(This is another special posting by Suzy. I hope you enjoy it.)
One of the “mind candies” I enjoy each year is the Mindset List issued by Ron Nief and Tom McBride from the small liberal arts Beloit College in Wisconsin. Originally established to help their own faculty be aware of out of date references, it has now become a touchstone for many of us. We are a youth oriented society, so it is always good to see what the influences are on the current generation of young people, or what influenced you for which they lack any reference.
The current group of rising freshmen was born when our youngest son was preparing to go to college so I found this year’s list particularly poignant. Some of the items on their lists are a bit jarring while others are just a little evocative of our own benchmarks in life.
This incoming class was in kindergarten for the attack that caused the World Trade Center Towers to fall. They binge watch their TV shows generally on a devise other than TV. “Press pound” on the phone is now “hashtag.” Celebrity “selfies” are better than autographs. The water cooler is no longer the workplace social center; it’s the place to fill your water bottle. Women have always attended the Virginia Military Institute and the Citadel. Hong Kong has always been part of China. Students have always been able to dance at Baylor University. Bill Gates has always been the richest man in the U.S. If you wish to see this year’s complete list, or those of previous years, go to https://www.beloit.edu/mindset/2018/
As you read through the various lists for different years you can watch our societal norms shift. Electronics and how we use and depend on them is ever changing. The bit about binge watching TV was one of those. When we first married we didn’t bother to purchase a TV. Today’s young folks often make the same decision for a very different reason. We just had neither the intent nor time to watch any shows as we adjusted to our first year of marriage and full time jobs and graduate school all at the same time. Eventually, we got a television. It was color, but used vacuum tubes not solid-state electronics to put the picture on a large cathode ray tube. That is the large CRT screen most people sort of remember. Ours was a big nineteen inches diagonally on a rounded corner, dark taupe colored square. It lasted us well over a dozen years and only needed one repair because of the helpfulness of our oldest son when he was about four. One afternoon our home phone rang and I turned off the iron and ran upstairs to answer it. We had two phones, one in the kitchen and one in our bedroom, but they were both upstairs and hard-wired into the wall. Our son was watching Sesame Street while I was ironing in the downstairs family room. When I walked back downstairs from the phone call I noticed that the TV was quiet so asked him how long the sound had been off. I received one of those vague looks that children are so very good at giving you when they have no intention of answering. I tried another tact: had he turned the volume down and got a “no.” I then changed channels to see if it was just that one station, but there was no sound anywhere. Becoming somewhat suspicious due to the looks I was getting with no accompanying verbiage from our usually very voluble son, I asked him to recount exactly what had happened just before the sound when out. Seems he had taken my spray-bottle of water from the ironing board and attempted to “clean the TV” by putting the nozzle of the bottle to the very small hole in the center of the channel-changing knob. The cold water had reached one of the hot vacuum tubes. When Walt got home he turned the set around and saw which tube was out, and drove into town, purchased the correct tube, came back and fixed our set.
Ah, the societal changes in that one paragraph. Yes, we only had all of two telephones, that received calls to the house number and they were owned by ATT, which was affectionately known as Ma Bell. It was still a couple of years away from that monopoly being broken up and when we would be permitted to purchase our own phones. Those old phones were workhorses that rarely if ever wore out. Ours were newer and had push buttons even if they had no caller ID. Actually the keypad was the only thing they had. Then again, that was all any phone had. Who would do anything except try to talk to someone a distance away with a phone? At one point it was a fad to play a musical riff by tapping the keys, but it paled quickly as a form of amusement. We were still repairing many of the household appliances in our homes often by ourselves, but sometimes taking them to repairmen. There was some planned obsolescence, mostly in the expected three-year life span of a car. The man who sold Walt the vacuum tube knew what sort of TV we had and that our problem was lack of sound just because of which vacuum tube that needed to be replaced. Walt built many of our first electronic machines from kits. We became very familiar with the component parts. One evening he made a wrong connection that caused spectacular arcing of electricity in our kitchen. Today’s electronic toys are built with tiny silicon chips that require special labs to manufacture. Most washable clothing still required ironing, especially men’s business shirts, which took a fair amount of time each week. I no longer had to sprinkle everyday shirts with water and allow them to sit before pressing, but deep wrinkles released better with a light misting of water, hence the spay bottle on the ironing board. And we watched the show that was on at the time. Ergo, PBS was showing Sesame Street in the late afternoon, after most children’s naptime, and I could iron the clothes while I supervised what was being watched on TV. We also had to gather in front of the TV, not play something on an electronic device that we carry with us or have available in the car. Some shows were still an event that we would watch together or at least discuss near that social center, the water cooler, the next morning. Much of our slang came from tag lines in these shows. Things such as: “Where’s the beef?” which has come and gone from our vernacular. It did have the advantage of suppressing spoiler alerts as you watched a show only when it was on. We couldn’t time shift it for convenience sake.
None of this is a value judgment. It’s just fun to take note of how the times, they are a changing.
The last word:
These mindset changes are important to your company, the government, and even each of us individually. These mindsets will drive the future There are now more millennials than baby boomers in the US. The millennials are a much more diverse group than the boomers, and a lot more accustomed to a world where everything is changing at an ever faster rate.
The only constant is change.
Keep your sense of humor.