College freshmen never knew a world without the Net

By Dinesh Ramde
Associated Press / August 24, 2011

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MILWAUKEE - Mention Amazon to the incoming class of college freshmen and they are more likely to think of shopping than the South American river. PC doesn’t stand for political correctness, and breaking up is a lot easier thanks to Facebook and text messaging.

These are among the 75 references on this year’s Beloit College Mindset List, a compilation intended to remind teachers that college freshmen born mostly in 1993 see the world in a much different way: They fancied pogs and Tickle Me Elmo toys as children, watched televisions that never had dials, and their lives have always been like a box of chocolates.

Once upon a time, relatives of the current generation swore never to trust anyone over the age of 30. This group could argue: Never trust anyone older than the Net.

The college’s compilation, released yesterday, is assembled each year by two officials at the private school in southeastern Wisconsin. It also has evolved into a national phenomenon, a cultural touchstone that entertains even as it makes people wonder where the years have gone.

Remember when the initials LBJ referred to President Lyndon B. Johnson? Today, according to the list, they make teens think of NBA star LeBron James. And speaking of the NBA, these kids didn’t want to be like Mike - they fawned over Shaq and Kobe.

In their lifetimes, Major League Baseball has always had three divisions plus wild-card playoff teams, and every state has always observed Martin Luther King Day. This generation has always seen women serve as Supreme Court justices and command Navy ships.

Then there’s OJ Simpson. These students were still in diapers when the former NFL star began searching for the killers of Nicole Simpson and Ronald Goldman.

“Hmm, I know there was some scandal about him,’’ said Alex Keesey, 18, an incoming freshman from Beloit. “I think it was robbery or murder, maybe both.’’

Comments like that can be a little jarring to older folks who imagine that everyone knows about the Simpson murder trial and subsequent acquittal. But if the generation gap has you down, get used to it. The list’s authors note that technology has only accelerated the pace of change.

Older Americans who read previous Mindset Lists felt that life was moving too quickly, list author Ron Nief said, and now even younger people share that sentiment.

“I talk to people in their early 30s and they’re telling me they can’t keep up with all the advances,’’ Nief said.

Nief’s coauthor, English professor Tom McBride, predicts the trend will only accelerate.

“If you look at the jump from e-mail to texting, or from e-mail to Facebook, it’s been faster than the jump from typing to computers,’’ McBride said.

But the list isn’t intended to serve as a cultural tombstone, its authors say, contending that the compilation also serves a practical purpose.

McBride and Nief say the main lesson professors should take from this year’s list is that their incoming students have never lived in a world without the Internet.

And while that was largely true for the last few classes as well, the authors say teachers need to be extra-vigilant about where this year’s students are going for information. top stories on Twitter

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