Like the image of Alan Kurdi drowned on a Turkish beach, the photo and video of five-year-old Omran Daqneesh in an Aleppo ambulance have shocked the world. It shouldn’t have; both the Syrian government and its enemies have killed and maimed any number of their own children in the battle to keep or gain power. Despite their best efforts, however, many Syrian children survive, and some of them reach Canada. Omran, if he were to arrive in Vancouver this summer, would go straight into kindergarten. A year from now he’d enter Grade 1, he’d graduate from high school in 2029, and with any luck he’d have a B.A. from one of our universities in 2033. What should we teach a child like Omran Daqneesh, and the countless kids like him? How could we prepare him, and Alan Kurdi’s cousins in Coquitlam, and thousands of others, to outgrow their traumatic childhoods and become constructive and creative Canadians in the 2030s? Whether we define an education generation as 12 or 16 years, each generation starts knowing very little about the world at present, and nothing at all about the world it will enter as adults. Yet we, who have experienced two or three generations’ worth of surprises, still think we’re preparing our children and young people for a known future, teaching them to step into predictable jobs. We should know better by now. The B.A.s of the class of 2016 entered Grade 1 in 2000, when the Middle East was relatively peaceful and the World Trade Center dominated the New York skyline. With the Soviet Union gone, and China busy getting rich, we did indeed seem to be at “the end of history,” on the threshold of a Utopia brought to us by triumphant capitalism. It didn’t quite work out that way. Sixteen years before that, in 1984, the Soviets were fighting in Afghanistan and a nuclear winter seemed all too likely. And 16 years before that in 1968, China was convulsing with the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, rebel French students seemed about to topple President De Gaulle, and Pierre Trudeau became Canada’s prime minister. The thought of Chinese billionaires buying up Vancouver real estate was literally unthinkable. In some ways, we do know the future because it’s sadly like the past. From the start of my teaching career in Vancouver in 1967, I was aware of the refugees in my classes: the Iranian still terrified of the Shah’s secret police, the Ugandan Ismailis who’d escaped with their lives and the shirts on their backs, the Czech girl who wept as she talked about the Soviet invasion of 1968. For that matter, one of my colleagues was a U.S. Army deserter, one of thousands of deserters and draft dodgers who enlivened Canada’s 1960s culture before fading into the background. The refugees kept coming: the Vietnamese boat people, the Chileans escaping Pinochet’s fascism, the Serbs and Croats and Bosnians who glared at one another across my wife’s adult-ESL classroom in the 1990s. Now the Syrians are arriving, and untold millions of others behind them. The Europeans don’t want to accept them, but they will keep coming. According to the International Organization for Migration, almost 270,000 have entered Europe by sea so far this year. Over 3,000 have died at sea. At some point we will decide to accept far more than our nominal 25,000 – and choose how to live with the consequences of our decision. If we treat them as unavoidable nuisances and a drain on our resources, they will become a drain indeed: underschooled, underemployed, alienated, linking to the rest of the country only through the police and social services bureaucracy. But if we treat the thousands of Alan Kurdis and Omran Daqneeshes as an incredible stroke of luck, an opportunity to energize and sustain the country as a prosperous democracy, we will do very well indeed. They will enliven our classrooms, break our sports records, start new industries and do business around the world in English, French, and Arabic. Yes, they will bring unique problems that our schools and universities will have to deal with. But we’ve dealt with the traumatized and uprooted for at least 60 years, ever since we absorbed almost 40,000 Hungarians in a few months after the 1956 uprising. The University of British Columbia even took in a whole Hungarian school of forestry. We’re a lot better at it than we realize. Every upheaval in the world seems to create a diaspora of emigres and refugees, some of whom wash up on Canada’s shores and into our classrooms. The Syrians are no different, and it will be up to teachers to welcome them and help them build new lives for us all in the unknown world of the 2030s.