Thursday, September 04, 2003

Dude, that's a great Turtles shirt 

Remember the profs you had when you were in school who'd shake their heads and say "who remembers Vietman?" I'm feeling that now. Beloit College puts out a Mindset List of cultural references of college freshmen. Here are my favorite five of the fifty.
  1. They never heard Howard Cosell call a game on ABC. (Somehow this is a problem?)
  2. Computers have always fit in their backpacks.(My first course in Fortran was done on the college's mainframe that took care of grades, registration and bills -- damned near killed it one night, which might explain my lone 'D' in my career.)
  3. Banana Republic has always been a store, not a puppet government in Latin America. (So much for 'Bananas' and most of the funnier Woody Allen movies.)
  4. There has always been some association between fried eggs and your brain. (Yup, two every morning makes you smart!)
  5. Russian leaders have always looked like leaders everyplace else. (You mean they all dance like Yeltsin?)
I put that last for a reason. I have occasionally taught Soviet Studies in no small part to show the horrors of what had happened and how many had died as a result. Increasingly this is a dim memory for them. "Where were you when the Wall fell?" gets mostly the reaction "Which wall?" Our entering freshmen were four and five when the tanks rolled in Tiananmen. As says Prof. Tom McBride, co-editor of Beloit's list, it is a major challenge for us to find new ways to teach the victory and horror of the 20th century to those who will live in the 21st.
The Mindset List, among other things, is a reminder of that world�a world that makes education a tougher yet more fascinating job than ever. In saying hello to the new generation, which they labor mightily to understand, but with mixed results, they are saying good-bye to themselves. There is something of wicked and addictive interest in that. I myself am part of that very generation. There is, for me, a bittersweet pleasure in knowing that Cherry Cokes didn�t always come in cans and there are millions of first-year students who will never know how delicious it was when it didn�t.
The Beloit press release also quotes The New Yorker, "Each generation brings a clean slate into the world. But the world itself is not a clean slate, and what happened before needs to be learned and remembered.� Indeed. [Hat tip: Betsy's Page.]