Sunday, 10 February 2008

A little less of the ‘vieil’, thank you

More awed than old

I have just stumbled across a jolly French website that includes the following passage:

Je me souviens qu’on a couru l’Europe pour voir la pédagogie conductive, le mieux, c’est quand même à Bruxelles, d’abord on comprend tout, et puis on s’est fait des bons copains qui sont vraiment sympas, trop géniaux même. Et puis à Bruxelles on connaît tous les bistrots autour de la grand place. Le plus dur c’est le lendemain matin.

I guess that l’Europe refers here to the place that we Brits think of as being sometimes cut off by fog in the Channel. The site continues:

Je me souviens quand on a reçu tout le gratin Hongrois au Procope, y avait Claude, Yves, Denis, Annick, marie Louise et même le vieil Andrew Sutton qui s’est mis à entreprendre en russe des jeunes moscovites attablés dans une petite salle, à coté, ça nous a scotché, on savait pas que sa mère était russe.

This refers to an amazing dinner that I attended at the restaurant Le Procope in Paris, without doubt the best meal that I have ever had anywhere: the cooking, the wine, the ambience and the good company too (just as it says, des bons copains qui sont vraiment sympas, trop géniaux même). Perhaps in that jolly company that evening I did seem rather old. After the superb dessert wine had been drunk dry the company called for further bottles of wine – and I made my excuses and left. Things can sometimes seem just too good! But I was not being ‘old’ – just ‘awed’, by the total Frenchness of it all!

A French take on Conductive Education

The dinner came at the end of the colloquium called Fondements aux Application, organised by l'Association Francaise de Pedagogie Conductive (AFPC) and held at Paris’s UNESCO headquarters in January 2003 – and very impressive it all was too (you can order the complete proceedings from the Association’s website).

The opening address (published on the Internet, see below) was by Roland Lefevre, Secretary-General of the Association. This was very French, in two senses.

First, it was a very ‘intellectual’ take, largely omitting the vital social and emotional essences of Conductive Education.He summed it up thus:

On peut décrire ce système, nous dit Yves Bawin, comme une éducation cognitive dans le sens où elle table sur l’intelligence de l’enfant à se comprendre et à élaborer des stratégies adéquates pour agir.

Well, many of us have been guilty of such cognitivist reductionism at some time!

Secondly, it accorded a remarkably Francophone skew to the whole business:

On peut considérer que Pető a principalement construit sa pédagogie à partir des travaux de Jean PIAGET, Lev VYGOTSKY, et Henri WALLON.
Two out of three and not a shred of evidence for Pető 's knowing of any of them!

Necessary but not sufficient…

France is not the whole Francophonie. Mention of Piaget should be enough to remind us of that. And in the context of Conductive Education we should remember the commanding importance of Belgium among the Francophone lands, particularly of the contribution of Yves Bawin, Marie-Louise Leclerc and their colleagues at La Famille in Brussels.

Very mention of Henri Wallon should alert us to the inextricable link between the motoric and the emotional in child development but Bawin and Leclerc have elaborated a further theoretical position on family Conductive Education, drawing upon the thinking of French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan, that adds an important new dimension to thinking about conductive pedagogy and conductive upbringing. Their way of accounting learning and development goes far beyond the simply motoric and the 'cognitive' — theyse are essentially emotional and the social processes too.

The way in which they express this at La Famille, in the terms of French psychoanalysis, may not be wholly to my own Anglo-Saxon taste – but their formulation is important (and ignored) enough to merit my returning to is in a posting of its own.

Old or not, the French and the other French-speakers stil awe me in their sheer ability to be different! And contact with them is sharp reminder that just possibly we may be different too..

Notes and references

Jolly French website:

Association Francaise de Pedagogie Conductive:

Rolande Lefevre’s conference presentation:

Centre La Famille:

A quick dip into Jaques Lacan:

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