Columnist

What Would They Do Without Cell Phones?

Good to be King
By King Harris

If you’ve never plugged into the Beloit College Mindset List, you are missing a fascinating glimpse of how the world is perceived by kids entering the halls of higher education.
The list, which was created in 1998 by two professors at the small college in Wisconsin, was initially formed as a reminder to faculty to be aware of dated references. Since then, it has become a monitored catalogue of the changing worldview of each new college generation.
To some it’s absorbing, to others it’s frightening. To me it’s always been incomprehensible, which just basically means that I’m getting older much more rapidly than I’d like, trying to deal with the lightening changes taking place within our culture.
I recall, and not so long ago, teaching my parents how to operate their VCRs. Today, I can hardly take a step without getting instructions from a youngster as to how to text or tweet. This year’s freshman class of 2012 was born in 1994, well beyond the times of VCRs.
Want to know how fast 18 years can pass you by? Here’s a partial list of the Beloit survey:
For this generation of entering college students, born in 1994, Kurt Cobain, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Richard Nixon and John Wayne Gacy have always been dead. Yeah, but unlike Jackie and Dick, they know who Kurt Cobain was).
They have always lived in cyberspace, addicted to a new generation of “electronic narcotics.” Which means not one single kid is without a smart phone.
The Biblical sources of terms such as “Forbidden Fruit,” “The writing on the wall,” “Good Samaritan,” and “The Promised Land” are unknown to most of them. I hope this isn’t true for the Ten Commandments.
Michael Jackson’s family, not the Kennedys, constitutes “American Royalty.” I hope this doesn’t indicate they know nothing of two assassinations and one infamous bridge.
If they miss The Daily Show, they can always get their news on YouTube. And when they do watch Jon Stewart, they won’t view it on TV, as you’ll see, coming up.
Their lives have been measured in the fundamental particles of life: bits, bytes, and bauds. Which is why they look down all the time, as opposed to straight ahead.
Bill Clinton is a senior statesman of whose presidency they have little knowledge. Except for Monica.
They have never seen an airplane “ticket.” As a matter of fact, neither have I because I can’t afford to travel.
The paradox “too big to fail” has been, for their generation, what “we had to destroy the village in order to save it” was for their grandparents’. No Catch 22 here.
They can’t picture people actually carrying luggage through airports rather than rolling it. Or if there’s any such thing other than carry-on luggage.
There has always been football in Jacksonville but never in Los Angeles. And they probably don’t care.
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. Being a radio broadcaster, I take offense to this.
Since they’ve been born, the United States has measured progress by a 2-percent jump in unemployment and a 16-cent rise in the price of a first class postage stamp. No matter. They have never used stamps.
Their folks have never gazed with pride on a new set of bound encyclopedias on the bookshelf. Anything they need to know is in their hand.
Exposed bra straps have always been a fashion statement, not a wardrobe malfunction to be corrected quietly by well-meaning friends. Same with holes in blue jeans, I suppose.
A significant percentage of them will enter college already displaying some hearing loss. No wonder. The Who and Rolling Stones have been around since 1964.
They have lived in an era of instant stardom and self-proclaimed celebrities, famous for being famous. I’ll take Justin Bieber over Donald Trump any day.
Star Wars has always been just a film, not a defense strategy. And Spock was never a doctor.
They have had to incessantly remind their parents not to refer to their CDs and DVDs as “tapes.” And stereos are not Victrolas.
The folks have always been able to grab an Aleve when the kids started giving them a migraine. And drugs have always been advertised on television.
They watch television everywhere but on a television. They’ll discover flat screens as soon as they’re old enough to drink in a bar.
Point-and-shoot cameras are soo… last millennium. Can you imagine them using a Polaroid?
Despite being preferred urban gathering places, two-thirds of the independent bookstores in the United States have closed for good during their lifetimes. A novel experience no more, unfortunately.
Probably the most tribal generation in history, they despise being separated from contact with their similar-aged friends. Life without Facebook? Not a chance.
While I can appreciate the collective consciousness of kids who are off to college, my hope is that A: they learn a sense of history in their next four years, and that B: there is a job waiting for them after they graduate.
And that some tune into the radio once in a while, so I’m not put out of work.

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