Day 9:   Language  matters

Leicester to Northampton via Market Harborough

The rain had stopped and the clothes mostly dried out as we prepared to leave Leicester.

The gradients had also flattened and this was to be a days riding along long straight paths with some unexpectedly challlenging off roading across fields of ripening wheat and down paths that were probably not intended for cyclicsts.

So what exactly do you call an old railway line that is now being used as a cycle path?  Surely there should be some sort of collective name for them.  We have ridden a lot of them
- railway cuttings (describes past use only)
- ex railway cuttings (describes past but doesn't tell us about current)
- sustrans routes (true but too general - doesn't tell us about the history)
- cycleways (true but miisses the details about the ex railway use)

All of these labels miss out the luxuriant trees on either side and the quality of the surface and the details of the bikes that are being used and the nature of the group travelling the route and why they are travelling.

So all of these terms tell us something but not key things about the experience of the riding we are having and so it is with the use of labels in the care of vulnerable children and young people and adults where lots of labels are being used these days to describe behaviour and to group children and adults together


All of these labels take us a small step towards defining something but they miss out on a lot of key detail that can be very important.   Most importantly they can be very misleading.   Diagnosis often implies to the general public that an individual has 'got' a 'thing'.   However this is not what diagnosis is.  Diagnosis simply describes a cluster of symptoms like 'ex railway route'.     

If we are going to get better at Caring for the Common Good we need to be able to understand and accept complexity and resist the temptation to simplify down to labels.

So remember when you hear a label there may be a lot of key information missing.


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