Things that have always been true for the class of 2011

Beloit College has just published its 10th annual "Mindset List," detailing a list of significant things that have been true for the whole lives of the 1990-born Class of 2011. Here's my favorite skiffy/Christ-I'm-old bits:
1. The Soviet Union has never existed and therefore is about as scary as the student union.
3. For most of their lives, major U.S. airlines have been bankrupt.
12. Smoking has never been permitted on U.S. airlines.
23. Bar codes have always been on everything, from library cards and snail mail to retail items.
33. They have no idea why we needed to ask "...can we all get along?"
Link (via Charlie!)

(Photo: teen requisite, a Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike photo from Vidrio's Flickr stream)


  1. I take issue with #40. I graduated in ’97 and annoyed my parents with the Beavis and Butthead laugh a few years before that.

  2. So you’re saying your experience isn’t drastically different from that of people who were born a whole two years after you?

  3. “So you’re saying your experience isn’t drastically different from that of people who were born a whole two years after you?”

    amazingly no, LOL

  4. #2 – Agree with you there.

    “U2 is more than a spy plane”–I would imagine it would be so for anyone born after, oh, about 1982 or 83.

    “Music has always been unplugged” – wha? The great era of “unplugged” was the early ’90s. I haven’t heard this term in ages–unless they’re referring to iPods and the like (which are just the descendants of the Walkman)….

    “Michael Moore has always been angry and funny.” What was he before? Moral Majority member?? Even before Roger and Me (1989), he was essentially the same guy.

    “Off the hook” – people do still leave their phones “off the hook” – even if there is often no longer a hook. Doubt if the class of 2011 would miss that one.

    “The world wide web has always been an online tool since they were born.” yeah, technically. I doubt any of them would recognize the WWW of the pre-Mosaic age. I remember reading it with a text based browser in 1993 and not being terribly impressed.

  5. Generally speaking, the people I know that are my age and who have kids, have some really spoiled kids. Makes me hate them for raising such rotten little shits. Too much stuff does not make for better children.

  6. read of a few of the list (including the one for my age group 06). a good deal of the items appear on multiple lists, some of them are flat out wrong. It seems to assume that people are completely unaware of the world around them prior to middle school, and that that pop culture doesn’t hang around at all.

    besides that most of the lists seem to boil down to “hey they aren’t baby boomers!” or “HEY they missed the sixties”. i get the feeling these things are put together by a bunch of aging college professors with little knowledge of whats since 1980.

  7. Being a member of the Class of ’11 myself (UK- not USA), I’ve got to say that the list’s not as out of touch as it might seem.

    The majority of folks nowdays just don’t *care* about these things. The USSR’s the most significant part of that list, I’d say – out of my entire year at school, I’d say that perhaps less than a half have even the faintest inkling of just what the Soviet Union was, what it stood for, and what it meant to the Western World. The “There were two Germanys?!” question that seems to come up whenever a reference to the GDR/FDR split is made just highlights how little most people care about the history of the world.

    Perfectly natural, if somewhat sad.

    I can only speak from the perspective of the United Kingdom, though. The situation in America might be rather different.

  8. These lists are intended to give faculty a snapshot of the mindset of incoming students, and they do that well. Frankly, I’m surprised at the nit-picking.

    My only regret is that I didn’t take a class with Tom McBride when I was at Beloit.

  9. #12

    Its much worse than the UK, most people around my age don’t even know who or what the USSR is, I remember a local new channel went around asking teenagers common history questions like “who where the soviets” or “who was joseph stalin” and ALL of them where completely clueless.

  10. I’m amused by this. I shall be of the class of 2014 and yet I still “rolled down” a window and was in France when people were smoking in public places.

    Otherwise, it’s actually relatively accurate. A lot of people, as said a bit earlier, just don’t care about lots of these things much anymore.

  11. #13

    My problem with this list is that it pigeonholes a whole generation into a certain mindset and level of knowledge, assuming none of them are familiar with even recent history. The whole list reads with a derogatory and dismissive tone to me, as well as being largely inaccurate and anachronistic. For example, they reference the 1989 film ‘Batman’ as these kids’ only exposure to Jack Nicholson as if he hasn’t been in a million films during these kids’ lifetimes; they seem to think that people who were five years old at the time were huge ‘Beavis and Butthead’ fans; Ditto to ‘Wayne’s World’, which was a sketch in the 80s and whose film was released when these kids were two. The list goes on and on from there; if you’re going to assume that kids are fluent in media from before they were born, why not assume they have a basic knowledge of history as well?

    This list seems much more interested in masturbatory generational self-congratulation than actually informing faculty about these kids’ mindset. If they were serious, they’d get a well-educated 18-year old versed in 60s trivia to write this list instead of a hopelessly out of touch baby boomer.

  12. I’m an alum of Beloit College, and this has definitely been around longer than 10 years. I don’t believe it’s compiled in the conviction that most college freshmen honestly believe certain things have “always been,” much less are starkly ignorant of information about that which predates them. The professor most in charge of it, Tom McBride, teaches courses in rhetoric; this is intended less as a “these kids today” fuddyduddydom as it is to incite dialogue as a socialization device.

    I do wonder sometimes whether less curious types who might be surveying colleges mightn’t believe that Beloit students are somehow less informed than the average college freshman. But then, less curious types seem to be less in danger of surveying colleges in the first place.

  13. I was going to say that most people born in 1990 will NOT graduate college in 2011, but at the link, they say most were born in 1989. So they might be on track, as long as they don’t have to take a year off to earn money. But still, most of the kids in my daughter’s fifth-grade class are a year older than normal, having been held back by their parents at one point or another. I also read somewhere that the average college student takes five years to graduate, although that surely averages in those on the decade plan.

    Well now I’m curious, and have to go look up some stats.

  14. It reminds me of an email forward. One of those, “You grew up in the 90’s if…” lists, but instead of a nostalgic quality it suggests that we are ignorant of everything that happened before we were born. I can see the appeal of wanting to see where younger people are coming from, but hope that nobody will take this list as a scholarly list rather than something just for fun.

  15. As another Beloit alumna, I remember being confused by this list when I was made aware of it my first year there – confused because I was NOT, as the list seemingly implied, unaware of those cultural touch points. In the following years, I’ve vacillated between amusement and annoyance with regard to its existence. I think License (#17) is right about McBride’s intent, but that Hemi (#13) is correct in a way – the list is picked up by non-Beloit sources and frequently reprinted in exactly that manner.

    To any other Beloiters out there – How much do you think #63 comes out of of Tom McBride’s interactions with BSFFA members?

  16. OMG! Kids today have no idea how to thresh wheat by hand! They have bikes with rubber tires! They don’t know ANYONE who died of cholera! Their shoes come in “lefts” and “rights”! Steam engines! It’s amazing!

  17. you want to really,really wind them kids up? Just tell them in lofty tones:”You just don’t understand computers”

  18. #20 Wow, I had almost forgotten about BSF^2A! I was a member the first year we had our own special interest housing – I’m not sure that was a good idea on the part of the administration. ;-)

    do you mean:

    63. Avatars have nothing to do with Hindu deities.

    I think he’s reffering to Avatars of the forum and MMORPG world type.

    #21 – for the last time it does have a steam engine to be steampunk . . oh . . .sorry . .wrong thread.

  19. They should have added: “They’ve never known a president who wasn’t named Bush or Clinton.”

  20. It’s just that they’ve run out of interesting points. Wolf Blitzer, Multigrain Chips, Rusty Jones? Who cares?

    The 2002 list is a lot more compelling (or disturbing). I understand that we all have cultural knowledge that pre-dates our existence, but it can be shocking to realize how quickly things change and we get beyond significant events and movements.

    I personally love asking people under 20 why we say “dial” a phone number. Blank stares.

  21. whenever i video chat with my 3 year old niece on skype i marvel that this will be something she takes for granted later on.

    makes me want to make a list of things my generation takes for granted, eg: “TV has always been in color”…


  22. This reminds me of when I came back to Poland in 1995 after being abroad for four years. It was like going back in time. Suddenly I was yanked out of the affluent and consumptionist West and dropped back into a world with no multiplex cinemas, no free plastic bags in grocery stores, no shopping malls…

  23. I was in the class of ’02. For fun my biology teacher read us our list. He gave us an opportunity to argue the statements. It turned out that thanks to the power of television reruns and old movies available for rent, we had a pretty solid mental image of how life had looked when bottle caps were not plastic screw-offs and before the day of music on CD. Thanks to Pink Floyd we were well aware that there had once been only “13 channels of shit on the TV to chose from.” None of that had been lost with with us.

    In other news, the photo illustrating this article looks like every photo taken of me or my friends during high school.

  24. These mindset lists tend to sugges that we’ve always lived in the year we graduated in. For the 2004 list (the year I graduated), it says, for example, we’ve “always” known the song American Pie to be sung by Madonna. Whaaat? We grew up in the 80s, raised by baby boomers, we’re not ignorant of everything that came before the 21st century. And not everyone grew up with cutting-edge technology in their house. We had a rotary phone in our kitchen until 2004. And it was cool.

    Also for the 2004 grads it says we’ve “never” used a bottle of White-Out. Not a fan of the “never” and “always” superlatives.

  25. Apparently I’m out of touch. What does

    22 No one has ever been able to sit down comfortably to a meal of “liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti.”

    even mean? Why ever can’t you eat these things? Does the US not have butchers? Fava beans? Chianti?

  26. #35:
    It’s a silence of the lambs reference. Which, again, is insulting, essentially saying that no 18-year olds can be bothered to see or know about classic films. What’s perplexing is that they assume that this 1991 classic film is unheard of among 18-year-olds but the 1991 film ‘Wayne’s World’ is greatly respected and admired to the point of annoying over quotation. That’s really inconsistent; This list looks like it was thrown together haphazardly by someone who doesn’t have a very good idea of when anything happened.

  27. I’m one of those mentioned kids from the class of 2011, and we’re all 88-89ers except for the kids who skipped or were held back.

    Anyway, beyond that:

    #1 – “What Berlin wall?” — As far as I can tell, all they say is that we’ve never “known” the Berlin wall. Because unless the American public school system has failed everywhere but my high school, they know what the cold war was.

    #4 – “They never “rolled down” a car window.” —
    I drive a 1996 Chevrolet Lumina with roll down windows, all though I gotta admit people do have trouble the first time they try to roll down the windows and instead lock the doors.

    #22 – No one has ever been able to sit down comfortably to a meal of “liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti.” — What teenager doesn’t like a good horror movie?

    #55 – MTV has never featured music videos. –Yeah, because TRL was such a massive failure.

  28. my daughter is 12, and has never known a time without the simpsons. they’ve simply always been there.

    re the list: i have no problem with this. it’s good for people to remind themselves every so often that people born at different times from themselves will, by and large, have had different cultural experiences. sure there’ll always be exceptions, but even though (for example) i’m familiar with a bunch of 60s garage rock and psychedelia, it’d be a mistake for a baby-boomer to assume that i was.

    the alternative is assuming that other people care about the same cultural objects (i’m including historical events in this category) as you do, and that’s way more annoying.

  29. I was a victim of a ton of these, in the CLASS OF 2000 (you have to say that in a science-fiction voice, similar to Conan O’Brien’s IN THE YEAR 2000, for full effect) and nearly all of the most-repeated ones were all totally wrong for me. It was frankly insulting.

    Also… I still roll down my car windows… maybe the people who make these lists drive new every two… I don’t.

  30. I’m 34 and I had no idea who Rusty Jones was until I just looked it up on Wikipedia. Oh, I see, it’s for rustproofing cars. That’s never something people’ve had to worry about here. It’s not just generational differences, but geographical.

  31. “The Soviet Union has never existed and therefore is about as scary as the student union.”

    That made no sense at all. By the time I was born, Nazi Germany hadn’t existed for almost three decades but any regime that can murder people that efficiently is scary as hell, especially since the fall of the USSR has not necessarily led to liberal democracy in all of its former purview. Last time I checked, a former KGB operative still dominates Russia.

  32. I believe that

    #22 – No one has ever been able to sit down comfortably to a meal of “liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti.”

    does not mean “these kids do not know about the Silence of the Lambs” but rather “they ALL know about the movie, and cannot COMFORTABLY eat such a meal as it will inevitably remind them of the movie in which these things are referenced associated with the eating of human liver by a psychopath.” – Hence, implying that this meal combo has all but disappeared because of the widely spread pop culture reference.

    In France, there’s been a terrible scandal regarding the tragic murder of a little kid called Gregory when I was myself a kid; for years and years after that the number of newborns called “Gregory” was close to null. #22 alludes to that kind of cultural development, and has simply been misread.

  33. They obviously forgot:

    71. Music, movies, and microcode have always been free, delivered pizza however (even after thirty minutes wait) must always be paid for.

  34. They obviously forgot:

    71. Music, movies, and microcode have always been free, delivered pizza however (even after thirty minutes wait) must always be paid for.

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