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Striegel: The worldview of the Class of 2016

A group of incoming freshmen students attend an

A group of incoming freshmen students attend an orientation meeting at Laffin Hall on the campus of Farmingdale State College. (Aug. 9, 2012) (Credit: Daniel Brennan)

Can you remember a time when Los Angeles had a professional football team, or when exposed bra straps were a wardrobe malfunction and not a fashion statement? If so, you were probably born before 1994.

Every August, Beloit College in Beloit, Wis., releases its “Mindset List.” It’s a snapshot of cultural references that helps explain how incoming college freshmen (the Class of 2016) see the world. For most of these young adults of about 18 years, Kurt Cobain, Selena, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Richard Nixon were all dead before they turned 1. The 9/11 attacks occurred when they were about 7. 

Beloit lists 75 things that might help explain their world view. Here are just a few: 


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-- They're more likely to picture people rolling their luggage through airports than carrying it.

-- They have always lived in cyberspace, addicted to a new generation of “electronic narcotics.”

-- Michael Jackson’s family, not the Kennedys, constitutes “American royalty.” 

-- If they miss The Daily Show, they can always get their news on YouTube.

-- Robert De Niro is thought of as Greg Focker’s long-suffering father-in-law, not as Vito Corleone or Jimmy Conway.

-- Bill Clinton is a senior statesman of whose presidency they have little knowledge.

-- For most of their lives, maintaining relations between the U.S. and the rest of the world has been a woman’s job in the State Department.

-- 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.

-- Since they’ve been born, the United States has measured progress by a 2 percentage   point jump in unemployment and a 16-cent rise in the price of a first-class postage stamp.

-- Benjamin Braddock, having given up both a career in plastics and a relationship with Mrs. Robinson, could be their grandfather.

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

-- Women have always piloted war planes and space shuttles.

-- Outdated icons with images of floppy discs for “save,” a telephone for “phone,” and a snail-mail envelope for “mail” have oddly decorated their tablets and smartphone screens.

-- There have always been blue M&M's, but no tan ones.

-- While the iconic TV series for their older siblings was the sci-fi show “ Lost, ” for them it’s “ Breaking Bad, ” a gritty crime story motivated by desperate economic circumstances.

-- Before they buy an assigned textbook, they will check to see whether it’s available for rent or purchase as an e-book.

-- They have always been able to see Starz on DirecTV.

-- They know many established film stars by their voices on computer-animated blockbusters.

-- The Twilight zone involves vampires, not Rod Serling.

-- Despite being preferred urban gathering places, two-thirds of the independent bookstores in the United States have closed for good during their lifetimes.

-- Genomes of living things have always been sequenced.

If any of this makes you feel old, consider that this is being posted on the Internet, which was in its infancy as these freshmen were in theirs.

Pictured above: A group of incoming freshmen students attend an orientation meeting at Laffin Hall on the campus of Farmingdale State College.  (Aug. 9, 2012)

Tags: Beloit College , Mindset List , cultural references , college freshmen , Class of 2016

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