Every year since 1998, Beloit College in Wisconsin has published a ‘Mindset List’ for the incoming class of freshman who aim to graduate four years later. The list compiles a set of cultural touchstones that set the new generation apart and also serves as a sort of reality check for older generations who view the youth of the day with the same questioning eye that was once cast their way.
But time marches on, and references to Monty Python skits and the origin of Biblical quotations like ‘‘forbidden fruit,’’ ‘'the writing on the wall,’’ “good Samaritan,’’ and ‘‘the promised land’’ may largely be lost on the incoming college freshman class of 2016.
These youths, born around 1994, are more attuned to things like The Daily Show, and they’re constantly connected via technology - and can’t remember a time when they weren’t. In their lifetimes Los Angeles has never had a professional football team.
Quentin Tarantino’s genre-redefining crime flick Pulp Fiction is as old as they are. For those about to sit down in their first college classroom, Academy Award- winning actor Robert De Niro is a Focker and not a Corleone, taxi driver or boxer.
What will be the unifying cultural events for the class of 2016? How do we decide what’s important for the new generations to know?
Karen Sternheimer, sociologist at USC; her most recent book is “Celebrity Culture and the American Dream” (Routledge 2011)
Ron Nief, Director Emeritus of Public Affairs at Beloit College which has published “The Mindset List” since 1998; co-author of “The Mindset Lists of American History: From Typewriters to Text Messages, What Ten Generations of Americans Think is Normal” (John Wiley and Sons 2011)