“Left Behind” Reaches Status As An Idiom

Since the “No Child Left Behind” education law became a household word in the United States, I noticed that writers in the media picked up on the phrase “left behind”, applying it to all kinds of situations. The idea in the NCLB law is that by not providing adequately for the most vulnerable’s education needs, children were being “left behind.”

The Economist recently wrote that the entire country of Ethiopia has been “left behind.” I have read that famous celebrities have been “left behind.” There are so many left behind, I wonder who is marching at the front.

What I think people mean by this phrase is that those “left behind” are not doing as well as those who are apparently marching at the front. The triteness the phrase has accumulated by broad repetition is unfortunate, because the association with NCLB might infer that there are laws and bureaucracy to let those in the back catch up.


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