Wednesday, 24 May 2017

PAF – PROBLEM SOLVED?

You'd better believe it (iron.)


There are contradictions in all things. András Pető was very much in charge of his work and his institution, Mária Hári rather less so. There were great advantages in this for the creation and conservation of Conductive Education. And problems too.

After this, the pluses and minuses of the period of privatisation under the International Pető Foundation are not yet so clear in this respect. Renationalisation as a 'college', in 2014, was meant to cut across a variety of problems, academic as well as financial, managerial and commercial. Now in 2017 August's planned incorporation into a prestigious medical university suggests that this solution has significantly failed to achieve its goals.

Back in 2014 the renationalisation of the then Pető Institute seemed to meet with widespread approval amongst those who were aware of  major problems. In 2014, at its most basic, renationalisation prevented the institution from going bust and closing. Well, it is still there, but there have been further spills and thrills along the way, bringing some damaging attention from politicians and media.

In 2017 surrender of the PAF's 'college' status occurs against a wider national higher-education agenda concerning Hungary's colleges. The planned merger might therefore seem an obvious political solution.

And for the future? Who knows – renationalisation let in the agendas of the Government, now these are joined by the agendas of academic medicine, largely paediatric, and its corresponding medical services. Major decisions may be made well away from the interests and the understandings of those directly involved.

There may be pluses to this, and minuses. Things could go any way, all that we can know for certain at the moment is that nothing is for certain and that whatever happens will not be what anyone involved today specifically intends and hopes for. So it goes.

And Ronald Reagan, where does he come in?


...I've always felt the nine most terrifying words in the English language are: 'I'm from the Government, and I'm here to help'. (Ronald Reagan, 12 August 1986)


Previous item on this topic


Reference

(2017) Sorban tűnnek az állami főiskolák: így váltunk 29 egyetem országává, eduline, 24 May



Tuesday, 23 May 2017

PAF'S FUTURE – GOVERNMENT STATEMENT

SOTE incorporates the Pető Institute

Image result for sote egyetem

This morning's Magyar Hirlap reports a written Parliamentary reply by Secretary of State Bence Rétvári to an opposition question, in which he give more details of the arrangement for the merger between the Semmelweis Medical University and what the paper calls the 'Pető Institute'.

The Humanities Ministry confirms that this merger may come into force this August. The integration of the two institutions will not affect applications, and that the merger should increase the number of students and the international prestige of both institutions.

Since 2014 PAF (the András Pető College) has been controlled by the Ministry of Human Resources. The merger will improve the quality of service and management by improving the quality and effectiveness of rehabilitation capacities.

By law such a change can occur each year only on 1 February and 1 August. The framework for this change now been agreed by the two senates and there is agreement with the employees' and students' bodies in both institutions.

Bence Rétvári states –

The proposal on which the decision is based contains a detailed concept of institutional transformation... transformation takes place by merging the college into the university

An independent András Pető Faculty and Conductive Pedagogical Centre will then be created. PAC's present organisational units such as the international the adults' departments and the children's services can continue within the framework of the university. Fundraising and recruitment will continue. So too will Chancellor Máté Mihályi's decentralisation project aimed at widening access outside Budapest. This is not outsourcing, all places continuing to be provided within the framework of the college. The State Secretary also pointed out that the Government raised the public support of the Pető Institute between 2015 and 2017, from 1231 million to 1492 million forints, and that this commitment will be maintained.

The period before 2014 still casts its shadow, from what the newspaper calls a crime of alleged treachery under the previous management. This remains under police investigation.


Some first thoughts

The new 'College' title has not caught on. In public discourse the institution remains the 'Pető Institute'. From August, what will the new university unit be officially called?
  • There is other terminology to get used to. The newspaper headline refers to 'SOTE' rather than Semmelweis, the abbreviation for Semmelweis Orvostudomanyi Egyetem (Semelweis Medical University). Better get used to both.
  • My, this is going through quickly – and everything will have to be in place for initial implementation to ensure business as usual in just over two months' time.
  • At the moment there is no suggestion but that as far as services (including training) will be as before. In the longer term, organisationally, personally, with respect to premises etc., one will have to see.
  • I have used the word 'Faculty' here to translate the Hungarian word Kar. I could have written 'Chair'. And this should remind everyone that this change will be far more than just an administrative move. András Pető's heritage in Hungary will now be taken back into the academic medical establishment, with all that this implies. Think on it. One obvious implication: chairs mean professors... Who? For good or for ill, this will inevitably all add up to more than 'institutional transformation'.
  • Decentralisation will continue, with care taken to state that this will remain a centrally provided public service.
  • There is no mention of the services provided abroad with financial support from the Hungarian Government (in Kazakhstan and countries surrounding Hungary).
  • 1231 million forints = £3.45 million; 1492 million forints = £4.19: not a lot really towards the annual costs of a two-site institution of that size. It is going to take an awful lot of fundraising and commercial activity to make up the shortfall.
  • Budapest's fraud squad still has the PAI's pre-renationalisation financial management as an active case. How far back and how wide the investigations is extending remain unstated, even what it is that they are looking at. But the Minister makes sure that we are reminded that it is looking...
I am sure that others will have their own thoughts on this announcement...

Reference


Kacsoh, D (2017) Befogadja a SOTE a Pető Intézetet. Az érintett intézmények szenátusai rábólintottak, így eldőlt: a Pető András Főiskola a Semmelweis Egyetembe olvad – értesültünk. Az integráció nem érinti a felvételizőket. Magyar Hírlap, 23 May




Monday, 22 May 2017

CE'S POETRY: FOUR EXAMPLES

Are there more?

Holly Edgecome (New Zealand)
English:

Ifat Ohad (Israel)
English translation from Hebrew original:
To me this reads a poetry, Ifat says that it is not. You judge.

András Pető (Hungary)
In German, with English translations:
pp. 153-160 and 259-266

Zoltán Vitó (Hungary)
In Hungarian, with English translation:

Are there no others?


Sunday, 21 May 2017

A QUOTABLE QUOTE

On a serious matter


Those around the world concerned with better understanding of the PAF's history, and perhaps also its present and future place and role in the world, might be interested in the following –

The institution is internationally renowned and famous. And, accordingly, we are not short of recognition, appreciation or support...
(Andrea Zsebe, speaking about the PAF)

Conductor Andrea Zsebe is Rector of the PAF (the András Pető College) in Budapest. The above quotation comes from a recent interview published in May's edition of Nők Lapja ['Women's Page'], a somewhat upmarket, Hungarian woman's magazine.  Nők Lapja  frequently gives space to human-interest reports and features about the PAF. 

Note that like almost everyone else the magazine continues to use its old name, 'Pető Institute'.

The opening paragraphs of this extensive interview have been published in the magazine's online edition:


To see the whole article you will have to buy a paper edition from a news stand, or examine the montage on the PAF's Facebook page:



Árvai, M. (2017) Szolgálatnak tekintem a munkám, nekem a Pető a második otthonom” – Közeli Dr. Zsebe Andreával ['I regard my work as a service, the Pető is my second home' – up close with Dr Andrea Zsebe] Nők Lapja, 2017/2018, no 19, 4 May, pp. 18-20

Thursday, 18 May 2017

AFTER CHILDHOOD, WHAT NEXT?

Particular social issues in Hungary
And an important general truth

Related image

Next week the PAF is hosting a free-of-charge public event introducing some issues facing young people with disabilities in Hungary, including equal opportunities, jobs and access to information. The event is in Hungarian and concerned specifically with life in Hungary but this reflects a vital worldwide question much broader than just Conductive Education – what happens when children grow up?

Events to bring such questions to the fore are much to be welcomed, in whatever country. The programme for this particular event can be found here:


Note that this is not specifically a Conductive Education event as such.

Continuing Conductive Education

There has been an active verbal lobby within CE to advocate 'early intervention', along with strongly held theoretical claims to support their position. A corresponding lobby to describe and articulate continuing conductive services into and throughout adulthood for those with motor disorders from early childhood has yet to evolve but is very much needed.

Early-onsetting motor disorders are for life. Where has the notion come from that Conductive Should be anything else? It is to everyone's benefit to be rid of it.


I have to thank Robert Mascher for bringing this event to my attention.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

CULTURE x PEOPLE

Essential basic ingredients?

From Conductive World, two years ago –

Let's face it... some societies are rather more amenable to the notion of transformative pedagogy [and upbringing] than are others.

Money of course is an ever-present factor in this, so too is the countervailing force of existing institutions. No doubt readers can add their own lists of further factors out of their individual experiences...

Behind the money, however, behind the countervailing forces of existing institutions, there surely stands a super-ordinate ingredient for effecting change in human mental development: a society that accepts welcomes and encourages the very notion. Perhaps it is something in 'the Jewish culture', perhaps it is a more proximal factor of being a society always at war, under siege, desperate for its very survival. Perhaps this, perhaps that, but how to account for societies that are uneasy about the message, or even opposed to very idea that the development and potential of human beings lies in the hands of their fellow humans – and that psychosocial-intervention is not just feasible but desirable, and maybe even essential.

By the modest standards of Conductive Education, Tsad Kadima has flourished. Perhaps in no small part this is because it has been planted in fertile soil in a suitable [social] climate. There may be other, more specific factors involved here. Some of these may be 'exportable' to contexts where Conductive Education initiatives are foundering. But... what to do about transplanting Conductive Education in less conducive climes, in less nourishing soils?

(Emphasis added)


Transplanting CE

Since the mid-eighties the most important practical problem facing the world of Conductive Education has been how best to transplant Conductive Education into new social contexts. The amount of public attention and discussion directed to this, however, has been minimal -- astonishingly so. Thus World Congresses have come and gone without brushing against it.

The perennial shenanigans, financial, organisational, political, around the PAF may attract attention but can anything that happens in Hungary now be anything like as important for the future of Conductive Education?

Managing decline and crisis-management are hard. Good luck to those so occupied, but the spirit of Conductive Education is better represented in driving growth and development. But what does this require? Where to find out?

Sharing practical experience


In the two years since Conductive Post published the passage quoted at the start of this present posting, Tsad Kadima has published its a detailed account of how it brought the good news from Hungary to Israel – and more importantly established a sustainable system of CE services, with its own integral conductor-training:


As far as I know Tsad Kadima's is the only comparable report – from anywhere. Ever. As ever, I should be glad to be corrected on this and to share what I am told.

It is up to readers to come to their own understandings why Tsad Kadima has been successful where so many others have had to settle for at best more limited goal. Two potentially explanatory factors stand out from this account, a particularly open society and people who banded together to create a collective future within this..

There are others too to be discerned but to this reader the mutually dependent factors of culture x people seem an irreduceable basis for success.

Reference

Schencker, R. (ed.) (2016) Genesis: Bringing Conductive Education to Israel, Birmingham, CEP and Jerusalem, Tsad Kadima

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

IRONIC, SADDENING, TELLING


Further thoughts on Vygotskii's brain

A loving family together again: Lev Vygotskii,
his wife Roza, and daughters Gita and Asya

A few days ago I published an item on the preservation of L. S. Vygotskii's brain in the Museum of the Institute for the Study of the Brain in Moscow:


Museum of the Moscow Brain Research Institute (photo A. A. Vein 
As far as I know, there it remains.

A corrective comment

Vsevolod Geil has commented on this posting on Facebook –

Just wondering what is so revolting and sad in the depicted facts?! Soviet fellows like Vygotsky, Bekhterev and much more of others, which is really hard to believe for some people, would have been happy if they had known that they may serve the humankind/society even after death as sort of same as organ donors nowadays.


His Comment deserves serious reply...

Of course you are 100% right, Vsevolod. Preserving a brain for physiological or medical research is no different from preserving an arm or a kidney, or any other body part for such purposes, or a whole body. This is a biological matter.

I would, however, maintain that selecting out a brain because of a dead individual's thoughts or activities (whether these had been glorious or to the contrary) raises questions on a qualitatively different plane. The same goes for the brains of groups. 
The distinction is at two levels (maybe more):
  • selection criteria
  • theoretical basis
But you also remind me to watch my language.

Why pick on Vygotskii?

To my mind (not to my brain!) the process of selection is far from unproblematical. Just whose brains merit such post mortem investigation? Extreme categories social like 'genius', 'wickedness', 'saintliness, 'creativity', 'scholarship', are social constructs, variables subject to cultural and ethical (and therefore also political) definition, as is the value that is accorded them. The same can of course be said for the everyday variabilities of human personalities that all of us manifest (as do the geniuses, monsters, creatives, scholars etc.).

In 1934, in a particular point in history and in a particular place,  Vygotskii's brain was reserved for biological study. Why? Presumably because aspects of his life and his achievements were valued (or regarded as at least remarkable). This was done by those in a position to act on this. 
  • His brain is still being kept there. Why? Institutional inertia? Are the same values still respected as in Moscow in the nineteen-thirties, for the same reasons? But surely not out of sentiment.
  • Which of his achievements and/or attributes were/are valued. For what, by whom? Perhaps because he was a s psychological theorist, or perhaps because he was a Marxist philosopher? 
More fundamentally
  • Vygotskii had other human attributes. He loved poetry, and he was a loving family man – and there would have been uncountable other features that have not come down to us, most unlikely to be considered to merit biological study (though both the examples just given may have been important in creating including his total world view and the directions that he took).
  • Not to mention his social and historical circumstances – and the fact that he was a German-speaking and German-reading Jew as well as a Russian-speaking Marxist. And that for most of his adult life he endured the hideous tuberculosis that eventually killed him. These and innumerable other ontological factors contributed to the human whole that was Vygotskii's personality, his Seele (Germ.), his психика (Russ.).
If one wants to learn the origin of  L. S. Vygotskii's creativity then this surely lies in his historical and social circumstances, and in his ontological, personal-historical experience of these.

Speaking figuratively – and wholly within the framework of Vygotskii's own apparent understandings – if anything here is worthy of 'autopsy', the more appropriate line of scientific enquiry would be to study his particular social-historical context, his personal development within this, and his practical activity. Better to study the practice and ideas that helped form this human being, and the social context in which he incorporated and sought to develop these, than charge futilely up the blind alley of psycho-biology.

Personally speaking...

How do I know this? Vygotskii told me, back in the nineteen-seventies, since when my whole developing understanding of the human world (including that tiny corner of this that is Conductive Education) has been framed by this.

How, Vsevolod, do I account for my describing the appropriation of Vygotskii's dead brain for biological research 'revolting and sad'. At one level I cannot. This is an out-of-place subjective response. I should have denied myself this emotional outburst. I suppose that I could have stated it simply as 'ironic' but, though less emotional, this would still be subjective.

The underpinning biological statement of the human brain's being the seat of consciousness does not mean that our brains are also the unmediated source of our consciousness. Lev Semenovich Vygotskii devoted his short life to combatting this simplistic assumption, for which he thoroughly deserved singling out as one of the greats of human thinking of the twentieth century.

It is ironic then that in death his mortal remains fell into hands that representing what he had struggled against in life, for his brain to be passed on to the successor-organisation of a project founded by the reflexologist V. M. Bekhterev to study brains that no longer function.

Many years ago I was taken to Lev Semenovich's grave by his daughter Gita L'vovna, who now shares it. I did not know at the time that part of his remains reside elsewhere (in retrospect I now wonder whether she did at the time, though I suppose that she must have). I think that I might have been the first Westerner to have asked to go, and it was a sombre enough experience as it was without having that in mind.

Perhaps I am wrong in finding the attempt to biologise our humanity as a perversion of science and a brake on human well-being. But believe this I do.. Others, I know, believe quite to the contrary. To me, what has happened here, is more than simply ironic. Yes,  'revolting' was indeed the wrong word to use in this context, unnecessary and distracting, but  I do find what has happened here not just saddening but unsettling. To me it speaks volumes.

I will settle for 'telling'.




Sunday, 14 May 2017

MARGIT BALOGH, LIBRARIAN

Who died last week

Margit was a sensible, purposive and popular force in the development of Conductive Education. She died from cancer, on Friday 12 May. She was 66. From 1992 till her retirement she had been Librarian at the PAI in Kutvölgyi út.

I learned of Margit's death on Sunday, through Gill Maguire's Conductive Education Information. See what Gill wrote here, in full:


The last person left working at the Library who had worked with Margit  had been conductor Judit Szekeres), who left in January. On Sunday, she wrote on her Facebook (my rough translation) –

Gone for ever is Margit Balogh, libraian. She it was who created the Pető Institute's Library out of rudimentary conditions. She was a professional who built up the literature of conductive pedagogy, and cultivated and consolidated the intellectual legacy of Pető and Hári. The Library transferred to worthy premises in 2007. I had been taken on as a colleague in 2002 because she knew she needed a conductor's nose in the Library. I will be for ever grateful to her for being able to take part in that great join work till she had to retire in 2009. Her successor, my friend Bea Tóth, tried to keep up her spirit and the results that she achieved, but received less and less support from her superiors. None of us now work there. Margit's 24-year work, her struggle, fell victim to incompetence: I do not think that she deserved that. She was not a conductive professional but her former colleagues are sure to be grateful and always appreciate her. I am very sad for her family. Rest in peace, Margit.


(I hope that I got this about right and as ever welcome correction.)

Like Gill I regarded Margit's as a bright point in my communication with the PAI – for some years one of my few points of contact.

I consider libraries and librarians to be very undervalued in Conductive Education. Margit made a real difference to me and I appreciated this.  It has been therefore heartening to see the appreciations of Margit's personal and professional contribution expressed on Facebook. Amongst these is one from her successor Bea Toth –

I learned a lot from her. I once heard how crucial is one's first boss.. I was lucky that she my first boss. I still apply her 'teachings', her work still has an impact. She was someone who was experienced, highly regarded, very pragmatic, forward-looking, humane, and socially sensitive. She always went and took action, whether a problem was business or private. I'm so sorry that she went so soon.


Now one is reminded of the vital question of what will happen to that Library and its Archive collections, and their proper staffing, in the light of the merger with Semmelweis University. This is a concern that extends far wider than the immediate needs of the students and staff of the PAF, but requires attention to professional and scholarly interests in the world as a whole. Perhaps now at last some of Margit's hopes just might  be realised.







Saturday, 13 May 2017

MAKARENKO LIVES – IN MEXICO

Mакаренко жив – в Mексике


I first came across reports of Conductive Education around 1980. Given where these reports originated – within the then Soviet Bloc – accounts of the centrality of the group as an essential component to conductive upbringing prompted immediate association with the practice and ideas of Anton Makarenko and his successors.

Budapest

Going to Hungary I was initially surprised to find Mária Hári's vehemently denying any such link. Further experience suggested that conductors have often had limited awareness of such parallels. Indeed their explicit knowledge of A. S. Makarenko and those who followed after him has appeared sketchy and even erroneous.

As far as I know there has been no explicit empirical analysis of these two group pedagogies. Anyway, following the fall of the Soviet Union, until recently Anton Makarenko's heritage has all but vanished from the Russian education system. Meanwhile, with customary disdain, liberal education in the West has for the most part carried on its established way as if Makarenko had never been.

In my memory, however, the haunting similarities remain...

Mexico

This week Elena Ilalddinova sent this short video of the Colegio Makarenko (Makarenko School), in Mexico:


The Colegio Makarenko is a pre-university school:


¿Quién fue Makarenko?

Who was Makarenko?

His full name was Anton Semenovich Makarenko (1888-1939), born in Ukraine, son of a railway worker. An educator by vocation. Initially a history teacher he dedicated his whole life to the education and rehabilitation of adolescents.

The goals that Makarenko assigns to education are based on two fundamental pillars:
  • faith in the possibilities of education and
  • that all life must have order and discipline.
His educational approach indicates that there can be no good discipline without consciousness.


I cannot judge from the video and online material referred to here how closely this modern Mexican pedagogic practice might correspond to the work of either Anton Makarenko or András Pető, either to their historical essence or to that of their successors.

It is a long way from the Gorkii Colony to the Colegio Makarenko. So it goes. It's a long way too from Stollár Béla u. to Budakeszi út, from conductive therapy to inclusive practice. There is at least one common question that surely binds them, a vital one. How does practical educational theory maintain its integrity and identity within different and themselves developing social contexts?

Thursday, 11 May 2017

BRONFENBRENNER IN CONTEXT

It is active social engagement that makes us human


Image result for "Two Worlds of Childhood"

Jonathan Tudge, writing on the hundredth anniversary of the birth or Urie Bronfenbrenner –

Almost any internet site that appears when typing “Bronfenbrenner’s theory” into the search engine will reveal images of concentric rings and information about context, as though context is all that’s important. Child development textbooks make the same mistake. Even scholars who state that they are using Bronfenbrenner’s theory in their research are likely to treat it as one that primarily focuses on context. Yes, context is important; Federal and State policies should be designed to help families and children move out of poverty. However, changing the overarching context is not sufficient.

As Bronfenbrenner loved to point out throughout his life, it is the active engagement of individuals (children, parents, teachers, community members) in the course of activities with others, over time, that makes human beings truly human.


That's what it's all about.

And by the way, Urie Bronenbrenner's little Cold War book Two Worlds of Childhood: US and USSR, remains by far the best introduction to the the role of upbringing, and specifically to A. S Makarenko's influence in creating a transformative group upbringing (and within this a transformative group pedagogy). For those concerned with practice over theory, this book is a powerful pointer to what Urie Bronfenbrenner was all about.

It is widely and inexpensively available in the second-hand book system:


References

Brofenbrenner, U. (various editions) Two Worlds of Childhood: US and USSR, Penguin and others, various dates

Tudge, J. Celebrating 100 years of Urie Bronfenbrenner, OUP Blog: Academic insights for the thinking world, 29 April