Getting Your Mind Around The Generation Gap

August 24, 2011

When I was growing up, kids never wore bike helmets, we munched on candy cigarettes and W.W.F. stood for wrestling.

Times have definitely changed. Now, bike helmets are considered “cool,” candy cigarettes are outlawed and the W.W.F. is more widely known as the World Wildlife Fund.  It’s those cultural references that tie us to others in our generation and causes blank stares from someone in their early 20s.

Since 1998, Beloit College has celebrated that generational gap causing one to pause and hopefully laugh at how “times have changed.” The Beloit College cultural mindset list was created to help bridge the generation gap between seasoned individuals and  recent high school graduates. It’s a glimpse into how young adults think, what cultural references may be lost on them and in my opinion a really fun way to see how quickly our world changes.

This year’s subjects were born in 1993 (Yikes! That’s the year I graduated high school) and most will graduate in 2015. The MindSet site says: This year’s entering college class of 2015 was born just as the Internet took everyone onto the information highway and as Amazon began its relentless flow of books and everything else into their lives. They have come of age as women assumed command of U.S. Navy ships, altar girls served routinely at Catholic Mass, and when everything from parents analyzing childhood maladies to their breaking up with boyfriends and girlfriends, sometimes quite publicly, have been accomplished on the Internet.

The group releases 75 findings from the survey each year along with some fun anecdotes from people who have what they call a mindset moment – that point in time where you suddenly realize there IS a generation gap. If you’re over 30, you know what I’m talking about. Here are some of my favorites:

The Mindset List for the class of 2015:

  • Ferris Bueller and Sloane Peterson could be their parents
  • The only significant labor disputes in their lifetimes have been in major league sports
  • American tax forms have always been available in Spanish
  • Amazon has never been just a river in South America
  • Refer to LBJ, and they don’t think the former President but rather LeBron James
  • Yadda, yadda, yadda” has always come in handy to make long stories shortG
  • Grown-ups have always been arguing about health care policy.
  • Moderate amounts of red wine and baby aspirin have always been thought good for the heart.
  • Frasier, Sam, Woody and Rebecca have never Cheerfully frequented a bar in Boston during primetime.

MindSet Moments from the “Older” set:

  • We were visiting a restored plantation home, and one of the guides, dressed in 18th century garb, was showing how they made “hoe-cakes” back then. We had to explain to a teen that it wasn’t that kind of “ho.”
  • A professor recently confused his students on a cold, snowy day when he suggested that they leave their “rubbers” by the classroom door.
  • I watched “Good Night, And Good Luck” with my daughter in hopes that she’d learn something historical about Sen. Joe McCarthy, but all she commented on was how filthy it was that all these men in the 50s were smoking cigarettes indoors.

Have you experienced any generational gaps of late? If so, share. It will give us all a good laugh!