At the beginning of each fall semester, professors turn to the Beloit (Wis.) College Mindset List to learn more about the 18-year-olds coming on to campus. One of the list's creators, Tom McBride, visited The Early Show in 2002 to talk about that year's list and how it has changed over the years.
The young people pouring onto college campuses in September 2002, he pointed out, have always had a Southerner as president and have always been able to get TV weather reports 24 hours a day.
The list, he says, began as one way to bridge the generation gap.
"We wanted to accomplish a dialogue with our first-year students. We wanted them to tell us if the list was right or wrong or a fair representation of their generation. We wanted to start a dialogue with non-students outside the school as to what we see are the generational changes and hallmarks. We wanted to start a conversation of social change," says McBride.
After the first list was compiled, Beloit's public affairs director, Ron Nief, was contacted by the Wall Street Journal to confirm the validity of the list and things just took off from there.
To create the list, McBride says, school officials research what was going on in the country and the world when these students were born in 1983-1984.
"We do some research and go through old newspapers, books and get on the Internet," says McBride. "We try to recreate the ambiance of 1983-1984 and a bit beyond. We try to find facts that seem to be significant and interesting about a particular trend or direction of social change."
After gathering the information they come up with 100 to 150 items for the list; then, they go over them and try to come up with a top 50. "And that will be those things that we consider to be most significant and indicative of this generations social values," he says.
As somebody who has taught 18- to 22-year-olds for some time, McBride says he is more astonished each year by the social change and the fact that high schools don't provide more perspective on these things. "But I try to understand that every generation has a set of events that define them and once upon a time I (Tom McBride) had a limited social and cultural horizon."
Here is a partial list for the class of 2006:
- A Southerner has always been President of the United States.
- Richard Burton, Ricky Nelson and Truman Capote have always been dead.
- South Africa's official policy of apartheid has not existed during their lifetime.
- Cars have always had eye-level rear stop lights, CD player, and air bags.
- We have always been able to choose our long-distance carriers.
- Weather reports have always been available 24 hours a day on television.
- The "evil empire" has moved from Moscow to a setting in some distant galaxy.
- "Big Brother" is merely a television show.
- Cyberspace has always existed.
- Bruce Springsteen's hit "Born in the USA" could have been played to celebrate their birth.
- Barbie has always had a job.
- Telephone bills have always been totally incomprehensible.
- Prom dresses have always come in basic black.
- A "Hair Band" is some sort of fashion accessory.
- George Foreman has always been a barbecue grill salesman
- Afghanistan has always been a front page story.
- There has always been an heir to the heir to the British throne.
- They have no recollection of Connie Chung or Geraldo Rivera as serious journalists.
- Peter Jennings, Dan Rather, and Tom Brokaw have always anchored the evening news.
- China has always been a market-based reforming regime.