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Leave No Child Behind?
June 11, 2002
By Darren N. Wilkinson (Coyul)

"We will leave no child behind!"

How often have we heard these words from those who seek our votes and our empathy?

What I think most folks miss in this altruistic ideal is that we've left countless numbers of children behind. We left some behind in the 70s, we left most behind in the 80s, we left way too many behind in the 90s - and more to the point, we don't even remember the ones we left behind in the 40s, 50s and 60s.

Why is no one proposing that we go back and get the ones we left behind? Why?

Is it because our support net is less than adequate, and we know we are complicit in this injustice? Is it that those who have been disenfranchised won't bother to vote - so why appease a complacent electorate? And if that is the case, at whose doorstep do we lay the blame?

On average, more than 50% of the electorate doesn't even bother to vote. Why is that? And more importantly, what can we do to fix it? Is it through showing our willingness to fight the system and make a statement for those disenfranchised? Do the disenfranchised read the papers? Do they notice when we challenge authority?

Probably not. As true and genuine as those actions might be, they fall way short of what is sought after from the basic electorate. They want to see change - in actual laws, in actual situations, in reality. A reality they can identify with. If we seek to change things from the outside, then we face an ever-steepening grade up a very slippery slope.

Which brings us to the ultimate conundrum of Progressive thinking: can the ends justify the means, and can the means justify the ends? Or should the ends justify the means, or the means justify the ends? It is an impossible question with an even more impossible answer, yet it is one we must face, and justify in the process.

In a recent run for nomination for Secretary of State for the state of Michigan I worked hard in the areas of society that are seldom - if ever - touched in a good way by government. They were all quite ecstatic that I would ask them their opinions, but they were all equally distant in their hopes for my candidacy.

Folks, the common person no longer trusts or respects those who seek office. Blame whomever you wish, these are the facts. If you can get Jimmy Carter to support you, you have the support of all of those stuck on the fringes of society. Help at home, they'll help at the ballot. Yet the fact that anyone stands on the fringes shows us the weakness of our society. If we are to make a profound difference, we must take on a profound mission, and that mission is to make everyone feel welcome and acceptable to society at large - not a small task.

So I offer the following suggestions to anyone seeking office:

1. Support teachers. Teachers will reach more people coming into voting/ignoring age than all candidates combined.

2. Give a shit! Not just for the cameras, but really know what problems folks face in the real world. (This may require an actual existence from paycheck-to-paycheck. I have such experience with paycheck-to-paycheck living.)

3. Don't concentrate on the money! Money still can't buy votes - honestly.

4. Remember where you came from. And always remember where you might be going - to represent those who have been left behind by others who promised not to leave them behind.

Let's put our rhetoric where our mouths are, and prove that we can - and will - make a difference. Until we do that, we are no better than those who speak the language and miss the message.

America hurts, and America bleeds, and all politicos will be associated with these "weaknesses" until we make a stand, not a stand alone, but a stand with all those who seek justice, both economic and social.

Many a candidate has lost the race, because he/she lost themselves in the process. Always imagine that losing your race will relegate you back to the cardboard box under the overpass, and know that that is a very bad place to have to be.

Leave no child behind? I don't think that's enough! Let's go back and get the ones who have already been left behind, and lets move forward for a new and more prosperous, and humane, tomorrow!

D. Wilkinson is a former Democratic and Green Party leader, and a civil rights activist - seeking to render "means" and "ends" a single progressive goal.

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