Wednesday, 2 January 2008


Hope for the future

Followers of graffiti and street art will know Tel Aviv’s claim to fame as the home of the anonymous street artist, known after his iconic slogan KNOW HOPE. Stroll round the streets of Tel Aviv to see these enigmatic two words on walls and buildings, even in a main drag like King George St. This clever play on the phrase’s same-sounding but nihilistic alternative, ‘no hope’, refers to stirrings of optimism that Israel’s political balance might yet swing to a more positive and effective policy towards the future of Palestine. I have no way to know whether such optimism is justified.

Be that as it may, I have long recognised hope in the future as a vital component of Conductive Education, both in its process and its outcome. Until my few days in Tel Aviv I did not know the slogan KNOW HOPE. It does seem rather a good motto for Conductive Education.

Conference impressions

KNOW HOPE also seems rather a good phrase to sum up my lingering impressions from Tsad Kadima’s Tel Aviv conference. Like many others in Conductive Education, though excited by all sorts of individual projects and programmes around the world, over the years I have sometimes despaired of certain big trends and directions that have seemed unstoppable. As I think my previous conference blogs will have shown, I now know renewed hope.

It is a shame that more people from around the world did not make it to Israel to share this experience. On the other hand, this did cut down the ranks of the great and the good – or, to put it another way, the usual suspects. It was very visible how the old order passeth away. Increasingly now this should permit fresh voices to be heard, new faces to be seen, including those of young people who have themselves experienced Conductive Education and are now conductive adults, with their own views and contributions to the movement. Future CE conferences elsewhere, please note.

I consider myself free to say this, being in Conductive Education one of oldest of the old.

It was nice to see Reuven Feuerstein (again) holding out his hand to Conductive Education. A lot of time has passed during which this offer might have already been taken up – but it is not too late now to forge effective links. There are other such links to be explored, can Conductive Education make something of this one as token that it is now ready to move on to some of the big issues? In a world that does not always welcome what we try to do, it could be important for Conductive Education to break out of its traditional goldfish bowl and form common fronts with congruent ways of thinking about the desirability and possibility of change.

A couple of specifics gleaned from Ivan Su’s presentation on Hong Kong. The aim there is to provide a system of services viewed as a ‘through-train service’, from which children can leave at any time to attend local schools. This may or may not approximate what I call ‘dynamic inclusion’: it is possibly more straightforward integration but I do not know. Ivan’s presentation did not touch on the actual practice in Hong Kong – and he and I acknowledge our differences over this. Whatever the practice of these units, however, as a service system for children with cerebral palsy and their families what appears to have been achieved in Hong Kong, from a standing start in 1980, thirty-eight centres serving a population of just under eight-million, provision on such a scale and so co-ordinated puts to shame most societies in the already developed West.

(I cannot help but say that no one this week in England would ever evoke the rail system to symbolise a system of efficient and effective services!).

Inevitably my impressions of this conference and how these have been presented in recent postings on this blog reflect my own present mood and concerns. But then, what else is a blog for? Three-hundred or more other people at the conference will doubtless have come away with their own different views. I wish that this technology has been available to me following some of the many Conductive Education conferences that I have taken part in over the years. And I hope that others will take up the same technology to report their own experiences and impressions of conferences yet to come. Conductive Education is so in need of open reporting and comment…

A changing future?

I have come back to face the New Year reassured that there is at last a new world dawning. Conductive Education’s ‘international period’ began its life as a progressive force in its time but has become increasingly sterile and it is beyond time for being superseded by something new and exciting. This new stage is still in its bud, as yet not ripened: it would be a foolish gardrner to judge judged his crop from fruits as yet unripened on the tree (who said that?)

What is the enemy of change? Maybe change is easier to achieve in pioneer societies like, in their different ways, Israel and Hong Kong – but I gather that in both there has been opposition to Conductive Education from existing professions and institutions. Professional and institutional opposition manifests a common enough cultural given, that individuals, institutions, even society as a whole, do not welcome and respect change, either in ways of doing things or in the potentials of certain populations. But beyond that, Conductive Education should not succumb to the most invidious of all enemies of change, opposition from within. Inevitably such opposition will arise, even amongst recently ‘progressive’ tendencies: we should just not let it gain the upper hand.

It was nice to spend three days in a micro-society in which, perhaps artificially and for a moment, change appeared to attract a very different attitude.

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