Many of this year's college freshman — including those at UTC and UTK — have started classes. Others will begin this or next week. Almost all will embark on their career in higher education by mid-September. Whatever their destination or schedule, the freshmen — the class of 2016 — have shared many of the same experiences.
Most were born in 1994 and entered young adulthood in the 21st not the 20th century. Those who teach them, however, have different frames of reference — a generation gap. There are ways, however, to minimize the gap. One of the most interesting and most anticipated is the annual Beloit College Mindset List. The list is more than a collection of one-liners. It is in a very real way a useful bridge between the various generations that share campuses across the nation.
Here are highlights from the list for the current freshman class:
• Kurt Cobain, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Richard Nixon and John Wayne Gacy have always been dead.
• The Biblical sources of terms such as "Forbidden Fruit," "The writing on the wall," "Good Samaritan," and "The Promised Land" are unknown to most of them.
• Their lives have been measured in the fundamental particles of life: bits, bytes, and bauds.
• Robert De Niro is thought of as Greg Focker's long-suffering father-in-law, not as Vito Corleone or Jimmy Conway.
• Bill Clinton is a senior statesman of whose presidency they have little knowledge.
• For most of their lives, maintaining relations between the U.S. and the rest of the world has been a woman's job in the State Department.
• They can't picture people actually carrying luggage through airports rather than rolling it.
• Benjamin Braddock, having given up both a career in plastics and a relationship with Mrs. Robinson, could be their grandfather.
• Exposed bra straps have always been a fashion statement, not a wardrobe malfunction to be corrected quietly by well-meaning friends.
• A significant percentage of them will enter college already displaying some hearing loss.
• Women have always piloted war planes and space shuttles.
• There have always been blue M&Ms, but no tan ones.
• Slavery has always been unconstitutional in Mississippi, and Southern Baptists have always been apologizing for supporting it in the first place.
• There has always been a Santa Clause.
• Herr Schindler has always had a List; Mr. Spielberg has always had an Oscar.
• History has always had its own channel.
The list is a reminder of the passage of time and of the need to build connections between generations.