Many years ago ... I can actually pinpoint this, it would have been the spring of 1991 ... I was a TA for fellow grad student Pete Richardson, a terrific teacher and friend. One day, Pete was talking about the movie Body Heat, and as he spoke, he could see by the expression on the students' faces that they didn't get the reference. C'mon, he said, you all know Body Heat! One of the students asked him when it was released ... 1981, he replied. What was it rated, the student wanted to know. Oh, it was rated "R", he said. Upon hearing that, the student noted that she was only eight years old when the movie came out ... they wouldn't have even let her into the theater without her parents.
I was reminded of this when the latest "Mindset List" arrived in my email box today. This list, released annually, offers "the experiences that have shaped the lives–and formed the mindset—of students starting their post-secondary education this fall." It "is not a chronological listing of things that happened in 1990, the year they were born. It is instead an effort to identify the worldview of 18 year-olds in the fall of 2008." It makes more sense once you look at the list. It's interesting for more than just teachers, I think, but it's designed in part to help us get a feel for the cultural context of our new students, and to recognize areas where we might make "Body Heat assumptions" about what our students have experienced. Here are some highlights ... these are items about people who were born in 1990.
For these students, Sammy Davis Jr., Jim Henson, Ryan White, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Freddy Krueger have always been dead.
GPS satellite navigation systems have always been available.
Martha Stewart Living has always been setting the style.
WWW has never stood for World Wide Wrestling.
Films have never been X rated, only NC-17.
The Warsaw Pact is as hazy for them as the League of Nations was for their parents.
Clarence Thomas has always sat on the Supreme Court.
IBM has never made typewriters.
There has always been Pearl Jam.
The Tonight Show has always been hosted by Jay Leno and started at 11:35 EST.
Lenin’s name has never been on a major city in Russia.
Employers have always been able to do credit checks on employees.
Caller ID has always been available on phones.
They never heard an attendant ask “Want me to check under the hood?”