What's in store for us? We're self-isolating and trying to figure it out. This week, we're going back to school with predictions on hip homeschools, rogue proms, and Furry Studies.
Trump will propose the return of Trump University. We know that Trump University ended ignominiously in November 2016 with a legal settlement that totaled $25 million. The very idea of a university owned and run by Trump is bizarre enough, and more bizarre is that students actually attended it. But we now live in the bizarrest of times. As the pandemic grinds on, more and more colleges will permanently close their doors because of massive budget cuts in education and the collapse of the student debt industry. At the darkest point of this development, the only kind of university that President Trump will happily spend government money on will be one named after him. The world will then witness the resurrection of Trump University, the ideal university for American stupidity, a university with no professors with an agenda. —C.M.
Shitty college meal plans will get shittier. Many colleges require students who live on campus to purchase a meal plan. Some students are already protesting this policy during the Covid-era. These protests are smart. First off, college meal plans often suck—when I was a freshman at a big state university, our dorm meals were provided by a company best known for making prison food. And now the pandemic has introduced new, significant hurdles to college dining. Schools that are operating in-person classes have to impose strict occupancy limitations, which means Disneyland-level lines for low-quality food.
Here’s William O’Bannon, a University of Georgia student, trying to get lunch:
@willtv.__ I shouldn’t pay all this money to get an elementary school vibe ##uga ##mealplan ##fyp ##georgia ##covid
♬ Act 2: In the Hall of the Mountain King - Edvard Grieg
“I shouldn’t pay all this money to get an elementary school vibe,” O’Bannon wrote on TikTok. He’s right. He shouldn’t.
So what do students do if their entire food budget is sucked up by a meal plan? Speaking from experience, many will scrounge up whatever change they have and supplement their shitty meals with fast food or convenience store fare. We’re talking Easy Mac, Oreos, meat sticks, Gushers.
I just want to remind the kids, please, think about your teeth. How are you gonna riot on a Gushers diet? —C.B.
Video gamers are the new quarterbacks. School sports are canceled! No one can catch a football without catching COVID-19, schools are saying. Where will teens turn for school pride and group activities? E-sports. In the last year, high school level e-sports cropped up across the country. While the leagues are rarely considered actual sports (they're academic extracurriculars), they are organized teams with coaches. In sportsless virtual school, I expect school administrators to fully embrace e-sports. PTAs will pay for custom Fortnite skins in the school colors. Fire up the Zoom pep rally for the big Rocket League match against the rival high school! It's 2020 bitch and gamers are the new jocks. —N.G.
A new way to floss your "school clothes." The best part of starting school, for me, was the glorious first week when I wore whatever new clothes I'd thrifted over the summer. I wanted the masses to eat up my Highly Original mock turtleneck/high-waisted jeans/Doc Martens combo that I copped at Red Light. But with distance learning, the prospect that everyone will see your full fall fit has gone out the window. No more stunting. Instead, a lot of blurry, unflattering video evidence of your small existence. The kids will get more inventive over video chat, focusing their attention on what they can flaunt from the shoulders up. Showing off will look a whole lot different once we get back to school, from hanging a Telfar bag on the wall so it gets into the Zoom background to rocking statement earrings that can be seen from afar. —J.K.
Students won’t just be navigating remote learning this fall. They’ll also be learning remote caregiving. College freshmen are about to be forced into truly unknown territory. Not only will freshmen have to negotiate college for the first time, but COVID will force many of them into newfound caregiving roles. It's a given that parents will get sick in the coming months. Every sniffle and moderate fever will set off a string of worried texts, calls, Marco Polos. This will be especially hard for kids of single parents. Caring for my COVID-positive mom halfway across the country has been a struggle even as a 28-year-old. If I were ten years younger, the anxiety would be frankly unmanageable. —C.B.
College campuses will be the new Pizza Hut. There’s something uniquely melancholy about a former Pizza Hut, or an abandoned Walmart. Now we’re about to discover what it feels like to see entire emptied colleges. State schools will likely weather the pandemic, but some smaller educational institutions will not. And then what’s going to happen to those uniquely weird campuses? Some will be turned into very peculiar housing; others might become office buildings; and a few might find new life as strip malls. In a best-case scenario, we might see a new form of walkable mixed-use development, with dorms converted to apartments and classrooms made into workplaces and shops. But just as with the telltale roof of a Pizza Hut, there’ll be no missing the educational infrastructure left behind, from the ivy climbing the walls to the ghosts of faculty who were THIS CLOSE to tenure. —M.B.
Those colleges will turn into prisons. At the center of Michel Foucault's theory of modern society is a cluster of spaces described as disciplinary. These are army barracks, schools, and prisons. They share this function: the production of disciplined subjects. Because these kinds of spaces by no means disappeared with the cultural shift from disciplinary spaces to spaces of control, as the French philosopher (and contemporary of Foucault) Gilles Deleuze put it in 1992, it is easy to see what will become of abandoned schools. They will be turned into prisons. Because the present pandemic-induced recession is bound to become a depression if Trump is reelected, we can expect poverty rates in the US to surge, and with this sharp increase, we can expect a spike in property-related crimes. Because most Americans are conditioned to blame individuals for their actions rather than the enforced class regulations that impoverish 50 percent of the individuals within society, the only political solution available to the crisis of poverty will be expanding the already massive prison system. The class-to-prison pipeline will be removed for efficiency. Future empty classrooms will fill up with future post-pandemic prisoners. —C.M.
Homeschooling is going to be hip. It's back to school time for kids around the country but school is really e-school this fall. Many parents aren't satisfied with that. The ones who can afford it are putting their kids in small learning pod groups and hiring private tutors. As September wears on, the well-intentioned well-off parents will realize that it's tedious trying to stick to public school remote schedules. Parents will drop public schools all together before winter is over. From then on out, it's private lessons, small group learning, and in-home school for upper-class kiddos. It'll be a mass exodus. —N.G.
Get ready for rogue proms. School dances will/should be canceled this year—but expect proms to go rogue. What's stopping a six-student learning pod from throwing a six-person cotillion? (Imagine being the only gay in your learning pod. Sad.) —C.B.
The statue of George Washington on UW's campus will continue to be a flashpoint for protesters and counter-protesters. For the entire month of August, the UW Black Lives Matter coalition hosted an "art installation" every day around the statue, calling for its removal and bringing attention to six demands. Despite examples of other colleges removing controversial statues, UW's administration has been mostly unresponsive. The protests that took shape this summer will undoubtedly roll into the school year as students start to get involved in UW again—even from a distance. During the half-hour I spent talking with protesters last month, I witnessed tense interactions with campus police as well as a random passerby calling the cops to report the protesters for "vandalism." —J.K.
The new rite of passage is going viral. A car isn't clout. What good is a car when you can speed around the world in one viral TikTok? That's the new, real rite of passage. It's Trump's America and the kids are more viral than ever before—just look at the infection rates! —C.B.
Furry Studies: the wave of the future. I’m researching a story about a group of academics who are studying the furry fandom, and let me tell you, their work is THOROUGH. But despite having around 50 published papers on the topic, there are still tons of unanswered questions about furries for researchers to investigate. I hereby predict that Furry Studies will become the hot new academic trend of the future! I don’t actually believe that prediction will come true, but I still predict it. —M.B.