As part of my faculty orientation last week, I learned a bit about the entering Freshman class (theoretically hoping to graduate in 2010), and also about some other teachers' attitudes towards students. It was a bit of a shock.
I learned that cheddar is money, not a dairy product. Dope is an adjective, not a noun, and it means that something is really good (although I think my generation wins for confusion here, as when something was really good we called it "bad").
I learned that the entering class has no meaningful recollection of any presidents other than Clinton and GW. The first Gulf War happened when they were two; it falls into the same historical category as Vietnam, WWI, and the Civil War. They don't remember the Cold War or the breakup of the Soviet Union; the threat of nuclear war isn't as scary as AIDS, Columbine or terrorism. The Kennedy tragedy was a plane crash, not an assassination. The original Star Wars trilogy has lousy special effects. George Foreman is the guy who sells those grills on TV. Popcorn was always cooked in a microwave, televisions have always had cable (and been in color, and had remotes), and telephones have never actually "rang" (with a physical bell). Record players and vinyl albums are what DJs use to mix music, and they've probably never seen an 8-track.
I learned that this is the generation of kids who grew up with Soccer Moms. Their parent is their personal assistant, their teammate, their coach, their friend. They may run the risk of being spoiled, but they're also confident, achievement-oriented, and they probably get along with their parents better than any other generation in history.
While these kids may actually respect their elders, they don't seem particularly respected in return. I mentioned that one of my goals in the Game Industry Survey course was to educate the students about the industry to the point that they could carry on an intelligent conversation about games; the response from the room was along the lines of, "you want them to have an intelligent conversation about something? Good luck with that..."
Excuses among students are common. One colleague told me that he killed a dozen or so grandmothers, aunts and uncles every semester, some of them twice. I found this similar to when I made online CCGs and we'd occasionally have to ban some kid from our game for poor behavior, and I learned that everyone has a little brother who logged into their account and caused trouble... even only children have little brothers.
It's only been ten years since I was in college myself. How did things change so much in such a short time? Am I aging at an accelerated rate, or have things always been this way?