The Beloit College Mindset List is out, this is my attempt to look for shared cultural experiences of the incoming class of college students. Feel free to share your insights so I can improve on the list and make adjustments. You might also be interested in the Language Mindset List from the Lingua Franca Blog at the Chronicle of Higher Education. There is also a group of academics who are actively opposed to the Mindset List, you can read about them at Inside HigherEd.
Welcome to the Class of 2017
This list is designed to complement the Beloit College Mindset List. Each year the Mindset List does a great job of helping us understand how quickly certain cultural touch points become dated. In many ways, it helps us understand who the entering college class is not. My hope is to better understand the cultural references and shared experiences that these students bring with them to campus.
With most of today’s entering college freshmen born in the second half of 1994, or the first half of 1995, here are some well-known names who (theoretically) could be joining them.
- November 8 – Lauren Alaina, Singer (American Idol Runner-up)
- November 30 – Nyjah Huston, Skateboarder
- December 3 – Jake T. Austin, Actor (Wizards of Waverly Place)
- May 10 – Missy Franklin, Olympic Swimmer
The Disney Channel
The Disney Channel played a major role in the developing years of these students. Beginning in 1997, The Disney Channel began its transition from Premium Cable to Basic Cable. This dramatically increased the availability of the channel and its programs. It also built strong personal connections between its young stars and its viewers.
Disney Channel’s High School Musical debuted in January of 2006, when the Class of 2017 was in the sixth grade. It was the highest rated show to ever appear on Disney Channel at the time, and widely influential with sing-a-long, dance-a-long, repeated showings, and a concert tour.
It is quite possible that the first movie that the Class of 2017 saw in a theater was Toy Story 2 (1999) or Monsters, Inc. (2001) (or possibly Rugrats in Paris.) With the release of Monsters U. this summer, the Class of 2017 closes the cycle from scared kids at 5 or 6, to a college movie today, with the same characters. (The same things happened with Toy Story 3.) Pixar Studios debuted with Toy Story in 1995, and the Class of 2017 has had a steady stream of highly acclaimed Pixar releases throughout their life.
Harry Potter & Twilight
The Harry Potter books and movies are likely seen as slightly older friends. The Class of 2017 was too young for the first several movies, and probably caught up on DVD and saw the later movies in theaters in their ten years. With this timing, this class is much less likely to have read the books before seeing the movies (if they ever read the books at all).
On the other hand the Twilight books became popular as these students were in middle school. They would have read the books, and then seen the movies in high school.
Popular Music & Television
The definition of popular music for the Class of 2017 is really hard to pinpoint. Disney acts, Hip Hop, Electronic Dance Music, Country, and more are part of the definition. Services like Pandora, Spotify, and internet radio allow them to narrow their focus. This results in fewer acts reaching the levels of awareness and stardom as in the past. One Direction and the Glee cast have probably been the most successful acts over their teen years.
Glee debuted in the Spring of 2009, just prior to the Class of 2017 starting high school. In addition to its influence on popular music, its depiction of high school included a wide variety of social issues that these students could connect with. It has been very influential among a significant portion of the Class of 2017.
Otherwise, the proliferation of cable networks and online options has meant that there are very few (if any) TV shows that are universally viewed. The highest rated shows are generally reality or sports.
While reality television (both competitive and voyeuristic) is commonplace these days, these students have been heavily influenced over their lifetime. While there is too much to cover everything, here are a couple of key notes:
- 16 and Pregnant (MTV) – Debuted in the summer of 2009, as the Class of 2017 was getting ready to start their Freshman year.
- Here Comes Honey Boo Boo (TLC), Duck Dynasty (A&E), Hoarders (A&E), HGTV, cooking shows, Jersey Shore (MTV), too many MTV & VH1 shows to name, etc.
- Keeping Up With the Kardashians (E!) – Debuted in the Fall of 2007.
Beginning with NickToons, several animated TV shows have influenced the sense of humor for the Class of 2017. Beginning with the subtle subversion of Rugrats, these students have been exposed to multi-layered comedy. It is perhaps best represented in South Park, which has been a part of their lives for as long as most can remember. These students know all about Tommy, Chuckie and Angelica, as well as Kyle, Stan, Kenny and Cartman.
- Rugrats (1991 to 2004) – From 1995 to 2000, it was the highest-rated show on Nickelodeon and the highest rated kids’ show,
- Ren and Stimpy (1991 to 1998)
- SpongeBob SquarePants (1999 to present)
- South Park (1997 to present)
iPods, Cell Phones and Smart Phones
The iPod was introduced by Apple in late 2001, and the iTunes on-line music store came in early 2003. For many students, their entire music collection is digital and portable. They also have carried cell phones with them for most of their lives. In many cases this is out of parental concern following the Columbine massacre in 1999. It is not unusual to have students carrying two (or more) portable electronic devices with them at all times. Throughout their high school years these two devices have merged into one with the release of the iPhone, iPad and Android smart phones. It is noteworthy that actually talking to people via the phone is often the fourth or fifth most important feature on these devices (taking pictures, checking the time, e-mail, texting, Facebook, Twitter, games, music, etc.)
While it is still the most widely used social media outlet, interest is waning among teenagers. Teens report that it is too demanding to manage their accounts, privacy settings, and deal with “Facebook drama.” However, nothing has emerged to take the place of Facebook, so they feel a need to stay on Facebook, even as their usage is changing. Twitter and Instagram are growing is usage. African-American teens use Twitter at a higher rate.
The Class of 2017 was born during Bill Clinton’s first term as President. Essentially they have only known Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama as U.S President. By the way, most of the class was three or four during the height of the Clinton/Lewinsky Scandal in 1998.
Columbine and Virginia Tech
The massacre at Columbine (CO) High School happened in April of 1999, when these students were in pre-school, and the Virginia Tech shootings were at the end of their seventh grade year. Their high school years are now noted for the theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado, and the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Hit the Gulf Coast and New Orleans in August of 2005. Had a significant impact on their sense of social responsibility. The Class of 2017 was starting fifth grade at the time.
It was the start of their first grade year when the 9/11 terrorist incident happened.
The Top Ten Names for U.S. born babies in 1994 & 1995: (from the Social Security Administration)
- Michael Jessica
- Christopher Ashley
- Matthew Emily
- Joshua Samantha
- Tyler Sarah
- Brandon Taylor
- Jacob Brittany
- Daniel Amanda
- Nicholas Elizabeth
- Andrew Megan
- Michael Jessica
- Matthew Ashley
- Christopher Emily
- Jacob Samantha
- Joshua Sarah
- Nicholas Taylor
- Tyler Hannah
- Brandon Brittany
- Daniel Amanda
- Austin Elizabeth
- Jacob Sophia
- Mason Emma
- Ethan Isabella
- Noah Olivia
- William Ava
- Liam Emily
- Jayden Abigail
- Michael Mia
- Alexander Madison
- Aiden Elizabeth