Thursday, August 19, 2010

Kids these days

by Michael

It’s one of my favorite times of year! It’s the annual Beloit College Mindset List. Since 1998, the college has been helping their professors understand what the cultural differences are between them and the incoming freshman class. The list is new each year, which means there’s an awful lot of fluff on it, but some of the entries really make you think. (I recommend going back and looking at past lists, since much of those still apply.) A couple that stood out to me this year:

32. Czechoslovakia has never existed. (I still remember teaching myself how to spell it when I rather impulsively chose it as the Olympic competitor country to do a report on in 5th grade.)

67. Ruth Bader Ginsburg has always sat on the Supreme Court.

46. Nirvana is on the classic oldies station.

That last one gets me the most. Now that I live in LA and have to drive, I listen to music radio again, something I hadn’t really done since high school. It was definitely a shock hearing Nirvana on the “classic rock” station.

So, how’s this relate to publishing? It’s important as publishing professionals to be aware of who our audience is, and reading this list always makes me stop and think about the kids picking up my authors' books. And it also makes me project into the future: In a few years, there won’t be a kid who’s been to a Waldenbooks. They won’t remember a time before Amazon. They’ll live in a world that’s full of widely-available, instant-access e-books. And this is just a few years down the line! Any thoughts on what generational changes the future might hold for publishing?


  1. I read an interesting commentary on the list which pointed out that the mindset observations haven't really changed in the 12 years they've been doing it. They're more a reflection of the mindset of the people composing the list than the kids.

  2. This is why I write historical stuff. It's ALL out of the current mindset. LOL

  3. The other day, I was talking to my 21 year old friend and she was telling me about a date that went all wrong. She said, "It was such a gong show." I stopped her and said, "A gong show? Do you even know what that means?" She said, "Uh...well, it went really bad." I said, "I know that, but do you even know what the gong show is?" She had no idea. But she told me that the phrase, "it was a gong show" is in common usage at her university (Canadian). How funny is that?

  4. As someone who just recently moved out of my early twenties, I'd never thought of myself as very far removed from teenagers generation-wise. That was until a couple of years ago when I mentioned the movie "Interview with the Vampire" to the sixteen year old I used to work with. She'd never even heard of it. I'm not crazy to be shocked right? That was a big movie when it came out, right? I distinctly remember Oprah doing a show on it.

    And then a few weeks later she was cleaning a closet at the office and came across an old book titled "Will Smith: From Rapper to Actor." And she said, "Oh, yeah, he used to do songs for his movies, huh?" I gaped just a little and explained that he actually was a rapper (granted, a very popcorn one) before he ventured into acting, and that the open sequence for "The Prince of Bel Air" was based of the video for "Parents Just Don't Understand." She looked at me like I was making it up. She genuinely had no idea what I was talking about.

    Those conversations with her were eye-opening for me because that stuff seemed like pretty recent slices of pop culture, but for her they didn't even exist.

    I tell you. Young people and their history, eh?

    Also interesting: compare what people your age do or don't remember from their childhoods. I remember different things from the eighties than some of my friends because they didn't have older siblings like I did. Because of my older sisters I watched a lot of shows for older kids that I would not have watched or remembered otherwise.

  5. Aha, here's the article I mentioned in my comment:

  6. I remember when my bro-in-law tried to tell me about a music group called Captain and Tenille. I thought he was just messing with me.

    Now my niece thinks Mel Gibson was always a creepy old man.

  7. I knew I was old when I told a younger coworker that Robin Williams got his start on Happy Days, then went off to do a sitcom called Mork & Mindy.

    She resfused to believe me, was convinced that I was making it up. I can't make up a title like Mork & Mindy, that's got to be the real deal.

  8. I was playing a gig the other day, and I played the Godfather Theme. Used to always be a hit, but... I looked around and wondered if the diners, a young crowd, had ever watched the Godfather. Please tell me the Godfather is still required viewing.


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