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Mindset list shows speed of growing cultural divide between college freshmen and 30-somethings

MILWAUKEE — Mention Amazon to the incoming class of college freshmen and they are more likely to think of shopping than the South American river. PC doesn't stand for political correctness and breaking up on Facebook is more common than any more personal encounter.

These are among the 75 references on this year's Beloit College Mindset List, a compilation intended to remind teachers that college freshmen born mostly in 1993 see the world in a much different way: They fancied pogs and Tickle Me Elmo toys as children, watched televisions that never had dials and their lives have always been like a box of chocolates.

Once upon a time, relatives of the current generation swore never to trust anyone over 30. This group could argue: Never trust anyone older than the Net.

The college's compilation, released today, is assembled each year by two officials at the private school in southeastern Wisconsin. It also has evolved into a national phenomenon, a cultural touchstone that entertains even as it makes people wonder where the years have gone.

Remember when the initials LBJ referred to President Lyndon B. Johnson? Today, according to the list, they make teenagers think of NBA star LeBron James.

In their lifetimes, Major League Baseball has always had three divisions plus wild-card playoff teams, and every state has always observed Martin Luther King Day. The "yadda, yadda, yadda" generation that has been quoting Seinfeld since they were old enough to talk also has always seen women serve as U.S. Supreme Court justices and command U.S. Navy ships.

If the generation gap has you down, get used to it. The list's authors note that technology has only accelerated the pace of change and further compressed the generational divide.

Older Americans who read previous Mindset Lists felt that life was moving too quickly, list author Ron Nief said, and now even younger people share that sentiment.

"I talk to people in their early 30s and they're telling me they can't keep up with all the advances," Nief said.

Nief's co-author, English professor Tom McBride, predicts the trend will only accelerate.

"If you look at the jump from e-mail to texting, or from e-mail to Facebook, it's been faster than the jump from typing to computers," McBride said. "These generational gaps are getting smaller."

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Mindset list shows speed of growing cultural divide between college freshmen and 30-somethings 08/22/11 [Last modified: Monday, August 22, 2011 10:37pm]

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