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What’s in a name?

Yale Medicine Magazine, 2005 - Spring


No Child Left Behind. Leave No Child Behind. Two slogans almost alike but for one word and the placement of the others. One is the creation of progressive child advocates and the other comes from a presidential campaign.

It is no accident that James P. Comer, M.D., HS ’66, M.P.H., the Maurice Falk Professor of Child Psychiatry in the Child Study Center, chose Leave No Child Behind as the title of his latest book. It is the registered trademark of the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF), which has worked since 1973 to ensure that children receive adequate education and health care.

During his 2000 campaign, President George W. Bush appropriated the slogan, much to the dismay of the CDF, which asked Bush to “cease and desist” from using it. According to news accounts, the CDF even considered legal action to prevent those words from passing Bush’s lips.

Comer’s choice of Leave No Child Behind should not be seen as an endorsement of the act of Congress that carries a similar name. “The accountability piece of it is good,” Comer said of the legislation, “but it goes about it in the wrong way, punishing rather than helping.” The legislation, Comer believes, places enormous pressure on schools to “teach to the test” in order to meet accountability goals. Instead, Comer says, teachers should be encouraging students to learn along developmental pathways in a “friendly, warm, exciting environment.”

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