Thursday, 27 March 2008

The 'German' András Pető

His lost side

Conductive Education News aims to cover trends and developments in Conductive Education around the world, wherever they occur, but it has of course to come from somewhere.

It is in fact put together somewhere in Middle England, part of that strange world that some call the ‘Anglosphere’. The Anglosphere comprises the huge, amorphous population around the world who speak and think mainly (more often wholly) in English and whose cultural referents, including their understandings of such matters as education, psychology and even science itself are similarly ‘Anglo-Saxon’, with implicit assumptions about such matters often assuming the status of unquestionable truths.

Here in Middle England we may be at times be vaguely aware that beyond the boundaries of the Anglosphere there may exist strange territories, of the sort that the old cartographers might have labelled ‘Here be funny foreigners’. We rarely have reason, however, to consider that there are alternative, foreign ways of construing the world that go beyond questions simply of language.

A problem for internationalising Conductive Education

The internationalisation of Conductive Education does raise such questions.

In the early says, in the mid-late nineteen-eighties, Conductive Education was widely perceived as obviously ‘Communist’ and obviously ‘Hungarian’. Conductive Education’s many opponents were ready to say that implementation of Conductive Education in what was then ‘the West’ was both undesirable and impossible, often expressing themselves, including professional and official people, in the Cold War rhetoric of the time and in terms that today would be condemned as ‘racist’.

The Cold War is now only a memory, the term ‘the West’ means something rather different, and Hungary is part of the European Union and of NATO. It can therefore be all to easy to think that there are no cross-cultural questions raised in the hurley-burley of spreading Conductive Education around the world.

But are things really so unproblematic? The question of what constitutes research, evaluation, proof etc. in education and rehabilitation, is a persisting source of confusion is different parts of the world, with the Anglosphere genereally unlikely to ‘accept’ what seems convincing enough in, for example Germany, Scandinavia, the former Soviet Union. What constitutes education, upbringing, pedagogy, may be another area of Anglo-Saxon incomprehension when faced with European models and practices.

An earlier cross-cultural transition

An Anglo-Saxon problem is distinguishing between all those foreigners. Here in Middle England (and possibly in Middle America too) we are aware that there is somewhere called ‘Europe’, or even ‘the Continent’. We may have our preconceptions about the French, the Germans, the Italians and maybe a few of the other big or familiar nations that we’ve had contact with, but how to tell all these little nations apart, and the ways in which they think?

András Pető, we are happy to classify as ‘a Hungarian’ but dig only a little was to find that he was a born on the cross-over of Austria-Hungary, he was a Middle European, a cosmopolitan and a Jew. He spent much of his adult life in Austria. His language and cultural referents were liberal-German. Later he was a Hungarian. What beyond the bald facts does all that mean to most of the people of the Anglosphere?

Not just in the Anglosphere. In the twenty-first century, the Hungarian media are delighted to classify Conductive Education as Hungaricum. But, allowing that many educated Hungarians in the latter half of the twentieth-century were well acquainted with German culture, how far was the ‘mysterious Dr Pető’ mysterious even to many of those whom he treated and trained in Budapest precisely because he came from another world?

A prophet in his own land?

Parenthetically, one may ask how far present-day enthusiasts for Conductive Education in German-speaking lands (the ‘Germanosphere’) draw upon this their own indigenous tradition, rather than importing British models of 'the principles of Conductive Education’ provided through ‘multidisciplinary’ services.

Body and soul

Sometime in the nineteen-sixties, under the pseudonym of Karl Otto Bärnklau, András Pető wrote: ‘Der Mensch ist ein leiblich-Seelische Einheit’ (‘The human being is a unity of body and soul’) (Bärnklau, n.d., p.151).

Other theoretical positions on Conductive Education have been discussed at length over the last twenty-or-so years – the ’Vygotskian’ analysis for one still requiring considerable further clarification. It will be interesting to see how far, in the Conductive Education of twenty-first century, proper discussion of the question of the ‘soul’ and related notions can re-enter the public domain, wherever in the world.

Notes and references

More on the Anglosphere

A little more on Hungaricum
Sutton, A. Egy Magyár siker története / Story of one Hungarian success, Conductive Education World, 5 March

A little more on the ’soul’ in Conductive Education
Mallett, S. (2008) The conductive soul, Conductor, http://www.konduktorin.blogspot/, 13 March

Bärnklau, K. O. (n.d) Gibt es unheilbare Krankheiten? Nein! Lindau: Rudolph`sche Verlagsbuchhandlung

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