Seth Barron wrote an article for City Journal titled Orwellian Word Games.
« A new law in California bans the use, in official documents, of the term “at risk” to describe youth identified by social workers, teachers, or the courts as likely to drop out of school, join a gang, or go to jail. »
« Los Angeles assemblyman Reginald B. Jones-Sawyer, who sponsored the legislation, explained that “words matter.” By designating children as “at risk,” he says, “we automatically put them in the school-to-prison pipeline. Many of them, when labeled that, are not able to exceed above that.” »
« Instead of calling vulnerable kids “at risk,” says Jones-Sawyer, “we’re going to call them ‘at-promise’ because they’re the promise of the future.” The replacement term—the only expression now legally permitted in California education and penal codes—has no independent meaning in English. »
« The idea that the term “at risk” assigns outcomes, rather than describes unfortunate possibilities, grants social workers deterministic authority most would be surprised to learn they possess. Contrary to Jones-Sawyer’s characterization of “at risk” as consigning kids to roles as outcasts or losers, the term originated in the 1980s as a less harsh and stigmatizing substitute for “juvenile delinquent,” to describe vulnerable children who seemed to be on the wrong path. The idea of young people at “risk” of social failure buttressed the idea that government services and support could ameliorate or hedge these risks. »
« New York City is engaged in a similar project to reshape reality. »
« The New York City Human Rights Commission recently declared that use of the term “illegal alien” can be regarded as evidence of discrimination in housing and the workplace, and thus be subject to heavy fines. Francisco Moya, a councilman from Queens, has introduced legislation to remove the word “alien” from the New York City Administrative Code, on the grounds that it is “outdated and loaded.” According to Moya, “its definition is ‘non-citizen,’ which is a perfectly clear word that doesn’t need to hide behind a euphemism.” But “alien” is no euphemism—it is a standard, neutral legal term that appears throughout the federal and state codes. Activists don’t like it—or “illegal immigrant” or “illegal alien,” both of which would also be prohibited from official use—not because the terms are vague but because they are precise. Instead, the term “non-citizen” would cover all shades of alienage, including permanent legal residents, visa overstayers, and people who snuck into the country. »