Text messaging is the primary means of communications for teenagers, researchers say.

Text messaging is the primary means of communications for teenagers, researchers say.

For students entering college this fall, eMail is too slow, phones have never had cords, and the computers they played with as kids are now in museums.

The Class of 2014 thinks of Clint Eastwood more as a sensitive director than as Dirty Harry urging punks to “go ahead, make my day.” Few incoming freshmen know how to write in cursive or have ever worn a wristwatch.

These are among the 75 items on this year’s Beloit College Mindset List. The compilation, released Aug. 17, is assembled each year by two officials at this private school of about 1,400 students in Beloit, Wis.

Student respondents said that eMail has become antiquated with the rise of text messaging among teens and young adults. And nationwide research says college freshmen aren’t the only ones who group eMail with snail mail.

Text messaging has eclipsed all other forms of communication between teenage friends — including face-to-face contact and eMail — and half of teenagers send more than 50 texts a day, according to research released in April by the Pew Internet & American Life Project. One in three teen respondents send more than 100 texts a day, or 3,000 every month.

eMail, according to the Pew research, was the “least used communication activity,” with 11 percent of survey respondents saying they use eMail every day.

For the entire Mindset List, click here.

Beloit’s list is meant to remind teachers that cultural references familiar to them might draw blank stares from college freshmen born mostly in 1992.

Of course, it can also have the unintended consequence of making people feel old.

Remember when Dr. Jack Kevorkian, Dan Quayle, or Rodney King were in the news? These kids don’t.

Ever worry about a Russian missile strike on the U.S.? During these students’ lives, Russians and Americans have always been living together in outer space.

Being aware of the generation gap helps professors craft lesson plans that are more meaningful, said Ron Nief, a former public affairs director at Beloit College and one of the list’s creators.

Nief and English professor Tom McBride have assembled the Mindset List for 13 years. They say it’s given them an unusual perspective on cultural shifts.

For example, as item No. 13 on the list says, “Parents and teachers feared that Beavis and Butt-head might be the voice of a lost generation.”

With far edgier content available today, such as “South Park” or online videos that push the envelope, there’s something quaint about recalling the hand wringing that the MTV cartoon prompted, Nief said.

“I think we do that with every generation we look back and say, ‘What were we getting so upset about?’” he said. “A, kids outgrow it and B, in retrospect we realize it really wasn’t that bad.”

Another Mindset List item reflects a possible shift in Hollywood attitudes. Item No. 12 notes: “Clint Eastwood is better known as a sensitive director than as Dirty Harry.”

A number of incoming freshmen said they partially agreed with the item, noting they were familiar with Eastwood’s work as an actor even if they hadn’t seen his films.

“I know he directed movies but I also know he’s supposed to be sort of bad-ass,” said Aaron Ziontz, 18, from Seattle.

Jessica Peck, a 17-year-old from Portland, Ore., disagreed with two items on the list one that says few students know how to write in cursive, and another that suggests this generation seldom if ever uses snail mail.


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