The College Mindset List: No Cursive Skills or Cold War Fears

BY Judy Woodruff  August 17, 2010 at 4:56 PM EDT

There are lists we like – the New York Times Best Sellers List comes to mind – and lists we can live without. Now comes a list guaranteed to make most of us feel — old. But still worth checking out. It’s the annual Beloit College “Mindset List” gleaned from the entering freshman class at that highly respected Wisconsin school. It began in 1998 as a reminder to faculty, Beloit says, to “be aware of dated references.” But it has become “a catalog of the rapidly changing worldview of each new generation.”

Even if you’ve spent time examining the younger generation – the so-called “Millennials” born after 1980 — and you know how different they are, in background, attitude, aptitude and interests – you may still be surprised at some of these 75 earmarks of the Class of 2014.

Most of those surveyed were born in 1992, so that explains why, in their minds: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, has always been a member of the Supreme Court. It also explains why they have never worried about a Russian missile strike on the United States.

And there are a few other historical markers that these 17-and 18-year-olds may not be expected to know about. For example, in their view: Dr. Jack Kevorkian has never been licensed to practice medicine, and John McEnroe has never played professional tennis.

But some characteristics of this cohort merit a moment of consideration: Few know how to write in cursive. (How do they write birthday present thank-you notes to grandmother?!) And: They view e-mail as “just too slow,” and they seldom if ever use snail mail. (So, do they text their thank-you messages? Or write on Granny’s Facebook page?)

The dominance of television news by the three broadcast networks passed while they were still in their cribs.

And an alert to politicians: a quarter of the Class of 2014 has at least one immigrant parent, so, not surprisingly, the immigration debate is not a big priority … unless, as Beloit puts it, “it involves ‘real’ aliens from another planet.”

Finally, on a reassuring note – with increasing numbers of ramps, Braille signs, and handicapped parking spaces, the world has always been trying harder to accommodate people with disabilities, according to these young people.

Perhaps the rest of us – the median age of Americans today is 36 – will find a way to accommodate these youngsters who have never seen a carousel of Kodachrome slides, unless they found one in their grandparents’ closet.

Follow Judy Woodruff on Twitter and find her Generation Next series here.