The Mindset of the Class of 2016

“I want to change the pop world one sequin at a time. Artists tend to take themselves way too seriously and don’t enjoy the fun of making an impact on culture. I just have a good time and sequins represent a good time.”   Lady Gaga

“From the tribe of Issachar, there were 200 leaders of the tribe with their relatives. All these men understood the signs of the times and knew the best course for Israel to take.”   1 Chronicles 12.32 NLT

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Every year since 1998, Beloit College, (Beloit, Wisconsin, USA) has prepared a list of cultural touchstones that differentiate the frame of reference of entering students from that of their teachers, coaches and mentors. The list is designed to provide a cultural and generational snapshot to faculty and staff as they prepare to welcome the new students. After all, members of this year’s college class of 2016 (most of them born in 1994), were born into cyberspace and have therefore measured their output in the fundamental particles of life: bits, bytes and bauds. They have never needed a set of bound encyclopedias and have spent much of their lives helping parents understand that you don’t take pictures on “film” and that CDs and DVDs are not “tapes.” A fourth of the entering students have already suffered some hearing loss.

For their younger teachers, Watergate is a distant memory; for their distinguished senior professors – the ones with a pile of vinyl LPs in the closet – the Crash and the Depression probably shaped their lives. Young students see the world differently and the Mindset list is a reminder of just how significantly differently their intellectual framework is. Cultural references familiar to professors, might draw blank stares from their students. As Beloit College professor Tom McBride, one of the list’s creators says, “It is an alert for those of us who may be suffering from hardening of the references.”

The following abbreviated “Mindset List” may remind us that a generation, along with their rapidly changing worldview, comes and goes in the blink of an eye. (The full list can be found at http://www.beloit.edu/mindset/2016/ ):

1. Kurt Cobain, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Richard Nixon and John Wayne Gacy have always been dead.

2.  They have always lived in cyberspace, addicted to a new generation of “electronic narcotics.”

3.  Michael Jackson’s family, not the Kennedys, constitutes “American Royalty.”

4.  The Biblical sources of terms such as “Forbidden Fruit,” “The writing on the wall,” “Good Samaritan,” and “The Promised Land” are unknown to most of them.

5.  Bill Clinton is a senior statesman of whose presidency they have little knowledge.

6.  They have never seen an airplane “ticket.”

7.  There has always been football in Jacksonville but never in Los Angeles.

8.  For most of their lives, maintaining relations between the U.S. and the rest of the world has been a woman’s job in the State Department.

9.  They have lived in an era of instant stardom and self-proclaimed celebrities, famous for being famous.

10.  There have always been blue M&Ms, but no tan ones.

11.  Billy Graham is as familiar to them as Otto Graham was to their parents.

12.  Stephen Breyer has always been an Associate Justice on the U.S. Supreme Court.

13.  Herr Schindler has always had a List; Mr. Spielberg has always had an Oscar.

14.  Selena’s fans have always been in mourning.

15.  They watch television everywhere but not on a television.

16.  History has always had its own channel.

17.  Point-and-shoot cameras are soooooo last millennium.

18.  Simba has always had trouble waiting to be King.

19.  Lou Gehrig’s record for most consecutive baseball games played has never stood in their lifetimes.

20.  They grew up, somehow, without the benefits of Romper Room.

Few would argue that growing up in today’s world is not only markedly dissimilar but significantly more problematic for today’s youth than it was for preceding generations. Today’s world is more complex, the issues more critical and the ramifications more perilous. Subsequently, connecting to this generation can be much more challenging.

We must first understand this generation and its culture if we are to present the redemptive message of God’s Word in a meaningful context. You don’t have to buy into everything they say or do but you must understand their realities. Understanding their fears, opportunities, dangers and world-view will help us to respond and lead strategically. Don’t lose sight of your objective – to impact this generation with the life changing truth of the gospel! Keep in mind the words of the Apostle Paul, “I have voluntarily become a servant to any and all in order to reach a wide range of people… I didn’t take on their way of life. I kept my bearings in Christ—but I entered their world and tried to experience things from their point of view. I’ve become just about every sort of servant there is in my attempts to lead those I meet into a God-saved life. I did all this because of the Message. I didn’t just want to talk about it; I wanted to be in on it!” (1 Corinthians 9.19-23, Msg).

Stay the Course,

Dr. Greg Morris

Gregory K. Morris, Ph.D., is the founder and president of Leadership Dynamics™, a non-profit corporation committed to the training and development of leaders and their organizations. He has authored In Pursuit of Leadership, a study of leadership principles in the life of Moses. For more information, visit LeadershipDynamics.org or on Facebook at Facebook.com/LeadershipDynamics You can also follow Greg on Twitter @LdshpDynamics

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