Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Beloit College Mindset List

Back in August, 1969 (gasp!), 18-year-old Bilbo began his freshman year at Penn State University. The pterodactyls had recently gone off the endangered species list, having finally died out. Richard Nixon was president, war was raging in Vietnam, gas cost about 35 cents a gallon, and the first man had walked on the moon less than a month before.

Most students start their freshman year of college at the tender age of 18, and so most of those who head to leafy college campuses this month were born around 1990. The world in which they grew up is quite different from the one that shaped Bilbo in 1969.

Each August for the past 11 years, Beloit College, Wisconsin, has released its annual Mindset List. Created by Beloit’s Professor Tom McBride and Public Affairs Director Ron Nief, the list is designed to help the faculty and staff relate to the new students, and provides a unique annual summary of the rapidly changing frame of reference for each new generation.

You can read the Mindset List for the Class of 2012 here, and you can also link to the lists for each of the previous years the list has been published. It’s interesting and, for a person my age, a little sobering. Here are a few of the items from the list that particularly caught my attention:

Gas stations have never fixed flats, but most serve cappuccino. In 1969, "service stations" offered "service." They would pump your gas for you, check the oil, water, and tire pressure, and wash your windshield. You usually paid cash; if you used a credit card, the attendant used a little machine that imprinted your card on a multi-part carbon receipt...and you didn't worry that someone was going to steal your card number from the carbon.

Girls in head scarves have always been part of the school fashion scene. In 1969, girls made their political statements by not wearing bras or shaving their legs or underarms. The religious ones all belonged to the Campus Crusade for Christ and annoyed you by asking you about the Four Spiritual Laws while you were trying to ... well ... never mind.

The Warsaw Pact is as hazy for them as the League of Nations was for their parents. Well, let's not be too hasty on this one...with Russia kicking Georgian butt, some truncated version of the old Warsaw Pact may yet be back. And the United Nations will continue to be just as vibrant and useful as the League of Nations.

Personal privacy has always been threatened. Thanks to Messrs Bush, Cheney, and Chertoff, we're doing a marvelous job of protecting ourselves from ... ourselves.


The Windows 3.0 operating system made IBM PCs user-friendly the year they were born. I typed all my term papers with a manual typewriter. My Computer Science 101 class involved laboriously writing out programs in longhand, then sitting at a loud machine to turn them into punched cards that a Staff Geek fed into a huge mainframe computer to generate a list of error messages. Today, I'm writing this blog on an iMac running OS-Leopard with a virtual machine inside running MS-Vista. No questions, please, I don't understand it, either...I just use it. And punched cards at least made useful bookmarks in a pinch.

I suddenly feel old. Not as old as Mike, but old, nevertheless.

This guy was a freshman in 1969:

He's a little older...and a lot more irreverent...39 years later:

How's your mindset? And for those of you reading this blog overseas, what were the things that shaped your mindset when you headed off to college?

Interesting to reflect, isn't it?

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.



The Mistress of the Dark said...

Your hat looks bigger than your head!!!

Tee hee.

When I was just out of college in 96 gas was about 89 cents

Damn inflation and evil oil companies

Gilahi said...

Wow. You're even older than I am!

I remember a time in 1973 when I was getting my first driver's license. I told my parents that, just about the time I was going to be allowed to drive, I wouldn't be able to afford it because gas was approaching 50 cents/gallon.

I also remember 10-cent comic books and 5-cent Krystal (White Castle, for those of you in the rest of the country) hamburgers. And I had to walk 12 miles to school and back in the snow and it was uphill both ways.

Amanda said...

LOL! I love the photos. And the whole idea of the Mindset List. They should have that for high schools too.

I started university in 1993 and I was 16. At that time, I was still sending weekly aerograms to my friends back in Malaysia. The computers were the kind with neon green text. I didn't get to use email until 2nd year (I think). Still, the green type of font.

John A Hill said...

Ten years later we were still using punch cards. I had just finished Fortran and now Cobal was computer language of choice. The Commodore 64 was still about 5 years away from hitting the stores.

It was a long time ago. They estimate that the amount of information contained in today's New York Times is more than a person living a hundred years ago got in a lifetime! And the Times doesn't even carry Bilbo's Random Thoughts!

Amanda said...

I remember another one. As a starting-uni present, my parents gave me a Walkman...the type that put tapes in!

Mike said...

Back in 66 Missouri School of Mines (now University of Missouri-Rolla) had 8000 guys and 100 girls.

Rolla had their own version of fortran called formo. I remember the punch cards. I remember more the horror stories of the guys that had programs that used boxes and boxes of cards. And they dropped the boxes. And the cards were NOT numbered.

Anonymous said...

when i started uni in '94, our (indonesian) economy was still strong, and I can afford going to the US for vacations 1 USD was Rp 2000 (Indonesian rupiahs).
now, 1 USD is around Rp 9500, our economy is in a rut,

When I went to live and (supposedly) study there, I enrolled in a university, paid like USD 3000 for the year I (was supposed to) study there. (I did not get any studying done, only partying, hence my return in jkt)
Now i hear it costs more than 15000 per year to study there..

what's with the world economy? pretty soon nobody can ever afford to have an education anymore..