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In collaboration with Retro Report

Future of College

While the internet has made online learning virtually free, the price of traditional teaching is still soaring. When the job market is transforming more quickly each year, how can we reinvent education to keep up?

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Retro Report
Future of College

Where We Thought We’d Be

We can’t predict the future—but these experts thought they could. Here are some ideas they got right—or marvelously wrong.

  • 1910 (for 2000)

    The download

    The French company Villemard commissioned artists such as Jean-Marc Côté to produce a series of brightly colored prints depicting the year 2000. In one of them, titled “At School,” a crank-handled machine crunches textbooks up into knowledge and then transmits them into students’ minds via some steampunk-worthy brass headgear.

  • 1924
    A boy wearing headphones.


    Science and Invention’s editors thought that headphones had the power to turn homework into “a great joy.” Radio lessons would soon be commonplace, and “little Mary Jane” would “enjoy her radio lessons as much as she now enjoys her bedtime stories. Everything will be an ‘open book’ to her.”

  • 1965 (for 2000)

    Knowledge zaps

    Self-described futurists Herman Kahn and Anthony J. Weiner (no, not that one) believed students could optimize their learning through “practical use of direct electronic communication with and stimulation of the brain”—in other words, electrode stimulation.

  • 1982

    Flying classrooms

    Education gets a lift in a classroom abroad an airship from The Kids' Whole Future Catalog. “Classes will never be boring on an airship traveling around the world!” the book says. “Imagine gliding over the Amazon River in South America or retracing Ulysses' journeys through the Greek Islands.”

  • 1987
    New York University graduates celebrate after having their degrees bestowed upon them.

    The end of college?

    Universities such as NYU are on their last legs, educator Herbert London told The Futurist, and it’s all because of liberals. Colleges had become such hotbeds of Marxism, feminism, and affirmative action from the 1960s onward, he wrote, that people would no longer want to go.