18+ Surprising Things That 18-Year-Olds Find Normal

No matter how much I try, I’m amazed each August when the Beloit College Mindset List is released. And this year’s list for the Class of 2015 is no exception.

The list has been compiled since 1998 by Beloit’s former Public Affairs Director Ron Nief and Keefer Professor of the Humanities Tom McBride. Coincidentally, they just released a new book The Mindset Lists of American History and the subtitle says it all: From Typewriters to Text Messages, What Ten Generations of Americans Think Is Normal.

Originally intended to remind college professors that their students are from a different generation not a distant planet, the list is an intriguing, and sometimes cruel, reminder that we’re getting older. “We” for this example includes Veterans (born prior to 1946), Baby Boomers (1946-1964), and much to their chagrin Generation X (1965-1979). What’s important, each generation considers their experiences and values normal. Unfortunately what is normal for a Baby Boomer is just history for the Millennials. And what is normal for Millennials seems quaint and even trivial to generations that passed before them.

This year’s “Mindset List” again includes life shaping experiences that are part of a Baby Boomer’s or Generation’s DNA but is totally irrelevant for the college freshmen, the class of 2015 mostly born in 1993. As the survey suggests, this younger generation hasn’t the foggiest idea about what older generations are talking about when they we say “I remember when….” For Baby Boomers, the list is a harsh reminder about how much times have changed in just 40 years.

Consider this: Back in the ’60s, people pulled up to the gas pump and get 3 gallons of gas plus change, a windshield wash, and oil check (gas was only 31 cents a gallon). You could also send letters to 20 friends for $1 or send 25 postcards. And if you stopped by the grocery store, you could purchase a gallon of milk for 95 cents; a Pound of sirloin steak for 85 cents; and a six-pack of Pepsi for 59 cents. And remember that media called the newspaper? You could get the New York Times for 10 cents from Monday through Saturday. And if you splurged you could spend 30 cents for the Sunday edition! For today’s 18-year-old, this isn’t recent history – it’s almost fiction.

Flash forward to the Millennials entering college this week. Among other things, a river in South America is not the first thing they think of when they hear the word Amazon; there always has been an Internet ramp onto the information highway; “PC” doesn’t stand for “political correctness”; they’ve never touched a “dial” on a TV; LBJ stands for LeBron James and music has always been available via free downloads.

Here’s 18 more things a few more things that 18 year olds starting college this month find normal:

1. Andre the Giant, River Phoenix, Frank Zappa, Arthur Ashe and the Commodore 64 have always been dead.

2. States and Velcro parents have always required that they wear their bike helmets.

3. The only significant labor disputes in their lifetimes have been in major league sports.

4. There have always been at least two women on the Supreme Court, and women have always commanded U.S. Navy ships.

5. “Don’t touch that dial!”….what dial?

6. Refer to LBJ, and they might assume you’re talking about LeBron James.

7. They’ve always gone to school with Mohammed and Jesus.

8. The Rocky Horror Picture Show has always been available on TV.

9. Arnold Palmer has always been a drink.

10. Dial-up is soooooooooo last century!

11. Their older siblings have told them about the days when Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake and Christina Aguilera were Mouseketeers.

12. Music has always been available via free downloads.

13. Sears has never sold anything out of a Big Book that could also serve as a doorstop.

14. They’ve always wanted to be like Shaq or Kobe: Michael (Jordan) Who?

15. They’ve often broken up with their significant others via texting, Facebook, or MySpace.

16. Their parents sort of remember Woolworths as this store that used to be downtown.

17. They won’t go near a retailer that lacks a website.

18. “PC” has come to mean Personal Computer, not Political Correctness.

Read the rest of the 2015 Beloit College Mindset List.


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