In recent years, perhaps as a reaction to the narrow “categorical” social policies of the 1960s and ’70s, social thinking has ballooned into [being COMPREHENSIVE] at every opportunity. But so long as philosophers and scientists continue to puzzle over a unifying theory of everything, it is a safe bet that hardly anything will be truly comprehensive.
Few words irritate careful writers and editors more than this one, which has become a catchall term for any group of people with practically anything in common. Its etymology (literally “unity together,” with the original Latin meaning of “fellowship”) would seem to make this word apply only to a deeply close-knit group that shares some fundamental, spiritual connection.
In its original sense, the verb CHALLENGE was positively crimson with menace. Derived from the Anglo-Norman word for “calumny,” it described the kind of mortal affront that led men into duels. It has by now been so thoroughly emasculated that, with all its remaining fangs bared, it could not frighten the neighbor’s cat, much less provoke anyone to arms.
Foundations, to their great credit, have lately taken a more deliberate interest in the management, staffing, structure, and operating methods of the organizations they support. The unassailable premise of this interest is that good works do not accomplish themselves, but are carried out by organizations that may be managed well or ill, may perform their tasks efficiently or wastefully, and may need to change their methods as circumstances dictate.
This mystifying expression owes its popularity to one embarrassing fact: The phrase almost always designates a category of people of whom it is awkward to speak honestly. Almost every branch of charity or human service uses AT-RISK to describe the people whom its practitioners are… well, worried about. Here is one sample definition, from Education Week:
AT-RISK describes a student with socioeconomic challenges, such as poverty or teen pregnancy, which may place them [sic] at a disadvantage in achieving academic, social, or career goals. Such students are deemed “at risk” of failing, dropping out, or “falling through the cracks.”