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Card catalog? For Class of '13, times are changin'

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Associated Press
August 18, 2009
— For most teens starting college this fall, rap music has always been mainstream, Mike Tyson has always been a felon, and wars have always unfolded on TV in real time.

Incoming freshmen never used a card catalog, never knew a world without the Cartoon Network, and never had to wait for the evening news to find out that evening's news.


Those are some of the 75 cultural landmarks on the Beloit College Mindset List. The 12th annual compilation, which offers a glimpse of the world through the eyes of each incoming class, was released Tuesday by this private school of 1,350 in southern Wisconsin.


The purpose of the list is to remind professors that references familiar to them might not be well known to students.


For example, people age 30 and older knew Magic Johnson as a Los Angeles Lakers star before he went public with news that he was HIV-positive in 1991 the year most incoming freshmen were born.


"I knew Magic was HIV-positive before I even knew he was a basketball player for the Lakers," said Anthony Cornell, 18, an incoming Beloit freshman from Dallas. "In fact, I heard that even before I knew what AIDS was."


It's among the reminders that different generations can hear the same reference and think two completely different things, said Tom McBride, an English professor at Beloit who helps compile the collection.


"This is not scientific research we're doing here, and some of the most important research you get here is the blank stare," said Ron Nief, emeritus public affairs director and one of the creators of the list. "My favorite one, when you say 'Here's Johnny,' and they didn't know who Johnny Carson was."


Many incoming freshmen also aren't familiar with the term RSVP, in part because of the generation's adoption of informality, Nief said: "When you say, 'make sure there's an RSVP on that,' there's that blank stare."


In perhaps a more stark example, two police officers in their 20s stopped Bob Dylan in a New Jersey shore community last month when a resident called to report someone wandering around the neighborhood.


"When he gave his name they had no idea who he was," McBride said. "That's a pretty dramatic example of how references change over time."


That incident was too recent to make this year's list but still shows how the times, they are a-changin'.


The Class of 2013 also has never known a world without the Internet, flat-screen TVs or chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream, according to the study.


The European Union has always been around, Margaret Thatcher has always been a former prime minister, the United Nations has had two Koreas and the KGB never officially existed.


Mike Collis, starting his freshman year at Beloit this fall, was struck by No. 53: "Someone has always been asking: 'Was Iraq worth a war?"' He was born the same year Desert Storm began.


"It makes us realize how long we've been in Iraq," said Collis, 18, from Chicago. "We never think about Bush (number) one, but Desert Storm was well into our preschool years."


Among other examples to make earlier generations feel old: actor Michael Landon, author Theodore Geisel (Dr. Seuss), Queen singer Freddie Mercury and "Star Trek" creator Gene Roddenberry all died before most members of the Class of '13 were born.


McBride said some people criticize the Mindset list because it makes them feel ancient. They shouldn't be concerned.


"It's not that they're getting old, it's that the culture changes very fast," said McBride, who is 64. "People feel out of it before they need to."


Beloit College's Mindset List for Class of 2013

Every year, Beloit College releases its Mindset List to give a snapshot of how incoming freshmen view the world. Most students in the Class of 2013 were born in 1991.


1. Author Theodore "Dr. Seuss" Geisel, Queen singer Freddie Mercury, "Star Trek" creator Gene Roddenberry, actor Michael Landon, Miles Davis, Martha Graham, Pan American Airways and The Dallas Times Herald have always been dead.


2. Dan Rostenkowski, Jack Kevorkian, and Mike Tyson have always been felons.


3. The "green giant" has always conjured up images of Shrek, not the big guy picking vegetables.


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


5. Margaret Thatcher has always been a former prime minister.


6. Salsa has always outsold ketchup.


7. Earvin "Magic" Johnson has always been HIV-positive.


8. Tattoos have always been very chic and highly visible.


9. They have been preparing for the arrival of HDTV all their lives.


10. Rap music has always been mainstream.


11. Chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream has always been a flavor choice.


12. Someone has always been building something taller than the Willis (formerly Sears) Tower in Chicago.


13. The KGB has never officially existed.


14. Text has always been hyper.


15. They never saw the "Scud Stud" (but there have always been electromagnetic stud finders).


16. Babies have always had a Social Security Number.


17. They have never had to "shake down" an oral thermometer.


18. Bungee jumping has always been socially acceptable.


19. They have never understood the meaning of RSVP.


20. American students have always lived anxiously with high-stakes educational testing.


21. Except for Barack Obama, the president has never inhaled. (Obama is the first president in their lifetime who admitted smoking marijuana.)


22. State abbreviations in addresses have never had periods.


23. The European Union has always existed.


24. McDonald's has always been serving Happy Meals in China.


25. Condoms have always been advertised on television.


26. Cable television systems have always offered telephone service and vice versa.


27. Christopher Columbus has always been getting a bad rap.


28. The American health care system has always been in critical condition.


29. Bobby Cox has always managed the Atlanta Braves.


30. Desperate smokers have always been able to turn to Nicoderm skin patches.


31. There has always been a Cartoon Network.


32. The nation's key economic indicator has always been the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).


33. Their folks could always reach for a Zoloft.


34. They have always been able to read books on an electronic screen.


35. Women have always outnumbered men in college.


36. They have always watched wars, coups, and police arrests unfold on television in real time.


37. Amateur radio operators have never needed to know Morse code.


38. Belarus, Moldova, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Armenia, Latvia, Georgia, Lithuania, and Estonia have always been independent nations.


39. It's always been official: President Zachary Taylor did not die of arsenic poisoning.


40. Madonna's perspective on Sex has always been well documented.


41. Phil Jackson has always been coaching championship basketball.


42. Ozzy Osbourne has always been coming back.


43. Kevin Costner has always been Dancing with Wolves, especially on cable.


44. There have always been flat-screen TVs.


45. They have always eaten Berry Berry Kix.


46. Disney's Fantasia has always been available on video, and It's a Wonderful Life has always been on Moscow television.


47. Smokers have never been promoted as an economic force that deserves respect.


48. Elite American colleges have never been able to fix the price of tuition.


49. Nobody has been able to make a deposit in the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI).


50. Everyone has always known what the evening news was before the Evening News came on.


51. Britney Spears has always been heard on classic rock stations.


52. They have never been Saved by the Bell


53. Someone has always been asking: "Was Iraq worth a war?"


54. Most communities have always had a mega-church.


55. Natalie Cole has always been singing with her father.


56. The status of gays in the military has always been a topic of political debate.


57. Elizabeth Taylor has always reeked of White Diamonds.


58. There has always been a Planet Hollywood.


59. For one reason or another, California's future has always been in doubt.


60. Agent Starling has always feared the Silence of the Lambs.


61. "Womyn" and "waitperson" have always been in the dictionary.


62. Members of Congress have always had to keep their checkbooks balanced since the closing of the House Bank.


63. There has always been a computer in the Oval Office.


64. CDs have never been sold in cardboard packaging.


65. Avon has always been "calling" in a catalog.


66. NATO has always been looking for a role.


67. Two Koreas have always been members of the UN.


68. Official racial classifications in South Africa have always been outlawed.


69. The NBC Today Show has always been seen on weekends.


70. Vice presidents of the United States have always had real power. (They are most aware of Vice Presidents Al Gore and Dick Cheney, who were given distinct responsibilities by the presidents they served under.)


71. Conflict in Northern Ireland has always been slowly winding down.


72. Migration of once independent media like radio, TV, videos and compact discs to the computer has never amazed them.


73. Nobody has ever responded to "Help, I've fallen and I can't get up."


74. Congress could never give itself a midterm raise.


75. There has always been blue Jell-O.


Source: Beloit College.

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