The first is that many of the people whose expectations and routines are most dramatically upended by the pandemic are students. The interruption, and in some cases irreplaceable loss, of important experiences in their education, as campuses empty and untold events are canceled, will likely shape their consciousness in more lasting ways than for the rest of us.
Like most catastrophes, the pandemic’s malign consequences will fall most heavily on the underprivileged. Unlike most catastrophes, its costs are also being paid heavily by some segments of the most privileged. Those college seniors whose spring terms and graduation ceremonies are suddenly deleted include many people who are future leaders of the public and private sectors. No, it’s not the end of the world for them. But it’s a piercing loss even so—one being paid more for the benefit of older, less healthy people than for pure self-protection.
More profoundly, the dynamics of the coronavirus moment likely will resemble the dynamics of other great public policy issues shadowing the next generation. In particular, the global pandemic and the harsh choices it imposes offer—in highly concentrated fashion in coming months—much the same choices that responses to global climate change will impose in coming decades.