College Frosh are all 6-8 years old?

I’ve been seeing links to Beloit College’s frosh mindset thingie all over the place. I even read the list of 75 elements of why these people aren’t like you and me, all the “always” and “everyone” stuff.

Several of them struck me as a little doubtful (There have only been two presidents! Thus, the incoming class is no more than 14 years old). One, though, struck me as, well,

just. plain. wrong.

“Google has always been a verb.”

Google did not exist until September 1998. Period. Here’s the link.

I find it extremely unlikely that many people used “Google” as a verb before 2000.

So for today’s incoming college students, “always” means “six years, give or take?”

But the list sure does get Beloit a lot of free publicity! Even when it’s (ahem) wrong.

Update: The Chronicle of Higher Education has a “short subject” on the Beloit list in the 9/1/06 print edition, pointing out that they got a number of other things wrong. The response of one of the compilers? “This is not serious in-depth research.” The other says it’s still valuable as a discussion tool–even if it’s dead wrong. (The compilers talked to all of one college-bound student and a “handful” of students already at Beloit.)

Lesson: Never take a marketing gimmick too seriously.

9 Responses to “College Frosh are all 6-8 years old?”

  1. I find it scary that college staff are either this sloppy with their facts or cynical enough to think they can get away with outright lies.

    Or maybe we’re both wrong and Beloit College is really an institution for child prodigies, along the lines of the Professor Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters. This would also explain why the college thinks KTD are so different — at Beloit College, they’re literally mutants!

  2. Walt,

    The list is indeed interesting and shows something of our culture and how we relate to stuff. Picking on the “two presidents”, likely 18 y.o. don’t have a strong memory of George Sr. Reagan would be a distant memory. But I was struck MORE by the things that came to mind that were not on the list:

    — To them, John Lennon has always been dead.
    — To them, John Belushi has always been dead.
    — They have only known two popes.
    — They have always know about recycling and global warming.
    — The world to them has always battled AIDS.


  3. Jennifer says:

    Walt, in some ways this does make sense. When I think back to my first memories of the world around me, they pretty much all stem from after I celebrated my tenth birthday. Despite the fact that I was born during Richard Nixon’s tenure as president, Ronald Reagan is really the first president I remember as a current event. George Bush was elected when I was a first-year college student. Nixon, Ford and Carter are pretty much historical figures even though I lived through their reigns. I really don’t remember life before VCRs and/or microwaves – even though they weren’t pervasive appliances during my formative years. Of course, this is in no way scientific – just some vague impressions from my overly cluttered mind. As we age, it is harder and harder to distinguish between actual memories and those events that we only believe we remember.

    Anyway, I hadn’t picked up on the discrepancy in years in the lists. Thanks for pointing it out.

  4. walt says:

    Daniel, your delayed appearance as the first comment is because Spam Karma decided your comment was spam! Fortunately, I’m still able to scan the spam before trashing it. The link must have been part of it, but normally that would just put the comment into moderation. Hmm.

    Everyone, thanks for the comments. I do seem to remember that when I was entering college I could still remember events and life from more than a decade previously, but maybe I’m misremembering (after all, it’s been 44 years since I entered college), or maybe today’s “universal ADD” is retroactive.

  5. Well, I was born in 1955, and the only thing I actually remember about the Kennedy administration is his assassination, when I was 8. Maybe I would have remembered the Cuban Missile Crisis, but I doubt it.

    I did wonder about the Google entry. My recollection is that people started talking about “googling” about the time the notion of the search engine entered the mainstream. So in that sense, it could be said that the frosh have always known it as a verb. But it is a LONG stretch. And I’m going to take it off my blog entry in your honor!

    Finally, Jill, the list opens with some people who have always been dead to the incoming frosh: Billy Carter, Lucille Ball, Gilda Radner, Billy Martin, Adny Gibb, and one non-person, Secretariat. To be fair, Secretariat died in 1989, but I’ve hung around a lot of racetracks and have never known a one year old tout. John Lennon made the list eight years earlier. Imagine!

  6. walt says:

    “Well, I was born in 1955, and the only thing I actually remember about the Kennedy administration is his assassination, when I was 8. Maybe I would have remembered the Cuban Missile Crisis, but I doubt it.”

    Which is why I won’t argue with the “two presidents” one too strenuously.

    I think Google-as-a-verb is the only one where Beloit, um, jumped the shark. (Quick: Would that phrase be eligible?) A couple of us at OCLC’s Mountain View outpost down the road a piece from Google were thinking about this; our best guess is that “to google” mostly dates from around 2002.

    I could go msn or yahoo that, or maybe Ask it (hmm), but I don’t know that I’d trust the answers. Looks as though Microsoft, either under msn or windows live, is the least likely of the big four (or “big three plus Ask”) to ever have to worry about being verbed.

    I do admire Beloit’s marketing ingenuity. I’d guess relatively few arts & sciences colleges with 1,385 students are as well known…and the dollar value of that annual free publicity must be in the millions, if not tens of millions.

  7. Laura says:

    I suppose the first president I remember is Reagan, because I remember watching election returns with my mother in 1984, when I was just shy of nine years old. My best friend, however, remembers going out to campaign for Carter with her mom in 1980, and she’s the same age as me. I have memories that early, but not of a political nature.

    When I was teaching college (2000-2003), I tended to spend a lot of time talking to my students about the Cold War, since I was always so shocked that none of them remembered it. But I’m not sure the Beloit list is really all that useful–I was told today that I was a “perfect example of Generation X,” solely because I said that, were it not for the need for health insurance, there’s no way I’d work full time. Sigh.

  8. walt says:

    You sound to me like a perfect example of the limited usefulness of generation generalizations. I’d guess every labeled generation has millions of such counter-examples–but what fun are real people when sweeping generalizations make such good copy?

  9. Jane says:

    Walt, excellent points.

    Jill, I think your list sounds much better. As a young gen Xer (I was born in 78), I only remember Lennon and Belushi as no longer part of this world. Your reference to AIDS was also very telling. That AIDS did not make the list tells me that this professor does not spend enough time in the real world.