Pie.
44. They neither know who Billy Joe was, nor wondered what he was doing on the Talahatchee Bridge.
45. They never thought of Jane Fonda as “Hanoi Jane,” nor associated her with any revolution other than the “Fitness Revolution” videotape they may have found in the attic.
46. The Osmonds are talk show hosts.
47. They have never used a bottle of “White Out.”
48. If they vaguely remember the night the Berlin Wall fell, they are probably not sure why it was up in the first place.
49. “Spam” and “cookies” are not necessarily foods.
50. They feel more danger from having sex and being in school, than from possible nuclear war.

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