Another Year Older, Another Year Fartier

I’m teaching Intro to Earthquakes again this semester, and today feels like a light blogging day, so it’s time to see how out-of-touch I am with this year’s entering freshman class, as determined by some random people in Wisconsin. You can tell they’re in Wisconsin, and not California, because they forgot the only age-related factoid that is directly relevant to my teaching: this year’s freshmen were mere fetuses and infants during the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.

Of course, I don’t remember Loma Prieta, either, seeing as how I was in Iowa at the time… so perhaps my pedagogy isn’t doomed after all.

Standard blog meme rules apply: bold for the ones that are true for me (if not literally true, then at least true given the various cultural rocks under which I have lived), plain text on the ones that aren’t, and comments in italics.

  1. Alvin Ailey, Andrei Sakharov, Huey Newton, Emperor Hirohito, Ted Bundy, Abbie Hoffman, and Don the Beachcomber have always been dead.I don’t even know who half those people are
  2. What Berlin wall?
  3. Humvees, minus the artillery, have always been available to the public.
  4. Rush Limbaugh and the “Dittoheads” have always been lambasting liberals.
  5. They never “rolled down” a car window.
  6. Michael Moore has always been angry and funny.
  7. They may confuse the Keating Five with a rock group.
  8. They have grown up with bottled water.
  9. General Motors has always been working on an electric car.
  10. Nelson Mandela has always been free and a force in South Africa.
  11. Pete Rose has never played baseball. – Who? I had to google that one.
  12. Rap music has always been mainstream.
  13. Religious leaders have always been telling politicians what to do, or else!
  14. “Off the hook” has never had anything to do with a telephone.
  15. Music has always been “unplugged.”
  16. Russia has always had a multi-party political system.
  17. Women have always been police chiefs in major cities.
  18. They were born the year Harvard Law Review Editor Barack Obama announced he might run for office some day.
  19. The NBA season has always gone on and on and on and on.
  20. Classmates could include Michelle Wie, Jordin Sparks, and Bart Simpson.
  21. Half of them may have been members of the Baby-sitters Club.Sexism is dead! Long live sexism!
  22. Eastern Airlines has never “earned their wings” in their lifetime.
  23. No one has ever been able to sit down comfortably to a meal of “liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti.”
  24. Wal-Mart has always been a larger retailer than Sears and has always employed more workers than GM.
  25. Being “lame” has to do with being dumb or inarticulate, not disabled.
  26. Wolf Blitzer has always been serving up the news on CNN.
  27. Katie Couric has always had screen cred.
  28. Al Gore has always been running for president or thinking about it.
  29. They never found a prize in a Coca-Cola “MagiCan.”
  30. They were too young to understand Judas Priest’s subliminal messages. – you’re never too young to understand subliminal messages, that’s the point!
  31. When all else fails, the Prozac defense has always been a possibility.
  32. Multigrain chips have always provided healthful junk food.
  33. They grew up in Wayne’s World.
  34. U2 has always been more than a spy plane.
  35. They were introduced to Jack Nicholson as “The Joker.”
  36. Stadiums, rock tours and sporting events have always had corporate names.
  37. American rock groups have always appeared in Moscow.
  38. Commercial product placements have been the norm in films and on TV.
  39. On Parents’ Day on campus, their folks could be mixing it up with Lisa Bonet and Lenny Kravitz with daughter Zöe, or Kathie Lee and Frank Gifford with son Cody.Hey, my parents can mingle just fine
  40. Fox has always been a major network.
  41. They drove their parents crazy with the Beavis and Butt-Head laugh.
  42. The “Blue Man Group” has always been everywhere.
  43. Women’s studies majors have always been offered on campus.
  44. Being a latchkey kid has never been a big deal.
  45. Thanks to MySpace and Facebook, autobiography can happen in real time.
  46. They learned about JFK from Oliver Stone and Malcolm X from Spike Lee.
  47. Most phone calls have never been private.
  48. High definition television has always been available.
  49. Microbreweries have always been ubiquitous.
  50. Virtual reality has always been available when the real thing failed.
  51. Smoking has never been allowed in public spaces in France.
  52. China has always been more interested in making money than in reeducation.
  53. Time has always worked with Warner.
  54. Tiananmen Square is a 2008 Olympics venue, not the scene of a massacre.
  55. The purchase of ivory has always been banned.
  56. MTV has never featured music videos.
  57. The space program has never really caught their attention except in disasters.I know, I know, minus 80 billion geek points
  58. Jerry Springer has always been lowering the level of discourse on TV.
  59. They get much more information from Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert than from the newspaper.
  60. They’re always texting 1 n other.
  61. They will encounter roughly equal numbers of female and male professors in the classroom. – Unless they’re physical science majors.
  62. They never saw Johnny Carson live on television.
  63. They have no idea who Rusty Jones was or why he said “goodbye to rusty cars.”
  64. Avatars have nothing to do with Hindu deities.
  65. Chavez has nothing to do with iceberg lettuce and everything to do with oil.California celebrates Cesar Chavez day, I wonder if this is true for my students as much as Beloit’s Midwestern crop
  66. Illinois has been trying to ban smoking since the year they were born.
  67. The World Wide Web has been an online tool since they were born.
  68. Chronic fatigue syndrome has always been debilitating and controversial.
  69. Burma has always been Myanmar.
  70. Dilbert has always been ridiculing cubicle culture.
  71. Food packaging has always included nutritional labeling.

I am still over 50% hip and with it – and apparently getting hipper and more with-it (or more forgetful of my old-fashioned upbringing) as time goes on.


  1. Thermochronic wrote:

    As an alumnus of the random school in Wisconsin that publishes this list, I’d like to defend their omission of the Loma Prieta Earthquake, but as an alumnus of the geology department I think I’ll have to complain loudly. Perhaps even withhold my enormous yearly donation….err

  2. Kim wrote:

    I’ve been using my experience in the Loma Prieta earthquake in classes for, ack, fifteen years now. My pedagogy is shot. If I hadn’t taken double the normal time to become an Associate Professor, I would be ready to be mothballed in administration or something.

    And I was a bit shocked that they expect students to encounter equal numbers of male and female professors. Not in my department. And I’ve already heard several students state that “girls just aren’t interested in geology.” Argh. So the equalization of faculty numbers in the humanities means that the lack of women in science is being seen as MORE natural than it was 20 years ago? Oh, no.

  3. Lab Lemming wrote:

    How could you miss Loma Prieta? Weren’t you watching the world series pregame show? Plate tectonics made great pregame entertainment back then.

  4. yami wrote:

    I’ve never been much for sports. Rather than watching plate tectonics for my entertainment, I watched corn grow. Not that I had any energy for such frivolous pursuits after walking 5 miles to and from school uphill both ways in the snow and heat.

  5. jrepka wrote:

    I was at Berkeley during Loma Prieta (it bought me an extra week on a geomorphology assignment) so it made an impression. Most of my students here in SoCal are barely old enough to remember Northridge.

    Nothing on the list would be bolded for me, though; the thought that awareness of the Berlin Wall for today’s freshpersons comes from history class, or that most of them have never heard a phone “ring,” is making my hair grayer as I type this (“what is this ‘typing’ you speak of, old man?”).

    For Earth Science teachers of course, there will always be new earthquakes, volcanoes and such to reference. But a few years ago I would joke about students not knowing what a “record groove” was, when I was teaching them to recognize plagioclase; now I really get blank looks…

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