[Netscape]: Every year Beloit College in Beloit, Wisconsin publishes what it calls “The Mindset List”–fun facts and figures about the incoming crop of freshmen so professors will be able to relate to their new students.
A few samples:

1. The people who are starting college this fall across the nation were born in 1985.
2. They have no meaningful recollection of the Reagan era and probably did not know he had ever been shot.
5. They were 10 when the Soviet Union broke apart and do not remember the Cold War.
6. They are too young to remember the space shuttle blowing up on takeoff.
7. Tiananmen Square means nothing to them.
10. The statement “You sound like a broken record” means nothing to them. (They have never owned a record player.)
13. They have always had an answering machine.
21. Michael Jackson has always been white.

35 in all. At one level, this is amusing stuff; at another level, very sobering for those of us born a little bit before 1985. But it’s also a serious reminder of how easily we take for granted our assumptions about other people — who they are, what they think, what the things we say mean to them.
Whether in marketing, politics, or social relations, our speech and messages are filled with linguistic codes and cultural references that we assume convey meaning to others simply because they’re meaningful for us. As the Mindset List demonstrates: not a good assumption.
And we’re once again reminded that listening is the most important part of speaking.

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