Smells like techno spirit for new intake

They have never used an airline ticket, or had cause to consult a set of bound encyclopaedias, and regard point-and-shoot cameras as "soooooo last millennium".

These are the views of the latest crop of 18-year-old students entering universities across the US, according to this year's Mindset List - published by Beloit College in Wisconsin to help academics understand the cultural references of their new cohort.

The 75-item list helpfully reminds lecturers that since most of the new starters were born in 1994, the likes of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain, US president Richard Nixon and serial killer John Wayne Gacy have always been dead to such students.

It also stresses that the family of pop star Michael Jackson - rather than the Kennedys - now constitute "American Royalty".

The list was originally created in 1998 by then director of public affairs, Ron Nief, and Keefer professor of humanities Tom McBride, to help staff to avoid using archaic references that would not be understood by incoming students.

Fourteen years on, the list and its archive provide an insight into the changing mindset of America's freshers.

According to the 2012 list, this year's college entrants have been "born into cyberspace" and have therefore "measured their output in the fundamental particles of life: bits, bytes, and bauds".

They are "probably the most tribal generation in history", the authors write, and "despise being separated from contact with friends".

In political terms, Bill Clinton is a senior statesman about whose presidency they have "little knowledge", while in the world of fashion, exposed bra straps have always been a statement, not a wardrobe malfunction to be corrected quietly by well-meaning friends.

Unsurprisingly, advances in technology dominate the list. These students will reminisce about summer camp using their "digital yearbooks", are likely to watch TV "everywhere but on a television", and once assigned a textbook will investigate whether it is available for rent or purchase as an e-book.

"They have spent much of their lives helping their parents understand that you don't take pictures on 'film' and that CDs and DVDs are not 'tapes'," the list explains.

chris.parr@tsleducation.com

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