Friday, 11 January 2008

A short history of the conductive world

This morning I completed a short questionnaire for a small-scale research project, the final question of which read:

Please write or draw a picture to tell your story about Conductive Education.

I do not know exactly what the researcher had in mind but this is what I replied.

I cannot draw a picture of this, though a map indicating the old ‘East’, the old ‘West’ and ‘Third Word’ would be relevant, another showing the contemporary ‘North’ and ‘South’, and a third showing the BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India and China, the likely dominant world economies in the year 2050).

At this level of generality the story is simple.

Conductive Education was developed in the Hungarian People’s Republic, a country in the ’East’, where resources (apart from people) were short but the governing official rhetoric combined with a powerful national tradition confirmed human improvability as a product of education in its widest sense. Once publicised in the West Conductive Education was enthusiastically taken up by parents of disabled children bitterly disappointed with services that actively denied them change and, wherever societies could afford it, attempts have been made by families (and a very few non-parent-led institutions) to establish Conductive Education services. Almost everywhere that this has happened in the old West it has been opposed by existing institutions and professionals.

There has been no corresponding movement in the old East. There was no tradition of democratic self-help and until recently no money either.

Not surprisingly, there has been only limited success in establishing institutionally what was originally observed and experienced in Hungary in new social contexts (Israel presents an exception). Educational services for disabled children and their families in the West continue unsatisfactory and now that Hungary has joined the EU (and is therefore fully part of the West) Conductive Education is increasingly open to the same economic and social forces as impact upon it elsewhere. The internationalisation and naturalisation of Conductive Education face real problems in the North and demand fresh ways of doing things if the approach is going to flourish in the twenty-first century

First stirrings are afoot in the South to learn from Conductive Education some way for but, whatever small individual accommodations are achieved, there is unlikely to be funding to establish anything socially meaningful in advance of development of countries’ basic health and educational services. In the BRICs (and smaller, economically atypical countries such as around the Gulf) basic services are established. Such countries may be the theatre for major future developments in Conductive Education probably not on the whole open in the West or the North (and certainly not for the forseeable future in the UK).

The implication for conductivists who want to work in the North is Churchill’s ‘KBO’, find ecological niches where you can make your own personal, individual contributions but do not expect to have much impact upon the wider system in which you work. Conductivists who want to take part in major developments in the field might do better to ‘go South’ or ‘go East’

The above account applies specifically to Conductive Education for children and their families and within this, for the sake of brevity glosses over individual details and exceptions.

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