How far we’ve come, how far we have to go

Each August a small college in Wisconsin releases its look at the cultural touchstones that have shaped the lives of students about to enter college. Here’s what I’ve learned from the list.


This is an important week.

Beloit College, a small college in Wisconsin, releases its annual Mindset List, a compilation of the events, values, and pop culture that have helped shape the lives of incoming students. Two Beloit College staff members created the Mindset List in 1998 as a witty way of connecting faculty and students. The list began as a simple email chain and has grown with coverage from worldwide media to an annual event.

Last year, the list highlighted that the “class of 2019 were mostly born in 1997 and have never licked a postage stamp, have assumed that Wi-Fi is an entitlement, and have no first-hand experience of Princess Diana’s charismatic celebrity.”

The list also pointed out that:

–Google has always existed in their lifetime.

–Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic have always been members of NATO.

–TV has always been in such high definition that they could see the pores of actors and the grimaces of quarterbacks.

–CNN has always been available en Espanol.

–Their parents have gone from encouraging them to use the Internet to begging them to get off it.

–Cell phones have become so ubiquitous in class that teachers don’t know which students are using them to take notes and which ones are planning a party.

Touchstones in context

I find the list interesting. Yes, it’s a reminder that I’m getting older.

Stamps. Heck I pay most of my bills online now and find that I’m using stamps less and less frequently. When I do use one, I’m always amazed at how cool it is that I don’t have to lick them. Poland & Czechoslovakia. When I think of those two countries, I still think of the red menace. I’m stuck in some 70’s movie worried about the Cold War and powerful Russians out to get the rest of the free world. Yes, I’m most certainly stuck in the past.

A shared history

No, the list is a great reminder that things that I take as common knowledge and common experiences aren’t so common.

Everyone remembers the sadness we all felt when the Challenger fell out of the sky, when terrorists attacked the Twin Towers, when Ronald Reagan was shot, right? Or what about the joy when the Phillies won the World Series breaking the losing spell that hung over the city; when the United States Hockey Team won the Miracle on Ice at the Winter Olympics in Lake Placid; when Muhammad Ali ruled the boxing world and well beyond?  

No, no, these aren’t so common. Like the saying goes, “time waits for no man.” We all have our own points of reference. I like that these Mindset Lists show how far we’ve come, so I’ll definitely be pouring over the new 2020 list.

An early look: The class of 2020 has never had to watch or listen to programs at a scheduled time (thank you DVR); Ebay has always existed; and the U.S. has always been at war.


3 thoughts on “How far we’ve come, how far we have to go

Add yours

  1. This was really interesting. Amazing the things we take for granted believing that the younger generations know or are familiar with this and that. Am I really really that old or are they just that young? Barney


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