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News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.
Opening Arguments

Those darn kids

It's back-to-school time, so we have to put up with this annual exercise in silliness:

MILWAUKEE (AP) -- Remember when suitcases had to be carried instead of rolled? Or when an airline ticket was a booklet of pages separated by carbon paper? Maybe you remember when Lou Gehrig held the Major League record for consecutive baseball games played.

This year's college freshmen don't.

They never lived in a world where Kurt Cobain was alive or an NFL team played its home games in Los Angeles. The Class of 2016 has no need for radios, watches television everywhere except on actual TV sets and is addicted to "electronic narcotics."

These are among the 75 references on this year's Beloit College Mindset List, a nonscientific compilation is meant to remind teachers that college freshmen, born mostly in 1994, see the world in a much different way.

It's fine to remind teachers that their students might not see the world as they do, and to give them some checkpoints so they can make their instructions more relevant to a new generation. But these articles always make it sound like the kids live in some kind of bubble unaffected by anything but their own moods and whims. The fact is that they are part of a continuum, and they are bound to absorb things from the past no matter how strong their attachment to their own perceptions. Every generation has been unique, each in its own way, but they've all become part of the larger culture, too.

And in truth, it is the job of teachers to explain that larger culture and the new generation's part in it. Focusing too much on what is different about "these kids today" could make them lose sight of that mission.