COLUMBIA, S.C. Pop quiz: Who’s Johnny Carson? What was the Exxon Valdez? Ever use a typewriter?So easy, you say. Well, guess again.
Touchstones most of us take for granted have little or no place in the pop culture lexicon of those born in 1990, like much of the freshman class at USC.
For 11 years, Beloit College in Wisconsin has published a list of cultural landmarks that resonate with 18-year-old freshmen and just make the rest of us feel really old (even though the college’s Web site states it is “not deliberately designed” to do so).
For instance, for today’s college freshmen, shampoo and conditioner have always been available in the same bottle. And Wayne Newton has never had a mustache.
Using the Beloit College Mindset List as a study guide, we took to the University of South Carolina campus _ where classes began Thursday _ to see what some students in the class of 2012 do and don’t remember. The answers, well, they are sure to surprise you.
Like many of us, Sharae Moultrie, 18, of Myrtle Beach, S.C., drinks Coke from plastic bottles. She does, however, remember drinking the soft drink from a glass bottle -once- when she visited the Coca-Cola bottling plant in Atlanta.
At least she knew what to do with the glass bottle. A typewriter encounter didn’t turn out as enjoyably.
“I tried to play with it, but I didn’t know how to use it,” Moultrie said. “My mom had one. Our computer broke, and she tried to get me to use it.”
Sally Free, 18, of Raleigh, N.C., said she never had used a typewriter but had seen one once at her grandmother’s house. Oh, ouch.
New students milling around the Russell House and eating lunch on the patio said, sure, they had read some of the Harry Potter books, but they could offer only blank stares or head shakes when questioned about Atari gaming systems, Nirvana lead singer Kurt Cobain, or whether to call the country that invaded Georgia Russia or the Soviet Union.
Bernadette Reimer, 18, of Oak Ridge, Tenn., knew the Exxon Valdez had something to do with “a leak or something.” She remembered the commercials where a dish soap was used to wash oil-drenched birds and baby seals “up north somewhere.”
Andy Bakker, 18, of Denver, Colo., knew plenty about Brett Favre, knew the elder George Bush was president when he was born, and pegged the “Summer of Love” as 1968.
Yet, Joseph Jamison, 17, of Aiken, S.C., was pretty confident the season-long hippie fest in San Francisco occurred in 1975 and “had to do with love or being free or whatever,” while Meera Patel, 18, of Florence, S.C., got props from her friend for declaring it the title of a book.
India Wells, 18, of Bethesda, Md., was able to name several Supreme Court justices, including Clarence Thomas, who was noted on the Mindset List. Others, though, said they had never heard of him_.
But perhaps the most telling answer of all was given by a young woman who shall remain nameless to protect the innocent (and young).
“Ever heard of Johnny Carson?” we asked.
“No- was he a president?