Listen to radios? Watch TVs? Not for Class of '16

Listen to radios? Watch TVs? Not for Class of '16
MILWAUKEE (AP) - Remember when suitcases had to be carried instead of rolled? Or when an airline ticket was a booklet of pages separated by carbon paper? Maybe you remember when Lou Gehrig held the Major League record for consecutive baseball games played.

This year's college freshmen don't.

They never lived in a world where Kurt Cobain was alive or an NFL team played its home games in Los Angeles. The Class of 2016 has no need for radios, watches television everywhere except on actual TV sets and is addicted to "electronic narcotics."

These are among the 75 references on this year's Beloit College Mindset List, a nonscientific compilation meant to remind teachers that college freshmen, born mostly in 1994, see the world in a much different way.

The students are also accustomed to seeing women in position of leadership. They were born at a time when Madeline Albright was serving as the first female U.S. secretary of state, and women have held the position for most of their lives.

And the old Hollywood stereotype of ditzy blonde women has given way to one of "dumb and dumber males," according to the list.

"In general, there was always the complaint that it was too slow for women to get to positions of responsibility," said Ron Nief, one of the two Beloit College officials who compiles the list. "Now the question is, 'What took so long?'"

The compilation, released Tuesday, has been assembled every year since 1998 by Nief and Tom McBride, officials at the private school in southeastern Wisconsin. Over the years it has evolved into a national phenomenon, a cultural touchstone that entertains even as it makes people wonder where the years have gone.

The lists have begun attracting attention from government agencies, athletic organizations and other groups that want to know how the younger generation thinks. Nief and McBride will be sharing their insights with employees of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., in October.

The new generation gets a lot of its news from Jon Stewart's "The Daily Show." But if they miss an episode, they can always get instant news from YouTube (No. 5 on the list).

Here are some other items to make you feel old: These teens weren't born when "Pulp Fiction" came out. Instead of asking who shot J.R., they wanted to know who shot Montgomery Burns. And to them, "Twilight Zone" is about vampires, not Rod Serling.

But Thorin Blitz, 18, disagreed with that item. He said it's 13-year-old girls who watch "Twilight."

"I've seen quite a few 'Twilight Zone' episodes," said the incoming freshman from Charleston, Ill. "Most of us know what that is."

Similar list items have drawn criticism in previous years. Some teens were insulted by the insinuation that they had no knowledge of events that happened before they were born, as if they had never studied history. So Nief and McBride have softened the tone, replacing "They don't know about..." with "They never experienced..."

The theme of last year's list was how wired the incoming class was. This year's class includes students who might be bitter at the previous generation, Nief said. While their elders went to college in good times and had jobs waiting for them, these students grew up watching their parents worry about unemployment and foreclosures.

That sentiment was captured in item No. 16, which notes unemployment has risen 2 percent in their lifetimes.

But they also live in an era of potential. Gene therapy has always been available, and they don't waste time with outdated technologies like radios and point-and-shoot cameras.

They're also less likely to identify with a specific religion. McBride noted that many church denominations have been losing members, while membership is up at nondenominational churches.

"When I teach Shakespeare or Milton there are a lot of biblical allusions, and I have to explain them all," said McBride, an English professor.


Here are highlights from the annual Mindset List from the last 15 years:

2012 List (Class of 2016)

  • A significant percentage of them will enter college already displaying some hearing loss.

  • There have always been blue M&Ms but no tan ones.

2011 List (Class of 2015)

  • They "swipe" cards, not merchandise.

  • Refer to LBJ and they might assume you're talking about LeBron James.

2010 List (Class of 2014)

  • Few in the class know how to write in cursive.

  • They never twisted the coiled handset wire aimlessly around their wrists while chatting on the phone.

2009 List (Class of 2013)

  • The Green Giant has always been Shrek, not the big guy picking vegetables.

  • They have never used a card catalog to find a book.

2008 List (Class of 2012)

  • They never heard an attendant ask, "Want me to check under the hood?"

  • Soft-drink refills have always been free.

2007 List (Class of 2011)

  • They have grown up with bottled water.

  • They drove their parents crazy with the Beavis and Butt-Head laugh.

2006 List (Class of 2010)

  • Smoking has never been permitted on U.S. airlines.

  • "Google" has always been a verb.

2005 List (Class of 2009)

  • They don't remember when "cut and paste" involved scissors.

  • They never had the fun of being thrown into the back of a station wagon with six others.

2004 List (Class of 2008)

  • "Here's Johnny!" is a scary greeting from Jack Nicholson, not a warm welcome from Ed McMahon.

  • Svelte Oprah has always dominated afternoon television; who was Phil Donahue anyway?

2003 List (Class of 2007)

  • "Ctrl + Alt + Del" is as basic as "ABC."

  • Gasoline has always been unleaded.

2002 List (Class of 2006)

  • The "evil empire" has moved from Moscow to a setting in some distant galaxy.

  • This generation has never wanted to "be a Pepper too."

2001 List (Class of 2005)

  • Thongs no longer come in pairs and slide between the toes.

  • IBM Selectrics are antiques.

2000 List (Class of 2004)

  • Watergate is as relevant to their lives as the Teapot Dome scandal.

  • They have never used a bottle of "White Out."

1999 List (Class of 2003)

  • "Cats" has been on Broadway all their lives.

  • The term "adult" has increasingly come to mean "dirty."

1998 List (Class of 2002)

  • They have likely never played Pac-Man, and have never heard of Pong.

  • "The Tonight Show" has always been with Jay Leno.