class of 2011

The Mindset list from Beloit college is a list of little details to remind you what has changed in the time between the year you were born, and the birthyear of our entering freshman, now 1989 (presuming you’re not entering freshmen – or younger – yourself).

I remember when the deli signs for cigarette purchasing began having years which sounded like “real” years instead of “birth” years – it was 1980 for me, as I was born in 1973. At that time, the 70s, for me, were a decade that one was born in, while the 80s were a decade for growing up in, and the 90s were the present. When the 80s started to become a decade one was born in, legitimately, people legally buying cigarettes at delis in new york, my whole perspective was fucked up. I did not just feel old, I felt confused about the order of things. It took me a few years to get used to the idea that people born in the 80s were not wholly different from people born in the 70s, despite there being really no reason to draw the line there. Of course, now the 90s seem like ancient history themselves, a quaint little decade when we thought we were so modern. (Every decade goes through that phase, I suppose, right after it’s over, before it gains its full historical cred, when it’s just pushed off stage and stands there looking dumbfounded, as if to say, but – aren’t we – wasn’t that – the end of history?)

This categorization is a desire, I guess, to find a way to relate to one’s entire generation – we can connect by these small details of life, and presume that we must have a “mindset” in common because we all used the same kind of car windows, or not. Of course, it’s not completely true. Some kids didn’t have cars at all. Some kids had second hand cars or grew up abroad with weird cars or had fancy cars early on. But there are ways in which it seems meaningful – to have grown up with the cold war seems like something which must have affected us, and this year’s freshmen are the first entering class who really and officially don’t have any memory of the cold war. Sure, it’s been a while since incoming students have much conscious sense of it, but 1989 is a nice solid turning point for this one, I think.

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One Response to “class of 2011”

  1. Richard Gay Says:

    Would it matter as much if we all were better educated, and had a better sense of history?

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