Friday, 27 March 2015


Her Majesty's Government in the giving vein

The end of the Financial Year approaches, a General Election follows soon after – and the thoughts of politicians turn not to pilgrimage but to spending citizens's money on buying their votes. Cynical, moi?

The joy of giving

In England the Department for Education has just announced that after years of running down the training of educational psychologists (UK term for school psychologists) it will now splash out a fortune to admit 150 new students for each of the next two years for doctoral-level training.

I do not know who else will have cause to cebrate the DfE's timely benificence – except for 94 lucky charitable projects concerned with children and young people, that will soon be sharing £94 million between them:

This money made will be on top of existing government grants for this sectors.

The 94 successful applications come from 463 original applications. Sums awarded range in scale from £50K to £736,154.

One successful beneficiary

Running an eye down the lists finds only one successful application from a project with a name familiar within UK Conductive Education, the PACE Centre in Ayesbury, awarded £118,250. The DfE's announcement describes the purpose of this grant as follows –
The project includes a combination of direct support for children and young people with sensory motor disorders  offering training/guidance for mainstream schools and making good links between mainstream and special settings.

Thursday, 26 March 2015


3 June 1944: a critical date

A week ago Conductive World summarised an article by Eliezer M. Rabinovich that had appeared in Hungary Today, itself an author's summary of a much longer article originally published in Russian. His article is a daring re-evaluation of Admiral Miklós Horthy's role in the survival of so many Budapest Jews towards the end of Hungary's active involvement in the Second World War:

Hungary Today has now published the second part of its summary:

Part 2 starts with the writer Sándor Török's showing Horthy's daughter-in law Countess Ilona Edelsheim-Gyulai a copy of the 'Auschwitz Notebook' that described in detail the scale and the mechanisms of the extermination at Auschwitz. (Later Sándor Török was an acquaintance and admirer of András Pető.)

The Countess took the Notebook to Regent Horthy, the date being recorded in her diary: 3 June 1944. Rabinovich's central point is –
...on July 3 the Admiral learned about the gas chambers. Why the exact date is so important? Because if the Regent learned sometime in June but took action only in July, while 12 thousand people were deported daily, then he is indecisive and not very attentive. But if he learned in the late evening of July 3, and on July 6 the deportations were stopped, then he is a hero!
Jews and others would still be murdered in Budapest till the city's liberation by the Soviet Army, but in (relatively) small numbers. András Pető was one of the more than two-hundred thousand Budapest Jews who survived.


Rabinovich, E. M. (2015) How 'anti-Semite' Miklós Horthy saved the Jews of Budapest – Part II, Hungary Today, 18 March


Rare CE video recording
A lesson from history

The first US experience of CE happened over forty years ago, in Wisconsin, an extensive collaboration with the then State Institute in Budapest. It resulted in a four-volume technical report, and an article plus a brief communication, in  academic special education journals, but was then largely 'forgotten':

An hour-long video tape had been made for sale and Gill Maguire has been trying to trace whether a copy of this still exists in Wisconsin University Library where a copy was deposited. In response to her enquiry a search has been made there but no copy has been found, a salutary outcome:

Since the State Institute in Budapest was involved in the Wisconsin Project it it possible that a copy of the tape found its way there in 1972, and is still there, but there is no published catalogue of the collection. Just perhaps now there will be one day, under the management of the new PAF:

And of course, just maybe, since the tape was made for sale, copies have survived in private hands. I see, for example, that this recording was made by Judith Sorenson but I also see that there are nineteen Judith Sorensons in Wisconsin alone. I leave that line for others to follow. And there is also the James House line to follow – for a deeper perspective on the project.

Pages i-iii of Volume I of the project report comprise a very extensive and perhaps at times unusually phrased Acknowledgements section. This begins –
The IMCP project has encumbered innumerable debts of gratitude in its short and stormy history. Even the partial list that follows is so lengthy that it dilutes the importance of each contribution far below its real value to the project.
Such a lot of people mentioned, organisations too. 

A further complication

The tape was recorded before the days of video cassettes so, if the content has not been transcribed to cassette or DVD, it may prove hard to find somewhere to play it (assuming of course that it has been well kept and still playable). And nowadays, when even video-cassette players are beginning to become rare, a machine on which to view a half-inch Sony video tape, reel-to-reel, may prove pretty hard to find.

Towards identity

None of this would have needed saying had not attention been diverted from creating infrastructure to develop Conductive Education as a sustainable body of transferable knowledge, by a headlong rush to expand access to anything that might be called Conductive Education (followed by a sometimes desperate need for financial viability)

An ancient video tape of what was done in Wisconsin all those years ago of course makes only a tiny contribution to fleshing out and identity, no more than one small brick in what ought to be a very big wall. That this recording has vanished is nonetheless cautionary. The essence of Conductive Education remains stubbornly undefined, and becomes ever more fuzzy around its edges. Inevitably this is a vital contributing factor to Conductive Education's uncertain identity – in the United States as elsewhere. But this lost video could at least bear powerful contemporary witness that Conductive Education in the United States is not a recent parvenu.

What might be useful raw materials to go towards constructing a defensible identity for Conductive Education in a fast changing and diversifying world. Here are two suggestions, not of course necessarily exhaustive.
  • Central to Conductive Education's identity is its practice, though this remains largely undescribed. Indeed, though there have been some noble experiential attempts to document conductive upbringing over the last few years, it looks like fewer attempts are being made now to describe and analyse the processes of conductive pedagogy than there used to be, perhaps one reason for which may be new ease of making video recordings. Where will your videos of conductive practice survive in forty-years time, though, and who will have the technology to view them?
  • Recorded practice offers an important contribution to theoretical analysis and theory-building, and to the the R&D (research and development) required to confirm these – though in truth the very nature of pedagogy suggests that 'D&R' might be a more appropriate strategy to help towards better understanding of the nature of the process required at the present stage of Conductive Education's development.
Well-based knowledge of what has gone before is part of the identity of any group, any movement. There is no need to be continually repeating the mistakes of the past and no need to be continually reinventing the wheel. Most of all, at any given point in time, the world of Conductive Education is a tiny one, the efforts of those who have gone before may reinforce the limited resources of today, just as the experiences and lessons of what you are doing now may yet benefit to those who come after.

That is of course if you care to share them at all.

Monday, 23 March 2015


Paths have crossed before

One of the founders and subsequently a mainspring of the Camphill movement was the refugee Jewish-Austrian paediatrician Karl König. He was a follower of anthroposophy, the philosophical position established by Rudolf Steiner.

One may sometimes read or hear that András Pető was also influenced by Rudolf Steiner. How this was so has not actually been stated, nor how anthroposophy may be apparent in what is now widely referred to as Conductive Education.

András Pető and Karl König did however correspond briefly towards the ends of their lives (Karl König died in 1966, András Pető in 1967).

In 2015, the future of the Camphill movement in England may no longer be secure:


Pető, A. (2012) Letter to Dr König, In G. Maguire and A. Sutton (eds) András Pető, Birmingham, CEP, pp. 145-148


Online petition to Minister

As Conductive Education already knows to its cost, the contemporary English education system cannot easily tolerate the existence of alien philosophies and their practices.

Now the Steiner movement's Camphill villages, life-long collaborative communities for mentally disabled adults, are apparently meeting an analogous regulatory problem –
Camphill Village communities have been providing care for people with learning difficulties in village communities alongside able-bodied volunteers since 1940. Based on the principles of Rudolf Steiner, mentally-disabled people are encouraged to play a full part in village life, giving them value and self-respect.
The commercial care-provider model for which CQC is set up has no concept of volunteer support 'families' in which Camphill's less able residents live active and fulfilled lives and the UK communities are being systematically reduced to 'care homes' where residents passively sit round and watch TV rather than be actively involved in everyday working life to the level of their physical and mental capabilities.

Online petition

It would be nice to feel that CE services in England (and anywhere for that matter) might express solidarity with the Steiner people and whip up some collective support for the Camphill villages, amongst their own staff, users and associates. Sign here:

Why  bother? It should be enough to recall the words of Pastor Martin Niemoller –
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out — because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out — Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out — Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me.


(2015) Camphill village communities must not be destroyed, online petion

Saturday, 21 March 2015


Remember Sándor Petőfi

The UK's Meteorology Office began yesterday with the most pessimistic forecast of weather for seeing the eclipse. Nowadays the Met Office always seems to offer what it judges the popular audience will consider the most disappointing interpretation of the meteorological data available. That way, presumably, it cannot be readily sued for raising unmet hopes. So yesterday morning, whilst begrudgingly allowing that Wales and the Midlands might have the country's least unfavourable condition for viewing today's eclipse, the early morning forecast gave the distinct impression that even here the sky would probably be overcast.

The best weather forecast, anyway, is usually just to look out of the window. When it was light enough I did, and saw 100% cloud cover. So it goes.

The two hours of the Midlands' eclipse were to be from half-past nine to half-past eleven.

By 0830 first patches of pale blue were appearing to the north. Time to act less nonchalant and hurry to set out a brimming bowl of water. By 0900 cloud cover was down to 25%, but occupying precisely the quadrant in which the sun was trying to rise. The cloud was moving away, but oh so slowly. And it was thinning too.

Tenterhooks till 0920, when at last the rim of the by now semi-transparent cloud cleared the sun. And bingo, the sun already well occluded shone down into my bowl. I felt as proud and pleased as an ancient astrologer in Assyria or at Stonehenge.

The partial eclipse was at its maximum at 1031, just as predicted, and then the moon began passing to the other side. No surprises there, just an unexpected satisfaction to follow what had been an unexpectedly exciting half hour.

As expected had been the silence of the birds and the strange sunset-style semi-darkness. The day did not grow suddenly chill, however, as it yet to warm up from the chill of the night.

Too cold to hang around much longer lying on the damp grass. Time to get back to the central heating, just popping out just a few times to watch (in the water in my bowl) the eclipse dying away in the now totally clear blue sky. I saw the moon diminish to no more than a cuticle, and then disappear. It was 1130.

The next partial eclipse visible from the British Isles will be in 2026, and the next total one in 2090. No comment.

A warning from history

The real eclipse done, it was time to switch on the computer, and from Hungary up popped Sándor Petőfi, as he sometimes does.

Sándor Petőfi was a national poet, national revolutionary hero and all-round good egg. He is not just a national icon, however, he is also a fine peg on which to hang dire warnings about not looking directly at the sun during an eclipse (or any other time for that matter).

He was only nineteen at the time of the total eclipse of 8 July 1842 and, I gather, not given to accepting the advice of his elders and betters. He suffered lifetime consequences after he followed the thinning sun with the naked eye, despite the warning of his teachers. He never saw clearly again with his left eye.

At least he got a poem out it
Teremtő isten! Szemeimre
A vakságot tán csak nem küldöd?
Mi lesz belőlem, hogyha többé
Nem láthatok lyányt s pipafüstöt!

Guessing wildly, and exercising a little subjective poetic licence, I think that this says something like –
O God the Creator! Just maybe
You will not bring blindness to my eyes?
What will become of me if I no longer can
Look upon young women and pipesmoke!

Hardly John Milton, but then Sándor Petőfi was only nineteen at the time. All for the lack of a bowl of water, plus perhaps a little too much pride.

Watching the previous eclipse

Friday, 20 March 2015


They also serve

In this morning's Special Needs Jungle Hayley Goleniowska offers a useful, ten-point aide-memoire on the potential healing properties of animals. This rings very true, and not just of course for children. See her list in full:

'SEND', by the way is the UK's latest portmanteau jargon to indicate, well, almost any problem of education and development in children. It signifies 'special educational needs and disability'.

Animals and CE

One hears about 'dolphin therapy' and 'therapeutic riding', but these are activities in their own right. How in detail do they incorporate conductive thinking and conductive pedagogical practice? Perhaps I have missed something. And what else is there out there? Hayley Goleniowska's offers a useful reminder for pedagogues and upbringers? How are such as these already utilised in the world of Conductive Education?

Judit Szatmáry's new Stand by Me Project, is to incorporate an Animal Sanctuary Farm –
The Farm Project has two aspects:
  • standing by animals in need and giving them a loving home.
  • a training studio to teach children how to care for animals and respect all living beings.
This new service has a website (though with no specific information as yet):

Thursday, 19 March 2015


And a practical tip

Around 11 o'clock in the morning of Wednesday 11 August 1999 a cheery bunch of staff of the Foundation for Conductive Education gathered outside the National Institute building in Birmingham, to watch the near total eclipse of the sun.

There were no conductors and no clients there (all on their summer holidays) but everyone else whom it took to maintain the organisation's diverse activities at home and abroad, domestic staff, administration, library, information/publicity, fundraising,  and me. A small, relaxed gathering.

It was a warm August day with a thin overcast. There had been some trepidation about what to do, given dire media warnings against looking directly at the sun, and the various mechanical proposals made for safe viewing all seemed rather too much trouble. In the event we used the simplest means of all, we looked at the sun's reflection in a large bowl of water, the simplest to prepare and to use, and 100% effective. The thin overcast notwithstanding, the near total eclipse was totally clear to all.

Not altogether fascinating to observe but it was a jolly occasion and we could all claim to have seen it. The next one, promised for 2015, seemed a very long way away.

That was a fond little collective, now gone their own ways as people must. It is nice to be reminded.

Tomorrow's partial eclipse will take place rather earlier in the day, and earlier in the year. It will be cloudy and, if today is anything to go by, there may be some fog too. I doubt that I shall prepare a bowl of water, even in remembrance, though I pass this tip on as worth remembering should you ever need it.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015


Early springtime rush

Conductors are looking for jobs and, especially, jobs are looking for conductors.
  • Germany
  • Hungary
  • New Zealand
  • United Kingdom
  • United States
As advertised over the last week on Conductive World Market:

Tuesday, 17 March 2015


Assessment by Jewish scholar

Eliezer M. Rabinovich writes on a difficult topic 

Everyone knows of the efforts of diplomats like Carl Lutz and Raoul Wallenberg in saving the Jews of Budapest in 1944. Almost no one, however, knows that their undertaking would have been impossible if the Jews had not first been saved from deportation by Regent Miklós Horthy...
Just one of the Jews who survived 1944-5 in Budapest was András Pető. Snippets of his story over that time have featured in Conductive World and offer important background to his first development of what we now call Conductive Education, as described in the book András Pető. The stories cross here in the person of Sándor Török who appears as the end of Part I of Eliezer's Rabinovich's article.

Walking with the Enemy

There is still no news of when this film will be available, either on general release or on video or DVD. From what little one can tell from the various trailers that have been put on line Ben Kingcsley's perhaps unexpectedly sympathetic portrayal of Miklós Horthy in the film is consistent with Eliezer's Rabinovich's account.


Maguire, G., Sutton, A, (eds) András Pető, Birmingham Conductive Education Press

Rabinovich, E. M. (2015) How 'anti-semite' Miklós Horthy saved the Jews of Budapest – Part I, Hungary Today, 16 March

This is the first part of the author's own summary of a hundred-page article in Russian, published last year in the magazine Evrejskaya Starina ('Jewish Antics'), 2014/1.

Sutton, A. (2015) A very long, slow walk: Walking with the Enemy, again, Conductive World, 9 February