Saturday, 27 October 2007

‘Outcome Measures/Recording Progress’

There has been an interesting thread running on the Conductive Education Discussion Forum, under the title of ‘Outcome Measures/Recording Progress’. This started with a posting from Julia Rashleigh on 11 October and has attracted 16 responses, not many by the standard of many message boards but a lot for ’professional’ questions posed in this particular context.

This is what Jules originally asked:

I am looking for an outcome measure style system (aren't we all!) to use for our kids. We are not (yet) going to be using it for research purposes but as a progress recording system for the kids. If anyone has any ideas/examples/info or experience then please, please, please, let me know.

A reasonable request, and it generated an interesting thread in reply, interesting to me for the further questions that it raised.

1. Her requirement as stated was remarkably broad and open-ended: 'outcome’, ‘progress’, in what? For what age rage (she specified simply ‘kids’). For what conditions and for what characteristics? Are the variables unquestionably within-child ones? What would count as 'a measure’ – and to whom? Etc. Jules wrote that she required something to record progress (or should that better be direct progress?), but the specification as stated is far too broad to operationalise as a concrete psychometric instrument.

2. Notwithstanding, the subsequent thread suggested that she has struck a chord amongst conductors. Other conductors experience the same need (but again no one specifies precisely what is required).. Rightly or wrongly, they work in contexts where they feel the need for such materials (possibly because they meet professionals in other fields who were introduced to simple measurement materials in their own basic training). Conductors’ professional background, however, be this initial training or ‘the literature’, does not apprear to include such professional tools. I note that the conductors who wrote to the Forum in had been trained both at NICE and the PAI.

3. There is a wider question around this: has the conductor profession as a whole been granted the apparatus criticus to explore the various developmental and other scales already available for different purposes and in various fields and to judge whether such things might be adapted specifically to their own purposes? Why should it?. Initially trained professional practitioners in any sector, be they teachers, nurses, therapists, whatever, cannot be expected also to have mastered further fields of specialist knowledge such as psychometrics. This extension of the professional role requires at the very least further postgraduate study (and some of the assessment that have popped up from such a pathway over the years testify eloquently to the danger of a little knowledge). There seems no option, however, that this must be one take that conductors will have to take.

4. There is of course another path, which is to collaborate with those who do have the necessary psychometric understandings.. Here there lies a rally exciting opportunity – and a terrible trap for the unwary! All that one has to do to succeed is to convey to the collaborator a clear understanding with the nature of conductive goals and te process involved in achieving them. Succeed in that and you will be both at the cutting edge of mental measurement, for you will have joined the ranks of ‘dynamic assessment’ and through that brought Conductive Education into the world of the cognitive education.

5. And the trap? Most existing developing scales, most psychometrics, most ‘measurement’, record the world as it is, not as how it might be made to be, they regard the object of measurement to lie within the child and like to separate out different traits, domains etc for separate attention. Not least emotional and social life. And they like everyone else to cleave to this view. The big danger, in collaborating with those who construct measures – or even in just using measures that others have already constructed – is the possibility of conduction’s being buried under the very ideology that its very existence opposes.

6. Interesting therefore that two conductors, Gábor Felner from PACES and László Szögecski from Stick’n’Step, came forward in this thread offering materials of their own. I do very much hope that they will follow up with publication, in whatever medium. László also mentioned something published by the Pető Institute, in 2000, called Altalanos szempontsor a konduktiv nevelesben resztvevo mozgasserult gyermekek fejlodesenek megfigyelesehez es a fejlodes regisztralasahoz. In English that would be something like ‘A general overview scale for observing motor-disordered children taking part in conductive upbringing and for recording development’. There’s a subsequent adult version too.

7. An experienced need – and three potential products. But no ‘market’. Why not? Not even the usual academic-professional mechanism of announcement, publication, review, research studies. True, László reported that he had announced his own materials at a meeting earlier this year, in Newcastle-upon Tyne,but this was not a conference in the sense that there were published materials and formal copies of presentations available. He says that the general overview was ‘published’ in 2000, but how would anyone know? This is not primarily a factor of publication being in Hungarian (why not?), since there seem to be Hungarian-speaking conductors enough who have not heard of it. Rather, the problem lies in the lack of appropriate and functioning academic-professional mechanisms.

8. My own minor contribution to the discussion was to urge publication of the materials. This could be done ‘open access’ so that anyone could use it – or the materials could be copyrighted. The latter possibility had been floated in this thread, rather coyly I thought, and I responded by saying that people should look seriously at doing so with the intellectual products of their labour. Here’s a good example. Conductor Amanda Elliott had seen a gap in her practice (follow-up activities for children not attending continuously – like so many children in the Western world). She developed some materials and approached a commercial publisher who saw a potential market and understood the production and marketing of a commercial product. That is how most psychological tests are produced (often with ‘registered-user’ conditions that might be most appropriate to the CE market). Here is a much more sensible approach to the whole ‘patent’ issue, one that the rest of the world would be happy to recognise as one of its own. Moreover, this enabled other things to happen. Many published a formal report on developing her materials and a report of a small-scale field test is now awaiting publication in the next issue of Recent Advances in Conductive Education. No big deal but all this in the space of a couple of years. Things now stand ready – should anyone wish to take it on – the possibility of a research and development area opening up on how far this approach is a satisfactory response to the needs of children unable to access continuous Conductive Education. All this and more could be done with respect to recording progress and outcome measures – one just has to grasp the nettle and publish!

So enough already. Jules not only expressed a commonly felt need amongst conductors – she also flushed out some possible ways forward from this position. Nice one. The thread on the Discussion Forum now seems to have run its course. And I really must learn how to spell 'copyright'…

Friday, 26 October 2007

Budapest:

Trouble on the streets
Unreported by the English-language media, this week Hungary has been marking the fifty-first anniversary of the 1956 uprising with riot and demonstration on the streets of Budapest.

On Monday night cars were burned and Molotov cocktails thrown at police, with water cannons and tear gas in return. Nineteen people were reported injured. Tuesday saw mass demonstration against the Government’s economic policy (austerity). There were thirty-thousand demonstrators, said police; nearly quarter of a million, according to the organisers.

Wedesday and Thursday were mopping-up time. Budapest’s finest rounded up the usual suspects and the beaks were sending them down. Things seemed to be settling back to normal, whatever that may be, but today, Friday, far right groups were back on the streets disrupting traffic on main roads…

A lot of trouble by any measure. If this had happened on the streets of Paris or London the English-language media would have been full of it. In Budapest, though – nary a mention. It is after all a city situated in just another ‘far away country of which we know little’.

Hungary – and particularly Budapest – hold a relative historical significance within the conductive goldfish bowl, probably unequalled in any other area of life in our modern globalised world. Few if any outside that world share this perspective.

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

Pető Institute

News in English

No further news of change from the Pető Institute other than what was announced in the Hungarian press more than a weeksomething published on 5 October (with a few explanatory notes added). This has been translated from a piece in the national newspaper Népszabadság. The piece was written by journalist Viktória Kun, who has reported extensively on the coming and goings at the Pető Institute in recent years.

Here’s a taster, in English, published on 5 October (with a few explanatory notes added). This has been translated from a piece in the national newspaper Népszabadság. The piece was written by journalist Viktória Kun, who has reported extensively on the coming and goings at the Pető Institute in recent years.


He will protect the Pető-method

Appointment of new director may end longstanding discord

At one time Franz Schaffhauser used to study the Pető-method. Now, as the new Rector, he would like to renew it. He would like to ensure that the professionals [conductors] do not work abroad as babysitters. Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany has appointed Franz Schaffhauser, a university lecturer in philosophy, German and pedagogy, and a logotherapist, to be Rector of the Pető Institute. The new leader is currently learning about internal issues at the Institute. This appointment may end a long-standing discord. Schaffhauser promises to regain the respect of conductors, further develop the Pető-method and prove its many-layered effectiveness through research.

The Rector will start a programme to justify the uniqueness of conductive pedagogy, based upon psychological criteria.

‘We are not giving up the idea of trade-marking the method, on the contrary we have begun serious legal preparation. Some features of the Pető-method are so distinctive for it to be in the strongest position and competitive too’, says the new leader.

Franz Schaffhauser has started negotiating with foreign partners to set up agreements to help professionals obtain fair employment abroad, and avoid situations in which they are employed as au-pairs or children’s attendants. but instead obtain jobs that recognise their qualifications.

‘In premises purpose-built for the world-famous Pető-method, the Institute was run for a long lime by an inward-looking community that was virtually fighting for its life. The funding from the British government ran out and the agreement finished. There are fewer and fewer foreign patients. It has been declared a
Hungaricum but it is copied in many places, and in many instances the well trained conductors have endangered the method and compromised its essence by delivering the national ‘ treasure’ abroad, through local employment as baby sitters.’

In 2004 a new
kuratorium
was established, under the leadership of Tibor Ferenczi, but this was the start of a whole series of conflicts. The public body and the college leadership had a series of disagreements that ended in court. The Institute's professional, financial and educational leaders described this as arrogance that was ruining the method and thought it unacceptable that a board without expertise should make decisions about professional issues. They also thought that the board, instead of gaining more support and funding, had become the opposition to professional views. On the other hand the board wanted fundamental changes and refreshment of the 'intense' organism. The professional civil war finished in a scandal when last February a new leader was appointed by the board. The college council did not accept Zita Makoi’s leadership. They considered this appointment illegal due to her age. Her lack of relevant academic qualifications and experience in the field also contributed to their rejection.

The ‘Pető people’ arranged petitions, organised demonstrations, and marched on the streets with parents and children.

Over this time Zita Makoi reached 65 years and the Prime Minister therefore recalled her from her position, then reappointed her to manage the Institute temporarily until a new leader was appointed. This has now happened.

Franz Schaffhauser hopes that the internal struggles will end with his appointment.


I am very grateful for help received in translating this piece but I don’t hold out the end result as canonical. To see the original newspaper article in Hungarian, including a nice picture with the caption ‘Keeping busy at the Pető Institute’, go to http://www.nol.hu/cikk/477717


Notes

Logotherapy is a psychotherapy deriving from the Viennese psychoanalyst Viktor Frankl: http://www.logotherapyinstitute.org/life-and-works.html

Hungaricum is a commercial term for a particularly Hungarian product:

http://www.hungary.com/main.php?folderID=967.

Early last year it was proposed that the Pető and Kodály Institutes should also admitted to the ‘Hungaricum Club’ of Hungarian exporters:

http://www.amcham.hu/BusinessHUngary/18-05/articles/18-05_38.asp.

This was just before what Viktória Kun describes here as a ‘scandal’ broke in the Hungarian media.

Kuratorium. The Institute’s governing board consisting, I think, of government appointees.

Monday, 15 October 2007

This blog


Comments, questions, agreement and disagreement, debate


This blog offers opportunity to comment upon what is written here – and indeed upon what other readers have already commented. Please feel free to comment openly and frankly upon what you read here (whoever wrote it), ask for corroboration or further information, agree or disagree, argue, let there be debate.


How to contribute

There is a link for COMMENTS at the end of each posting. Click on this if you want to contribute, then follow the simple instructions.


Language of postings

You may post a comment in whatever language you feel most at ease in. My own language of choice is English and I am very aware how constraining it is to express one’s thoughts in another language – so feel free.

I know how lucky I am in that English is currently the world language for exchanging technical and professional information. If you do chose to comment or debate on this blog in a language other than English, do remember that there is a wider audience out there. You might wish to add a sentence or two at the end just to sum up what you have just said.


Freedom of expression

Feel free too to express what you think. Avoid obscenities and statements that might be regarded as libellous. The publisher of a website is legally liable for whatever is published there, whoever has written it. If you want to libel people on the Internet then please set up your own blogsite – it’s very easy to do – then they can sue you direct rather than me. If you do consider setting up your own website, with the intention of possibly libellous postings, then I recommend that you do so outside the United Kingdom where this site is based, choosing a country with more relaxed laws about libel on line. The United Kingdom has unpleasantly restrictive libel laws.

There can be not simple guidelines to what you can publish on the Internet and what you can not. In most cases anyone with an iota of sense can see what is reasonable and what isn’t. If I do not think a posting reasonable in this respect then I shall probably just delete it – though sometime it might be fun to leave it up but in edited form.

Please, no whinges about ‘censorship’. This blog is private property, the facility for comments grants open house and I shall treat visitors here as my guests, with respect. If the analogy helps, think of this blog as my front garden on the Internet. If I see litter, offensive material or other rubbish left there I shall just clear it up.


Anonymous postings

I have no problems over people’s submitting anonymous postings. It would be wonderful to live in a world where people feel free and proud to stand up alongside what they think and say, taking credit or the blame, and being openly responsible for the position that they advance.

Unfortunately we do not all live in such a world. Many of those who read this blog will come from the world of Conductive Education, in which openness and critical debate have not always been governing traditions. Rightly or wrongly, some might fear that expressing their own views on topics of current interest might, for example, affect their chances of finding services for their children, or finding jobs for themselves. It is a small world, in which experience might tell then that they might face discrimination, harassment or even bullying for their views, now or in the future. One has to respect such fears and acknowledge the possible realities behind them. Disenfranchising victims will in long run serve only to cover up and thus protect bullies and bad practices.

All the same, come on – stand up for yourself where you can, push the envelope. Posting a comment on this blog is hardly an ‘I am Sparticus’ moment…

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

CONDUCTIVE EDUCATION

A patent misunderstanding

At its outset, writing a blog is very much a conversation with oneself. Dialogue, one has to hope, will follow later.

Contradictions

My opening posting touched upon the tectonic shift, the qualitative change, that I have sensed building in the opening years of this century as the contradictions within the ‘international period’ of Conductive Education become ever harder to sustain. My own understanding of the present situation world wide is that the next period, which I call the ‘globalised stage’, is already struggling to be born. In the meanwhile, of course, as in all such shifts into a new era, what were once seen as modern and progressive forces are holding on tightly to what are increasingly ‘old’ ways of thinking, and acting against the emergence of the really new.

I had been expecting to be illustrating this theme in the present posting with examples of both the old ’internationalised’ and the newer ‘globalised’ themes apparent in Conductive Education today – and how individual events may serve to move things on from one stage to the next. Then a sudden unexpected example merits more urgent attention, one that may in hindsight prove crucial or may turn out to have been of no historical significance whatsoever.

Last Monday, 1 October, the new Rector of the International Pető Institute in Budapest, Franz Schaffhauser, took up his post. You can see the full announcement on the Institute’s website:
http://www.peto.hu/index.php?lang=hu&mid=2

Those who read Hungarian will find much to consider there.

There has been a scattering of media coverage of this new appointment in the Hungarian media and this weekend MTI (the Hungarian national press agency) published the gist of this in English. This story came therefore much more quickly and directly out of Hungary (and into an international language) than did reports of the extraordinary events leading up to, surrounding and following the appointment of Zita Makoi, the previous Rector just retired (indeed, many in the conductive world hardly or never even heard of what happened then).

This in full is what MTI reported this weekend:

Special needs children's centre to seek patent rights  paper

Budapest, October 5 (MTI) - Hungary's world-renowned Peto Institute, a centre for children with locomotive disorders, has received a new director and is seeking to patent the special needs method of the so-called conductive education it has developed, national daily Népszabadság reported on Friday. 

Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány has appointed Franz Schaffhauser as director of the Budapest-based centre, with hopes of putting an end to years of disputes over the leadership of the institution. Schaffhauser has pledged to start legal preparations to protect the special education method developed at the centre with an international patent. He also initiated a research programme to incorporate the latest research results into the Pető method. 

András Pető developed his conductive education system after WW2 and his method opened up a new way for the rehabilitation of children and adults suffering from motor disorders whose dysfunction was due to damage to the central nervous system. Around 1,200 children  many of the from abroad  are treated each year in the institute, which also functions as a training centre for educators.

There are an estimated 15 million children aged under 14 around the world suffering from motor disorders whose condition can be improved with the Pető method.

As stated above this has enormous implications for everyone involved in Conductive Education everywhere in the world, whether they want to use the system, practise it, even perhaps analyse and write about it.

It is not clear what the word ‘patent’ means here – nor even the term ‘Conductive Education’ ,which is not a Hungarian expression at all and represents a far wider phenomenon worldwide than exists in Hungary.

Can he or can’t he?

Could one really establish an ’international patent’ for Conductive Education? I’m no lawyer and you shouldn’t take my word for it. Most conductive centres around the world have access to legal advice. I hate to direct yet more money into the hands of lawyers but, if you are at all concerned that you might be affected in any way by this proposed ‘international patent’, consult your lawyer. Certainly, specifics of intellectual-property law will vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but the general answer will be the same. One cannot ‘patent’ an educational process.

Under Canadian law Ontario March of Dimes (more recently March of Dimes Canada) has trademarked the name ‘Conductive Education’, which is not quite the same thing as taking out a patent, and its own publications always carry the little superscript letters ™ every time that the name is used. (This is very odd if you read, for example, of ‘the National Institute of Conductive Education™’) Such trade-marking of an educational system is apparently possible under Canadian law, though I am advised that it would not be under the law of England – and I have yet to hear of how in practice it has affected other Canadian organisations running their own conductive services (even within Ontario itself). Even so, one has to wonder whether the International Pető Institute intends that its writ should also run in Canada!

Canada is a specific but it does help illustrate a general point, the difference between a trademark and a patent. Again, I’m no lawyer but I explain this to myself by reference to pizzas. Nobody can ‘patent’ a pizza or restrict the ways, good or bad, in which pizzas continue to be developed as a global product – otherwise how would the Brits ever have experienced the joys of Chicken Tikkha toppings and other fusions? (I first aired the pizza analogy on 29 April 2006 in the weekend supplement of Magyar Hírlap, in an inw with Péter Sárkany called Egy világsiker árnyai és fényei). One cannot even invoke pays d’origine, and I gather that Chicago represented a major step forward in the history of the pizza. Where did your last pizza come from? You might have experienced it in Italy, or in a nice little family-run Italian restaurant somewhere far removed from Italy. Much more likely it was from Pizza Express, from your local fast-food take-away, or from your local supermarket. Or perhaps you even baked it yourself, at home, using a recipe that might have been written by an Italian – or by anyone.

You can’t patent ‘pizza’ or the processes that go into making it. What you can do is trademark your particular brand of pizza: Pizza Hut, Pizza Express, Domino’s, Peppes etc. and then jealously protect your brand through the courts. The branding might refer to the trademark, the image, other foodstuffs sold alongside and all sorts of surrounding phenomena such as décor, as much as to the actual food product that epitomises all this, the particular pizzas purveyed under, say, the Pizza Hut franchise. This is a commercial as much as – or even more than – a culinary issue.

What now?

I have suggested that the immediate implication of last week’s news from the International Pető Institute is for those involved in Conductive Education elsewhere is simple: fret not.

If you are involved with a conductive centre, do, however, take sensible precautions For example consult your own lawyer – and make sure that you have proper legal insurance in place, just in case (sorry, more hard-won finances diverted away from primary tasks). 

If you are in England the Charity Commission (a national regulatory body for non-profit organisations) might regard insurance against possible litigation that challenges your right to do what you are doing, to be a prudent and necessary response to potential risk and even insist on some such protective measure. If you have your annual audit of accounts coming up you might show the statement published by MTI to your auditors and ask that they think of this point.) If you are elsewhere in the world you might still find yourselves bound by analogous formal requirements.

The International Pető Institute, whatever its intentions, is posing itself as a possible litigant to a large number of individuals and institutions world wide. The proposed ‘international patent’ could even be construed as potentially affecting conductors who trained in Budapest and now offer Conductive Education in a bewildering range of contexts far outside the experience of their alma mater

Conductors too should be assured that there is no real enforceable threat to their continuing to do what they do. 

A further unfortunate by-product of the present situation is that everyone who communicates with the International Pető Institute would be sensible to be very careful about what is committed to paper and sent to an organisation that could prove a potential litigant. Not, one hopes, for ever but just in case, till the present issue is behind us.

Why?

Why did this happen? Who knows? One should not waste precious energy on fruitless speculation on what is behind this. If, however, you want a hope for a way out of this it is that all the International Pető Institute really wants is to trademark its particular brand within Conductive Education. When it has taken full and appropriate legal advice – and also clarified what specifically that brand might be – then it will go ahead and do so, in Hungary or wherever else it wants. The rest of the conductive world will then be free to get on with more important matters. What benefit, even what commercial benefit such a trademark offers anyone I have no idea but this is not my business and it is not my money being spent to buy baubles.

A minor mystery of the MTI report is its concluding mention of the number of disabled young people in the world. If this mention, of no relevance to the appointment in Hungary) is indicative of intention to establish some form of franchising of a specific brand within the wider world of Conductive Education, then existing institutions should not necessarily experience this as a threat. Brands and franchising are commonplaces of the globalised market place, and market-expansion and competition should be welcomed – but the global market has no place for an unenforceable monopoly.

How does this relate to my own model of conductive history? The idea of an ‘international patent’ for Conductive Education is an attempt to maintain the status quo from the international period of conductive history, made by an organisation that regarded itself at the start of that period, some twenty or so years ago, as the epicentre of the conductive universe. (To a large but not wholly justified degree it was once justified in doing so but I have always to qualify this because of my respect for the contribution of Károly and Magda Ákos in the eighties and early nineties.)  

At what now looks like the international period’s end-game, by the standards of that now vastly expanded and transformed conductive universe, the International Pető Institute is still a very large establishment still enjoying remarkable support from its state’s institutions. Whether or not such domestic advantages are maintained, however, forces have been called into life from elsewhere that are bigger by far, involve a far wider space and have already introduced fruitful new qualities to the mix that makes up Conductive Education.

Thursday, 4 October 2007

Conductive Education


Why me, why now, why this topic?

Three years ago today, on my sixty-fifth birthday, I retired from my job of Director of the Foundation for Conductive Education, a position That I had held since 1986, with explicit resolve that I would be simultaneously retiring from the everyday fray of the conductive movement. I would watch, wait and study, maintaining one toe-hold in practice through lecturing to student-conductors and supervising third-year dissertations at the National Institute of Conductive Education. I would give advice to individuals and institutions but only if asked. And I would prepare materials towards possible future publication. Like others before me I found it exceedingly disconcerting to let go but I have been lucky in that the Foundation eased the blow by retaining my services for part of the week for training and other academic activities. Over three years I began gradually to rediscover the advantages of not being full-time employed, able therefore to work at the pace that tasks demand and have therefore been able to nourish my persisting obsession with Conductive Education. I have now sufficiently ‘slowed down’ to look around and re-adopt some of the independent orientation of more that twenty years ago, from before I took the difficult decision to create an institution around my aspirations. It feels time to re-enter the conductive fray in ways appropriate to the changing times.

One way is through publishing this Blog, informal jottings around Conductive Education to air issues that, though often raised in conversation, are rarely if ever mentioned in print.

So much for the personal.


The times they are a-changing

The times of course change continuously. From time to time, though, they are subject to noticeable qualitative shift, as one stage, one period, gives way to the next, in which things will go rather differently from how they went before.

The last three years have been a good time to be somewhat distanced from the everyday hurly-burly of the conductive world. I cannot imagine a more dysfunctional and rent body of individuals than what I once termed the ‘conductive community’ (Snake Pit has at times seemed a better term than community). Back in the mid-eighties I had played a role in inaugurating the internationalisation of Conductive Education and what became the international stage in the development of this system. By the start of the present century, however, it was becoming clear to all but those determined not to see that this international stage had almost run its course. It was entering a paradoxical phase in which the continuance of old forms and expectations in Conductive Education was appearing more and more unlikely – though there was far from any consensus about where what one might do instead. I was glad that my personal circumstances have removed me from responsibility for running even part of the show as fundamental assumptions became increasingly untenable or indefensible.

I shall return to the periodisation of conductive history at a later point.


Myth and reality

Conductive Education has always depended on more than its fair share of myth. The international stage of its development has created new ones. When Conductive Education first broke out of Hungary in the late eighties and the early nineties, almost everyone involved, would-be users of the system around the world, conductors and even those looking in from ‘outside’, would look back constantly to how things had were recalled as being arranged in Hungary. More particularly, this almost always referred to how things were said to have been done at the Pető Institute in Budapest. Realistic or idealised there was an image of a sort of Golden Age, a classical period. This persisted over the course of the nineties and beyond even though many of those holding most strongly to this position have also asserted that things at the Pető Institute have been increasingly not what they once were. The late eighties and early nineties saw considerable documentation by outsiders of the work at the Pető Institute, more than ever before of since, but this was usually descriptive rather than analytic. Anyway, such documentation was rarely referred to by exponents of a Golden Age that was promulgated as myth not history) though perhaps its force was all the greater for this).

Whatever its validity, this way of construing what was happening in Conductive Education coloured the perceptions, goals and activities of families (the chief driving force behind the worldwide spread of Conductive Education), conductors and researchers alike. In this light the process of internationalisation, manifest chiefly through the opening of small, parent-led centres and other kinds of service-delivery, and made possible by the ever-growing and ever more confident and flexible diaspora of the conductive workforce, was inevitably seen as somehow decedent, second-rate a fall from grace. The conductive movement went largely on its way like Keats’s Joy, ‘his finger ever at his lips bidding adieu’, looking backwards not forwards and without clear long-term objective nor even necessarily looking where it was going.

To a considerable degree, however, the structure under which Conductive Education had been developed and taught at the old State Institute (subsequently the Pető Institute) were not the product of a predetermined plan for optimalised social implementation of András Pető's personal inspiration. Rather, just like has happened subsequently, in different ways because of different social contexts around the world, Conductive Education developed institutionally in Budapest, as a hard-fought accommodation to the economic and political realities of its then social context.. From 1962 this accommodations was made as an institution subject to the values and vagaries of the Ministry of Education of the Hungarian People’s Republic (though latterly of course as a ‘foundation’ within the new and very different Republic of Hungary – but that is another story). There is a nice phrase in German, Pető pur, (in contrast to Pető lite – the analogy is with Coke), the implication being that there is only one proper way to ‘do Conductive Education’. Pető pur is what German families saw when they first went to the Pető Institute and returned home with the intention of reproducing what they had seen by founding the Fortschritt movement.


Hungarian or what?

Here is another rarely examined question, indeed for most people something that never arises as a question at all, .the identification of Conductive Education with Hungarian-ness.

In the early days of establishing Conductive Education in the United Kingdom Conductive Education’s many vigorous opponents often asserted that the system was inextricably linked with Hungarian culture, with Communism, and even with the Hungarian language. Any attempt to transplant it to a new national context would therefore inevitably fail. Hungarian conductors would never be able to work in the UK, with British children and adults and within British structures. Correspondingly, British people would never manage to train as conductors. It is hard to imagine now but statements were bandied about publicly that – never mind their risibility in the light of subsequent experience and the transformation of Europe – would be regarded as overtly racist and liable to prosecution in today’s world.

I have to admit to bearing some personal responsibility for this focus.. In 1985 the book Conductive Education, edited by the late and much missed Philippa Cottam and myself, set its examination of Conductive Education very clearly within the system’s then sole national context. It went on to propose that Conductive Education would be best transplanted to a new national context ‘in as Hungarian a way as possible’ (p. 212) so as not to fall prey to the errors of previous attempts to adapt the system before understanding it. The book’s cover design comprised three bold stripes of red, white and green (the Hungarian national colours) and after the Foundation for Conductive Education came into being a year later I adopted this motif as the new charity’s corporate colours.

Ah well, first in, first out. It is perhaps timely now publicly to the pose the taboo question ‘What is so Hungarian about Conductive Education?’ Perhaps ‘taboo’ is a bit too strong a word. Perhaps, precisely because existing common assumptions are so strong, the question is simply never raised. Yes, of course Conductive Education ‘came from Hungary’ in the sense that it was in Hungary that we first found it (and there’s an ethnocentric statement if ever there was one!). But look at the system from the perspective of the history of ideas, from the perspective of the disappearance of the old Cold War division of Europe that split Central Europe into the ‘East’ and the ‘West’, and from the new perspective of Conductive Education as a world-wide phenomenon. Consider András Pető’s personal and intellectual roots in German/Austrian Jewry, and consider Mária Hári’s enormous task and achievement of recasting his heritage to meet official requirements within the national educational system of a People’s Republic. Now perhaps one can begin to restate the question.

Take away what seem likely to have been formative influences upon András Peto’s practice and the understanding during his German-speaking years – that is his professional training in Heilkunst and the ideas of Martin Buber. Take away something that framed all official thinking during the years in which Mária Hári laboured to ensure the institutional survival of Pető’s Institute under the auspices of the Ministry of Education – the all-pervasive and elaborate conceptual structure of Soviet psycho-pedagogy and upbringing. Then ask again, what was left that was particularly ‘Hungarian’ in Conductive Education, other of course than the people who did it, as it developed in Hungary.