That little girl and her purple jacket were the only ones to make it off that bus alive.

It's that time again. The summer is drawing to a close and all over, young people are returning to school with eager minds, bright eyes, hearts full of hope, and a couple pennies in their pocket, as they reach for that eternal dream of a better lot. Oh sorry, I accidentally confused students with early twentieth century immigrants. You know how easy that is. Anyway, be they kindergartners nervously anticipating their first ride on that big yellow toddler-crusher we call a schoolbus, or college students leaving the nightly decadence of summer behind them for the nightly decadence of their alma mater, it's time for young folk of all shapes and sizes to get back to learning. After all, children are the future. Well, actually children are younger versions of adults. The future is a branch of the time-space continuum. There's a difference there, but I don't know what it is or how to explain it. And that is why I, as well as millions of others, am heading back to that fountain of knowledge known as the street corner. There's nothing you can't learn there! But once I get back, I'll be heading right off to school for another year.

As important as an education is to amounting to anything in life, it's only natural for some people to not want to go back to school. Some don't want to see the summer end. Others don't want to have to get up early day after day. Still others may be nervous about the unknown challenges and obstacles that await them. And there's a lot for students to be nervous about. What problems will they have to solve? What questions will they have to answer? What papers will they have to write? Will there be a lot of homework? Will the teachers be easy, hard, fair, tough? Will they be graded on a curve? Will there be a scale? Will they have to do work on the chalkboard? Will they have to speak in front of their classmates? Will their classmates like them? Will anybody like them? Will they make new friends? Will they keep old friends? Will they oversleep? Will they undersleep? Will they sidesleep, which is a rarely seen but perfectly viable alternative? And what about extracurricular? Will they make the team? Will they get cast in the school play? Will they finally find acceptance on the math team? And most importantly, will the computer lab block access to their favorite internet humor site? That's a lot to handle, to say nothing of romance, parties, dorm life, roommate troubles, and the hundreds of other little complications that make the approach of school something to dread for many young people. Not for me, though. I love my school. Can't wait to go back. It's going to be a blast. Should be a great year for Ben. However, I know that not all of our school age readers out there are quite as confidant about their academic and social successes in the coming year as I am. That is why I am happy to bring you a list of predictions for the upcoming school year. Now you can put your fears and concerns to rest as I fill you in on everything of any sort of importance that is going to happen. Read on, and be amazed!

Take a look at their sweet, innocent faces. Got a good look? Good! Now let's play "How Many Will Survive?"

Kindergartner Danny Franklin of Bloomfield, Alabama will set the record for the youngest school shooting yet, as he comes into class with a semiautomatic assault rifle that he found in his father's hiding place - the clear glass cabinet in the kitchen next to the soup bowls. The shooting, which will claim the lives of eight five year old children, or approximately 3.4 real people, will be motivated by an act of aggression the day before by classmate Taylor McAllister, who will knock over Danny's carefully constructed block tower. When questioned by the police, Danny will say that his father always told him the night before the shooting that "Anyone who would knock down a tower these days is an un-American son of a bitch." Danny, being so young, will be released from police custody and given juice, most likely apple in nature. Danny's father, however, will be forced to stand with his hands tied behind his back as the parents of the victims line up to bitchslap him.

While teaching her fourth grade class at Woodrow Wilson Elementary School in Hoopersville, North Dakota, Mrs. Julienne Phelps will accidentally prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that long division is completely bogus. At the National Conference of Mathematicians, an announcement will be made to the world that long division was, in fact, a hoax, and that they all thought it was funny at the time. It will be revealed that any number divided by one is, in fact, seven billion, four hundred sixty-six million, nine thousand and three. However, no explanation will be given as to why. In a related story, the Pythagorean Theorem will be modified to read: A-squared plus B-squared equals seven.

Considering kids like these are cool in seventh grade, Denise must be one hell of a loser. Way to go, Denise.

Seventh grader Denise Clark of Upton, Maryland will not fit in, no matter what she does. All of the cool girls will ostracize her for wearing fashions that are one trend behind the current craze during the first week of school. When she changes her entire wardrobe to accommodate, they will accuse her of trying to copy their style. Denise will prove to be too smart to find acceptance among the dumb kids, but too stupid to fit in with the budding intellectuals. She will try out for the school production of Thorton Wilder's Our Town, but she will not make it, and she will miss the last date to sign up for stage crew. In a last ditch effort to find a crowd, she will lamely attempt to hang out with the middle school stoners. The first time that they hang out together, they will go smoke outside the mall and get caught by the cops. Denise will immediately give up everything, including the poorly-rolled joint they were passing around, which she will be holding at the time. The other kids will deny everything and put all the blame on her. She will not get into any real trouble, but the stoners will never hang out with her again. She will attempt to try out for the school soccer team, but will not be allowed because of the pot thing. No boys will talk to her, and she will have to sit with the down syndrome kid and the albino kid at lunch. On the plus side, she will get an "A" on her report on the effect of corn on the early colonists for her history class. However, on her way to receive the graded paper from the teacher, one of her classmates will trip her, causing her to spit out her gum and get it in her hair. The teacher will yell at her for chewing gum in class.

Tenth grader Nick "ROBOPOPE" Hexum of Chester A. Arthur High in Dunley, Kansas will notice a peculiar typo while studying William Shakespeare's epic tragedy Romeo and Juliet. On page sixty-eight, Nick will notice that it says "Bomeo." Upon consultation with Shakespeare's original manuscript, it will be determined that, in fact, the character was supposed to be Bomeo, but in his rush to complete the play, he didn't close off a lot of his uppercase B's properly. Countless references in theater, film, television, literature, and Dire Straits songs will have to be altered. However, since "Bomeo" is a stupid-ass name, the play and its legendary romance will fall by the wayside and be stricken from curricula across the country. The Dire Straits will leave their song the way it is.

The days of primitive technology like this are gone.

At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a group of student researchers will develop a technology capable of moving liquid through a length of tubing at an unprecedented clip. This invention will have the potential to solve irrigation and clean water problems worldwide. Naturally, the students at MIT will use it to create the world's most powerful beer bong. The school will beat the previous record for alcohol-related fatalities in one year, also held by MIT.

The University of Indiana, desperate to hold onto its title as the number one party school in the country, will introduce the following majors: Hangover Prevention and Reduction, Post-Vomit Recovery, Bong Maintenance and Repair, Groponautics, Getting One's Freak On, Doing a Little Dance, Making a Little Love, Getting Down Tonight, Giving Up the Funk, Keg Stand Gymnastics, Chugology, Chugonomy, Drink Doctoring, and Communications.

At a small New England liberal arts college, it will be decided among the members of the newly reformed Queer Alliance that the term "gay" is no longer politically correct. While the rest of the world murmurs that they didn't know it had been considered politically correct in the first place, the QA will announce that homosexual men will be known henceforth as "shpadoinkle." South Park and "Cannibal!: The Musical" creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone will sue for twenty million dollars. The QA will immediately issue a public apology, change the term back to "gay" and admit that they were all just being big fags.

At the biannual meeting of the National Council of Teachers of English, it will be decided that the easily memorized, but often lacking rule "I before E except after C" should be amended to encompass the actual extent of the exceptions to the "I before E" formula. The new rule, while somewhat more challenging on the memory, will be considered absolute and should not be broken in formal writing under any circumstances. It will read as follows: "I before E, except after C, D, M, lowercase P, the TH diphthong, a semicolon, or any word or phrase that rhymes with 'rabbit.' Also, when followed by Q, more than three consonants in a row, or when the next word is a number or something to do with a current or former President of the United States. However, if the I-E combination is followed by the letter V, then I is automatically before E, no matter what else is around." Realizing how much this is to keep in mind, the NCTE will use their combined poetic skills to come up with a mnemonic device much like the rhyming of the original rule. Several variations will be proposed, including:

I before E once was the rule
That all the children learned in school.
If the new version's not believable,
Just try spelling inconceivable...
I mean, inconcievable. I mean, inconceieiei-ei-ei-ie... forget it.

If I and E do give you pause,
Just give it up, it's a lost cause.

You're fucked.

Finally, a new version will be decided upon:

I before E, except after C
D, M, or lowercase P.
The I-E combo thou shan't weather
If first T and H are together.
You must be drunk or high or rollin'
If you use I-E with a semicolon.
Write E-I, now form the habit
After any word that rhymes with "rabbit."
Switch I and E's what you must do
If after them is good old Q.
The same thing goes, though it makes no sense
If the next three letters are consonants.
I like lettuce and cucumbers,
E then I before any numbers.
The last rule came from out of the blue
So don't be surprised when this does, too.
We've found it makes a lot of sense
To switch I and E before Presidents.
This entire rule can only benda
If V is next on your agenda.

Naturally, this new poem will not catch on in the least and students will continue choosing the order for I and E as they have for years - completely at random.

And that, my friends, is all there is to it! Those are my predictions. It's a little death-intensive, but that's to be expected, what with Y2K4 and all. As far as I can see, nothing else of even remote interest is going to happen this school year. So, as long as you're not mentioned above, and especially if you're not Denise Clark or in a class with that little bastard Danny Franklin, you should be okay. Of course, none of these predictions are guaranteed to come true, as any guarantee I could offer would be immediately negated by the fact that this is the internet. All I'm saying is that I came up with a twenty line poem for that I before E thing, so it had better damn well happen.

– Ben "Greasnin" Platt

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