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August 17 2010

Buffy and the Class of 2014 mindset. Buffy makes the Beloit College Mindset List for the Class of 2014 at #6...

...The list is intended to indicate cultural markers that entering college students are or are not generally familiar with. Note that the makers of the list seem to be aware only with the BtVS movie!

Oh, the movie. I was thrown by "Hemery High."

I know the cursive thing is true. My daughter recently took the SAT test, and there's some kind of honesty pledge or something at the beginning that you're supposed to copy in cursive (for ID purposes). She said some of the kids (17-year-olds) at the test center were complaining that they didn't know enough cursive to copy the sentences. Perfectly understandable, and yet (to me) shocking.
Lists like these are condescending in many ways. I mean, "married in space"? Not to mention the inaccuracies in the Buffy reference. Self-styled adults smirking down at 18-year-olds, and usually getting 60% of it wrong.

And cursive is a great way of taking notes so that's a lost skill which has no reason to be lost.
*hobbles into thread* Kids these days! ;) I don't think you can really sum up an entire generation like this, and that's one reason these lists aren't that good. (Another reason being the condescension.)

Probably the reason they're only including the movie is that the class of 2014 would have been born in 1992. But I doubt most of them were aware of pop culture at that point.

I'm 25, and I have trouble with cursive too - I did learn it but I never use it except to sign my name. So the only capitals I can remember are my initials.
I don't think it's making claims about what they know regarding ignorance of history etc., it's making claims about what they've totally integrated into their worldview because it's just something they've "always known". They'll be aware that phones used to have rotary dials for instance but it's history to them.

Must admit I learned "joined up" handwriting (as we called it) but nowadays I mostly print and even then it's a virtually illegible scrawl (keyboards mean I just don't write all that much anymore, i'm way out of practice).

Some of that is really interesting, particularly stuff like losing recognised gestures because they don't map to the real world anymore (pointing at your wrist is their example but i'm sure there're others). I'd add "Hard drive capacities have always been measured in Gigabytes" (because even now it'll occasionally astonish me when I think about it - I very clearly remember a friend showing off his shiny new 40 MEGAbyte hard-drive and being just as pleased as can be, for the home market it was basically state of the art. Now phones routinely have 5 or 10 times that storage capacity as standard, nevermind SD card expansions etc.).

(not sure kids born in '92 would've first touched an Apple II though, we had those in college - pre '92 - and they were pretty antiquated even then)
This might be me being stupid, but isn't cursive just joined up handwriting? I would have thought that if you can write you can write cursive...don't they have handwriting lessons in schools? Is this true of the UK too?

Otherwise, yeah, bit of a weird list, you could pick a thousand things to go on it. Do they even ask the students stuff or is it just adults googling things that have happened since 1992?
A world without ever living without Buffy! What a wordl!
I would have thought that if you can write you can write cursive...don't they have handwriting lessons in schools? Is this true of the UK too?

A non-cursive 'S' looks like, well that <--- ;). A cursive 's' has a straight back and a single round belly, cursive 'b's are also different (the loop is open) as are other letters ('z' ? Jeez, it really has been a while ;). It's not just like printed handwriting except with joins where you drag your pen across (not saying you can't learn it with a bit of practice assuming you can already write non-cursive, just saying it's a slightly different skill).

(I just attempted cursive "The fat cat sat on the mat" without actually thinking about it and the 's' came out non-cursive. Lucky there's no zed in that sentence ;)
Eh, I like lists like this, (details are so evocative). It reminds me that all previous conceptions about the world were just that, conceptions, and so are the ones held now. It reminds me that even though many things in the past felt so crucial, they really weren't. It reminds me of how the world didn't fall apart because of hate, narrow mindedness, and stupidity and that some progress towards a more peaceable world has been made despite the daily news to the contrary. Lists like these make me feel rather hopeful and optimistic for the world at large.

I'm always amazed by the whole, "Remember when the phone would ring and if no one answered, it meant that no one was home?" Getting a hold of someone was such a crap shoot. I also remember scoffing at Mulder and Scully talking to each other on their big-ass cell phones in the middle of nowhere any time they pleased.

The world we live in today is so much about knowing. A person can instantly "know" just about anything. I wonder how this will affect memory. I wonder how this will affect storytelling, since storytelling's original purpose was to offer up explanations and fill in the gaps of knowledge...
To me storytelling is also about managing the world, instilling order where it sometimes seems there is none (narratives are "clean" in a way reality usually isn't - or at least not to our perceptions anyway). Even Google can't make that requirement go away ;).

(but yep, I already think it affects memory. Not, for me, what I can remember, more what I feel the need to. In 20 or 30 years, when connectivity and computers are even more ubiquitous than they are now, I think losing your (mobile, always on) net connection will be like being concussed - you'll be functioning but not at anything like 100%)

And yep, phones are another huge one. The idea of being able to sit in the pub in England and phone someone sitting in the pub in the USA is pretty amazing to me. Being able to sit on the top of a mountain in the Scottish highlands and do it, even moreso. And other little things. Remember when pretty much ALL mail-order catalogues had small print at the bottom saying "Please allow 28 days for delivery" ? Nowadays I can order a book that's been out of print for 50 years and if it's not here within 3 or 4 days I feel hard done by. World's movin' on.
The Buffy mention really does seem inaccurate and makes the list come off as a bit stuffy.
I'm always amazed that I can even discover the factual existence of an old book that interests me and that I can actually locate a copy and buy it--even if it is in the UK or Australia. (Done that.) Access to people all over the world is so cool. The idea that I can buy from some entrepreneurial soul who makes just what I am looking for, and is only a credit card away on say, Etsy, despite being in China, blows me away.

Regarding memory... Mine isn't so hot at remembering detailed facts. I'm more of a synthesizer. That's why I own books. ;) The internet is a godsend and is at least as accurate as my memory. Heh. I find it interesting that the schools here in the US, are heavily investing in standardized factual testing. I think that methodology will eventually end up being adjusted to accommodate the wiredness of the culture. I can't help being a product of my upbringing though; all the apocalypse type disasters that past pop culture battered and imprinted me with, make me worry just a tad. "Fahrenheit 451"'s ending really resonated with me. EMPs: the new boogieman.
I'm a fair bit older than the class of 2014, but young enough that I can't do the pledge on the front of standardized tests either. It was definitely the hardest part of the GRE, for me...

These kinds of things are definitely funny. I once had a student who had no idea what a floppy disk was, and I once worked with a little girl who was born after September 11th. That was weird.

And whenever I worry about the age gap between my girlfriend and me, I remind myself that she was born before the Berlin Wall fell, so that means we're (technically) from the same era!
The internet is a godsend and is at least as accurate as my memory. Hee.
Although I didn't grow up with the internet (got my first PC in grad. school--one of those Apples with two floppy drives and no hard disk LOL), it's almost as hard for me to imagine life without Google as it is for my daughter.

What's harder for me to get my head around is her sense of history--9/11 being an event from her childhood, Bill Clinton being the earliest president she remembers, Vietnam seeming as ancient to her as WWII seemed to me. That's harder for me to imagine.
Factor in this: Beloit College is a small, liberal arts school in the upper Midwest. Students who go there are likely those who could not get into Swarthmore or Pomona College, but would never have wanted to go to a public school. My guess is that a similar poll taken at a major public school, such as an Ohio State or Penn, would have resulted in a more cultural savvy poll. I'm not endorsing public schools, I'm just suggesting that the poll is more a reflection of the families and values of Beloit students, and not the population at large.
What poll? I'm not seeing any poll mentioned on the site. This was:

The creation of Beloitís Keefer Professor of the Humanities Tom McBride and former Public Affairs Director Ron Nief, it was originally created as a reminder to faculty to be aware of dated references, and quickly became a catalog of the rapidly changing worldview of each new generation.

The only thing I could find on their methodology was:

Each year, they work together compiling suggestions and releasing the final version of the highly anticipated Beloit College Mindset List.

I understood this to mean that this is an arbitrarily compiled list with an eye towards provoking both thought and amusement.
In the UK writing in joined-up/cursive script was a National Curriculum Level 3 requirement (that is, for bright 7-year-olds) at least as late as 1998, when my younger daughter did her SATs and almost certainly well beyond then. It's an oddity, as it is not required to pass GCSE English, though handwriting with very few letters linked would probably prejudice an examiner to some extent.

My now-19-year-old can remember Buffy starting on BBC2, so she is aware there was a TV Time Before Whedon, at least in theory. In practice she grew up with her.
I don't think there's any condescension going on here, it's just fun seeing how what seems not so long past to those of us who are ancient, is a whole lifetime away from younger adults. It is a bit like looking through the wrong end of a telescope. I was entirely unaware of the vanishing of cursive, for example.

I do remember thinking that surely no one could be so lazy that dialing a phone or turning on a tv manually would be too much bother, though now I find myself getting annoyed when my new television takes a bit longer to come on- like 4 seconds. It's just amusing, and adjusts one's perspective.
Factor in this: Beloit College is a small, liberal arts school in the upper Midwest. Students who go there are likely those who could not get into Swarthmore or Pomona College, but would never have wanted to go to a public school.

I went to a public high school in North Carolina, but I was happy to attend a small liberal-arts college. Hated the large class size in high school.

But Buffy should have a place in pop culture. I wish it was back in syndication instead of being shown on Logo only.


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