California: Refer to "at-risk" students as "at-promise"

Not long ago, California passed legislation - subsequently signed by the governor - that now replaces the term “at-risk” (used to describe students who are at risk) - with “at-promise.” Educators and law enforcement personnel will no longer be permitted to use the term “at-risk.”

IMHO, this is problematic for a few reasons:

[li]If students who drop out, do drugs, crime, join gangs, etc. are “at-promise”, then surely students who stay out of trouble, get straight-As, and achieve well are even all the more “at-promise”, are they not? Aren’t they on a path of even more “promise”? [/li][li]The term “risk” is a perfectly reasonable term to use for describing behaviors such as drugs, low grades, dropping out, crime, gangs, etc. Those are behaviors that lead to a considerably worse outcome in life. Sugarcoating it in such a manner would be like a doctor telling a patient who smokes, drinks, eats unhealthily, never exercises, is overweight, etc. “You’re ***not ***at-risk for diabetes, cancer, heart attacks…you’re at-promise for a healthy life.”[/li][li]If, previously, the worse a student’s behavior was, the more he was considered “at-risk,” then now under this system, the worse a student’s behavior, the more “at-promise” he is. This leads to an absurd situation where the worse one’s behavior is, the ***more ***promise he/she is considered to have, and conversely, the better one’s behavior is, the ***less ***promise he/she is considered to have.[/li][/ul]

Not going to lie, this is weird and dumb. And this as a California voter…

I don’t think PC is as much as a problem as the right likes to paint it as… but this particular instance is… dumb… And, going by the claimed objective, is a complete and total waste of time. Everyone in category X has problems, so let’s rename category X! The name isn’t the source of the… ugh, I might have to call a legislator and bark about this…

I would have gone with “the chosen ones”.

What’s the point? Now “at-promise” carries with it the same meaning as “at risk”.

Robert Heinlein, in one of his books, I can’t at my advanced age remember which, had the government of California award all high school graduates a BA degree by government fiat. He said that since the statistics showed that people with degrees had higher salaries than people without, granting everyone a BA degree would improve the economy.

Ugh, this is one of my least-favorite educational fads, and there is a lot of competition. (I was aware of it before it became law in California.) Whoever came up with this idiotic phrase doesn’t understand how words work, which is not a good attribute in an educator. First of all, “at-promise” is not idiomatic English; it sounds bizarre and awkward. Secondly, the apparent meaning (someone whose current achievements match the level of their promise) is the opposite of the intended meaning (a student who has promise but is not on currently track to achieve it). Thirdly, renaming things never removes the social stigma already attached to those things – it just adds stigma to the new name (this is why people now use “special” as an insult).

Make. It. Go. Away.

I can no longer remember all the fancy circumlocutions that things like, for instance, swim schools, music classes and other kids’ activities tie themselves in knots over, in order to avoid having to say terrible things like ‘below average’, ever.

Luckily though, they all do these little graphics charts these days to go along with the words. So “Try to get right-hand dots more often than left-hand dots” covers pretty much every situation

This sounds sort of like the much more persistent fad of “person-first terminology”. Like, instead of saying “black person”, you’re supposed to say “person of color”, or instead of “handicapped student”, say “student with handicaps”. Supposedly, this emphasizes that they’re first and foremost people, despite whatever adjectives may apply, which would be a lofty goal… if it worked. But since the construction is so non-idiomatic, all it ends up doing is emphasizing the adjective. And it’s only ever used for descriptors that are considered negative: You’d never refer to a tall kid as a “child of height”.

I think that because the individuals in question are children, they are particularly susceptible to the possible negative effects of labels. An adult may understand quite well what is meant by “at-risk student” but a child or teenager is probably more likely to imbue it with baggage.

When I was in high school there was a certain classroom that was known to be the room where the “special needs students” were taught. The phrase “special needs” is quite broad and could cover a whole range of students who would struggle (for various reasons) in a traditional classroom. Nonetheless, at my high school, “special needs” had been colloquially equivalent to “retards.”

I don’t know that this sort of legislation resolves or even mitigates this issue, but I don’t have a hard time imagining how even the most benign labels become pejoratives. I don’t know what a better solution would be, though.

I agree that this is dumb. But with all the dumb shit going on in the world, this is probably one of the least hurtful to anybody.

As a young kid, I saw a sign for an Exceptional Children’s School. I had a completely different understanding of what that meant than what was actually meant.

I was thinking this, too. “At-promise” is rapidly going to turn into a snide insult.

You’re not at risk of failing at life, you’re promised to fail…

Right. Focus, people.

From the linked article -

I have a feeling Mr. Jones-Sawyer is at-promise for disappointment - the sun doesn’t rise because the rooster crows at it.

How [del]differently abled[/del] [del]intellectually challenged[/del] stupid can you get? Don’t say “Betelgeuse” three times, or your kid will wind up in prison. :rolleyes:

CA has a problem with some of its kids. Putting the Euphemism Police on the job isn’t going to help.


Yeah of course California would do this… :rolleyes:

Sure. And similarly, with all the dumb shit going on in the world, why is CA choosing to deal with something so stupidly benign?

This is hilariously stupid.

Or to summarize, the California legislature has banned truth and clarity, and mandated that in some circumstances a lie is required.

Two Georges would nod knowingly at this action if they could see it: Orwell, and Carlin.

The cumulative effects of shit like this contribute to the pendulum swinging back in the other direction. That’s how we wind up with leaders like Donald Trump. Backlashes against the worst excesses of political correctness can be averted by simply not overreaching.

Clearly this is an assault on language, and a misguided attempt to somehow force young people to not imbue whatever terms the state decides to use with negative connotations.

I do, however, want to point out that the OP is wrong to state that "Educators and law enforcement personnel will no longer be permitted to use the term “at-risk.” There is no requirements regarding language attached to the law - all it does is update the California statutes with the new term.

Our school district tends to just use the term “students with an IEP” or “students that receive services” (which includes gifted students as well). That certainly seems much more neutral than “at-risk”.