Having two college students, I’ve come to realize that technology does not simply inform young people’s lives now; it defines their lives.
Today, when my teens and I search for a movie, I reach for the newspaper and they reach for their laptops. (In defense of my primitive ways, I often open to the movie listings and find a theater while their computers are still loading.)
I chatted with a young college professor a few days ago about the resistance of older faculty to technology, some of whom dismiss it as a distraction rather than a fact of life. We discussed how not incorporating technology into classrooms is akin to forcing students to write with a quill pen and ink or teaching classes by oil lamp rather than electric lights.
A story today in the AJC talks about this new reality of today’s college freshmen.
Here is part of the story:
Mention Amazon to the incoming class of college freshmen and they are more likely to think of shopping than the South American river. PC doesn’t stand for political correctness and breaking up on Facebook is more common than any more personal encounter.
These are among the 75 references on this year’s Beloit College Mindset List, a compilation intended to remind teachers that college freshmen born mostly in 1993 see the world in a much different way: They fancied pogs and Tickle Me Elmo toys as children, watched televisions that never had dials and their lives have always been like a box of chocolates.
Once upon a time, relatives of the current generation swore never to trust anyone over the age of 30. This group could argue: Never trust anyone older than the Net.
The college’s compilation, released Tuesday, is assembled each year by two officials at the private school in southeastern Wisconsin. It also has evolved into a national phenomenon, a cultural touchstone that entertains even as it makes people wonder where the years have gone.
Remember when the initials LBJ referred to President Lyndon B. Johnson? Today, according to the list, they make teenagers think of NBA star LeBron James. And speaking of NBA legends, these kids didn’t want to be like Mike. They fawned over Shaq and Kobe. Then there’s OJ Simpson. These students were still in diapers when the former NFL star began searching for the killers of Nicole Simpson and Ronald Goldman.
“Hmm, I know there was some scandal about him,” said Alex Keesey, 18, an incoming freshman from Beloit. “I think it was robbery or murder, maybe both.”
Comments like that can be a little jarring to older folks who imagine that everyone knows about the Simpson murder trial and subsequent acquittal. But if the generation gap has you down, get used to it. The list’s authors note that technology has only accelerated the pace of change and further compressed the generational divide.
Older Americans who read previous Mindset Lists felt that life was moving too quickly, list author Ron Nief said, and now even younger people share that sentiment.
“I talk to people in their early 30s and they’re telling me they can’t keep up with all the advances,” Nief said.
Nief’s co-author, English professor Tom McBride, predicts the trend will only accelerate. “If you look at the jump from email to texting, or from email to Facebook, it’s been faster than the jump from typing to computers,” McBride said. “These generational gaps are getting smaller.”
Still not feeling old? Consider this: Andre the Giant, River Phoenix and Frank Zappa all died before these students were born. They don’t know what a Commodore 64 was, and they don’t understand why Boston barflies would ever shout, “Norm!”
Oh, and Ferris Bueller could be their father.
–Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog