Friday, 30 May 2008

Meanwhile in Queensland...

Xavier: three viewpoints but no news

There has been no further news from Queensland, on the threatened dissolution of Xavier the parents’ blog remains for the moment inactive.

Norman Perrin has blogged a response my earlier posting on this matter and to Amanda Elliott's reply to this.

Three points of view now. What's your view?


Elliott, A (2008) Strong response on Xavier: what do you think? Conductive Education World, 27 May
http://andrew-sutton.blogspot.com/2008/05/response-on-xavier.html

Perrin, N.(2008) Conductive Education. The International Community. Xavier, 29 May
http://paces.typepad.com/paces/2008/05/allow-me-first.html

Sutton, A. (2008) A hard call to make: is this a problem for Conductive Education? Conductive Education World, 16 May
http://andrew-sutton.blogspot.com/2008/05/hard-call-to-make.html

Hope for adult centre in New South Wales

Australian parent-pioneer plans adult services

'Life ForCE', life for CE

Sue O’Reilly (Corrigan) was an early Australian parent-enthusiast. She and her family went to live for many years in England to access Conductive Education for her daughter. Now she is back, with plans to create a conductive rehabilitation service based in Sydney for adults and their families/carers.

As a first step she has established the David O’Reilly Foundation in memory of her late husband David to support this project financially, with an initial target to raise A$1million over the next 12-24 months to ensure the proposed three-conductor project's financial viability for at least three years.

Sue stresses that she is only at the beginning the long hard process of raising anywhere near enough of the the large sum of money needed for a secure start but an accountant is already working on charitable status and January 2009 is penciled in as the start date for the first conductive programme. Sue cautiously calls it all a 'wistful dream', but is determined to move quickly to concrete reality.

Enquiries and offers of help to sor.111@hotmail.com

Major expansion in Western Australia

A giant awakes?

Australian parents were amongst the earliest pioneers of the international Conductive Education movement. David and Claire Jarm went to Budapest in January 1985 with their daughter Sarah, nearly a year before the transmission of Standing up for Joe in the United Kingdom unleashed the first tide of foreign clients to attend the then State Institute in Budapest. The National Association of Conductive Education (NACE) that they helped found at the national conference held in Melbourne in August 1985 brought together parent-activists and interested professionals and officials, and was the first organisation of its kind, anywhere. Exciting times. Since then, however, developments in Australia have not gone as the early Australian parent-pioneers had hoped or planned.

There have of course been exceptions to this general picture, small groups and individuals keeping the flame alive and persisting along the long hard road. The story of Western Australia may serve as a type for this long process.

Western Australia

In 2003 the Conductive Education Association of Western Australia published a useful potted history of what had happened up till then in Western Australia. Numerous schemes had been initiated but none lasted, the major reasons for this, the Association believed, being ‘Lack of administrative support and the fact that a trained conductor has never been employed ‘. All there was to show by 2003, only five years ago now, was a single conductor (Ildiko Szivek) in private practice in Perth.

The Association contrasted the situation in Western Australia with that of New Zealand and in 1997 brought this unfavourable comparison to the attention of relevant public and voluntary bodies. In response, the Department of Education set up a working party, and this in turn led to official guarantee of funding for a conductor who also held a school- teaching qualification.

Following a few false starts, from 2002 conductor-led vacation camps were initiated and by 2003 Carson Street School (an ‘education support school’, under the leadership of John Exeter), that had been working for some years with the ’principles of Conductive Education’, had established a building fund. More significantly Carlson Street had introduced training and consultancies from conductors, sourced both locally and on a visiting basis from Queensland. Then from 2004 the school employed first one then two ‘teacher-conductors’. In 2006 the first of these, Laura Jones, reported an outline of the teacher-conductors’ emerging roles there.

The goal of the Conductive Education Association of Western Australia has been a strategic one:

The ultimate aim of the Conductive Education Association (WA) is to have Conductive Education available as an option, in Early Intervention and for School Aged children, no matter where they are receiving their education, whether it is in an inclusive or segregated setting.

The Association has been in no about of the fundamental principle driving this strategy, a principle that will chime with many in the conductive movement around the world:

We believe that one of the greatest strengths of Conductive Education is that it is parent driven. Our members, in general, are outside of the education and medical establishments giving them a level of independence that cannot be easily crushed by the usual resistance to change. This parent-driven movement subscribes to the principle that families have a right to make informed choices in their child’s education, with different circumstances and possibilities emerging (the concept of dynamic inclusion) as their child progresses up through the developmental process.

Expansion at Carlson Street in 2009

The two conductors at Carlson Street currently touch the lives of some fifty children each week, through a range of programme that include:

six sessional ‘school-for-parents’ groups (ages 0 - 5 years);
three ‘kindy’ and pre-primary groups, two full days per week (4 – 6 years); and
involvement with a full-time class for primary-aged children with severe multiple disabilities

Busy ladies! But now the school is to expand its conductor establishment more than three-fold, to cover a wide range of additional activities in the school and outside:

block placements (holiday programmes for isolated families living in regional WA, after-school booster groups for kindy/pre-primary children attending local mainstream schools, and outreach/follow-up for school-aged children previously at Carson Street School and are now in local mainstream schools) ;

further full-time kindy/pre-school and school-age Conductive Education classes

This expansion will require four conductors and teacher-conductors committed to long-term employment (minimum: one year) at Carson Street, plus an unspecified number of conductors on short-term contracts.

Expressions of interest are being invited now, to commence work in January 2009. For further information see the job advert at:

Funding

Expansion is to be funded in part by the Western Australian Department of Education and Training and partly through special project grants from three local charities, CEA (WA) Inc., the Conductive Education Centre of WA and School for Parents Inc. Judging from their websites, the charitable partner-organisations in this expansion are very much parent-led.

In the late eighties Australia had looked set to become a power in the early internationalisation of Conductive Education, alongside the United Kingdom and Israel. Subsequent experience around the world has born out the somber expectation that there are no short cuts to establishing Conductive Education. Western Australia’s experience does, however, illustrate the potential efficacy of sheer persistence. Patience pays.

Using number of conductors employed as a simple index, this will be the biggest Conductive Education initiative in Australia, by a factor of at least two. Alongside significant new initiative pending in New South Wales (see separate news item today, 'Meanwhile in Queensland...'), perhaps Australia might again prove a major force in an emerging new world order in Conductive Education.

Exiting times again.

Notes

Carson Street School
http://carsonst.wa.edu.au/

Conductive Education Association of Western Australia Inc.
http://www.conductiveedwa.com.au/

Conductive Education Centre of Western Australia (CECWA)
http://www.wacharitydirect.com.au/charities.asp

References

Jarm, D. (1985) Overseas Report (1985-6) Conductive Education News, vol.1, no 1, Summer, p. 10

Conductive Education Association of Western Australia (2003) History of Conductive Education in Western Australia
http://www.conductiveedwa.com.au/fram_history.htm

Jones, L (2006) Roles and responsibilities of teacher-conductors working within three special schools in England and Australia, Recent Advances in Conductive Education, vol. 5, no 2, pp.77-86

Jones, L. (2005) School for Parents: an early intervention option, DSA Diary (Newsletter of the Down Syndrome Association of WA), June, p. 11
www.dsawa.asn.au/Diaries/diaryjun05.pdf

Jones, L. (2008) Conductors wanted – Western Australia (advertisement), Conductive Education Job Centre, 28 May
http://www.conductive-education.org.uk/2008/2805job02.htm

Public-school pilot in Prince George’s, Maryland…

…but only if parents fund conductor


More details on the Sixten’s Foundation's plan for an exemplary Conductive Education program within the US public-school system (see item of 27 May).

Apparently the new Superintendent of Prince George’s County (Maryland) Public Schools, Dr John Deasy, has granted approval for a pilot Conductive Education program. The Kurz family, who are behind Sixten’s Foundation, hope that if successful this would spark a broader acceptance of Conductive Education nationwide.

The catch? The parents and their Foundation will have to pay for the conductor required to run this scheme. If they do find the money, the project could commence in September.

Dr Deasy seems a bit of a whizz-ding, always in the Washington Post and other media. The Kurz family is not the only one pinning hopes on him for effective change in the Prince George’s school system. You never know…

Good luck.


References


– (2008) Donation opportunity for ISB members, My ISB Space – International Society of Bassists, 29 May
http://myisbspace.com/2008/05/29/donation-opportunity-for-isb-members/

Hernandez, N. (2008) Prince George's principals put to test, Washington Post, 20 May
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/05/19/AR2008051902338.html

Sutton, A. (2008) 'Pivotal pilot program for United Stataes': family's ambitious goal, Conductive Education World, 27 May

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Different stroke

Congruent experience

Not for the first time on these pages am I forced to remark how two of a kind come along together. I posted the most recent item on Conductive Education World, on the story of Jill Bolte Taylor’s experience of her stroke, and walked across to the Library. Asa soon as I arrived Gill Maguire told me of another such experience, described only yesterday in an extensive article in the weekly heath pages of the Daily Mail.

Martin Stephen who wrote this vivid account is High Master of St Paul’s School. The nature and circumstances of his stroke were different from those of Jill Bolte Taylor’s but there are features in common within the two experinces. Read his newspaper article for yourself and make your own comparisons at:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-1022031/The-moment-world-imploded-One-man-reveals-like-live-stroke.html


More about Martin Stephen


Martin Stephen has a distinguished career in education and is also a historian and thriller-writer – Google him for further details. His next book, to be published on 2 June, will be very different in content from everything that he has done before.

Book of the stroke: The diary of a stroke
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Diary-Stroke-Martin-Stephen/dp/0907633102


Amazon’s synopsis


Martin Stephen was in a high-profile job and at the peak of his career when without warning he found himself in a hospital bed unable to walk, see properly or write, and devoid of feeling down one side of his body. One of thousands of people who every year suffer a stroke, an accident of family history presented to him with a way of curing himself. The diary of a stroke is the personal story of one man’s battle to make a full recovery from a crippling illness, but also a unique insight into the mind of a patient and a condemnation of some of the practices of the National Health Service. A leading consultant has suggested it should be required reading for every doctor in the country. In the words of the author, it was written in anger for the thousands of people who might have made a full recovery from a stroke, but failed to do so.

Martin Stephen's Diary of a stroke is one of the first books to give a blow-by-blow account of what having a stroke means. He describes how he suffered and how he was treated. Like most patients he was put on a general ward rather than on a specialised stroke unit. But specialised units save lives and help people recover more of their old selves. Forget the high-skill, high-tech medicine we love on House and Casualty. Martin Stephen was put on a ward which was dirty, where the nurses were not very motivated and therapy was something you might get next week. Hope was not much in evidence. He describes his physical and emotional battles to survive with insight and feeling. He charts how his personality changed - and he pays tribute to his wife and sons. Without them it would have been bleak, bleak, bleak. This is a moving and important book. Martin Stephen is an accomplished writer - author of some best selling thrillers - but he has never before written such a personal book.

Yet another reminder of how much the mega-buck world of stroke treatment and rehabilitation has to learn from Conductive Education

How it feels to have a stroke

Video not to be missed

Neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor had an opportunity few brain scientists would wish for: One morning, she realized she was having a massive stroke. As it happened -- as she felt...

Rony Schenker, Professional Director of Tsad Kadima in Istrael, emailed last night to forward this twenty-minute video, with the simple comment, ‘Worth watching’:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UyyjU8fzEYU

I couldn’t agree more!

Dr Jill Bolte Taylor, the Singin’ Scientist

Website (includes audio link to the Brain Bank Jingle)
http://drjilltaylor.com/

Book of the stroke: My Stroke of Insight
http://us.penguingroup.com/nf/Book/BookDisplay/0,,9780670020744,00.html

Discussion forum
mystrokeofinsight.com

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

‘Pivotal pilot program’ for United States

Family’s ambitious goal

Robert Kurz and Anna Helm Kurz are parents of seven-years-old Sixten, and live in Bowie, Maryland just outside Washington, DC. In all their experience of working with ‘physicians, experts and educators’ they have been most encouraged by Conductive Education and consider CE too effective and important not to be made an option for the tens of thousands of children who might benefit.

They have created Sixten’s Foundation Inc., a non-profit organization, to secure the personnel, equipment and other support needed to increase the understanding, acceptance and accessibility of Conductive Education in public schools. They aim to encourage public school systems to adopt and Conductive Education for children likely to benefit, and report being close to launching a ‘pivotal pilot program that will serve as the catalyst for similar programs nationwide’.

Sixten's Foundation is a 501 ( c )(3) charitable foundation (pending).

The goal is to persuade public school systems to adopt Conductive Education programs so that children with cerebral palsy have a better chance at a happier, healthier and more fulfilling life.

The Foundation promises regular updates of its website, which is designed to function as a blog to encourage comments on what it is doing:

http://www.sixtensfoundation.blogspot.com/
http://www.sixtensfoundation.org/

Strong response on Xavier

What do you think?

Amanda Elliott from Conductive Education Support services emailed over the weekend to tell that she had tried to place a comment on Conductive Education World but, though she has a Google account, the system would not recognise her password.

Here is the comment that she wanted to post


I would like to comment on the Xavier thread if I may, not to make a political statement, but rather to put across my point of view.

I have been aware of and personally involved in the work at Xavier since 1995 and I can honestly put my hand on my heart and say that the work they are doing at the school is something that all of their staff members should be proud of.

Their techniques on behaviour management are to be looked up to as I have seen no other school which follows procedures with such consistency and effectiveness as in Xavier.

Many of the children at Xavier have profound and complex needs which ‘traditional’ Conductive Education projects may not even attempt to support.

I think that it is very easy to judge others work from the outside without knowing the full background of how services operate, the challenges which the management and staff face on a daily basis and the issues surrounding getting Conductive Education accepted and respected as a valuable system for success.

The school has been determined to follow the ethos and high quality of the practice of conductive pedagogy despite of all the challenges they had to face for more than a decade. They had to work with the already established system and ensure that despite of all the regulations imposed by the local authorities they stayed true to heir belief in CE. The proof of their success is the multilevel improvement of pupils and satisfied, happy and empowered parents. The parent support at Xavier is quite remarkable.

Of course I am probably biased that Conductive Education is the best system for supporting children and adults with neurological and related conditions, but I think it is important that we respect the work of others, especially if we do not know the complex issues which surround their provision.

If Xavier closes then Conductive Education will vanish from Queensland, which to me is a great shame.

Xavier to me, demonstrates professionalism, compassion and dedication in the most dynamic and wholesome way.

The practice of Conductive Education is indeed physically, emotionally and psychological exhausting at times and I believe that Xavier needs all of the support and encouragement they can get from the Conductive Community as it is about time that they had some proper recognition for their hard work.

Amanda Elliott
Director / Senior Conductor
Conductive Education Support Services Limited

If anyone else had a comment lost in the system, or has a further comment to make, either on the original posting or on Amanda's response, then do please send it in to as@nice.ac.uk. For the moment, I shall merely reiterate that there is a fine distinction to make here and, granting everything that Amanda says, her position does not seem incompatable with the original posting:

Sutton, A. (2008) A hard call to make: is this a problem for Conductive Education? Conductive Education World, 16 May

What do others think?

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Two corrections

...and a plea

Thanks to the readers who pointed out URL errors in two recent postings. These errors meant that it was not possible to connect with the parents' blog from Xavier in Australia, or to read the long and interesting newspaper article on Rafal Strzalkowski in the United States. For the record, here are the corrected URLs:

http://xavier-education.com.au/2008/o5/ourstories.htm

http://www.gainesville.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080514/NEWS/805140326/1007/NEWS&title=International_student_wants_to_stay_in_U_S__to_help_others_with_disabilities&template=printpicart

Such corrections are much appreciated.

I have received a couple of emails about the report on Xavier, indication that I am not the only person to find this a very hard call. On balance, one correspondent's judgement call fell just one way, the other's fell just another.

There is a very difficult judgement to be made here, with huge ramifications for the future of Conductive Education (look at the conference programme from Germany that comprises the content of yesterday's posting). This question will not go away for being ignored.

So wouldn't it be nice if people would comment upon this problem publicly...


References

A hard call to make Is this a problem for Conductive Education? Conductive Education World, 16 May
http://andrew-sutton.blogspot.com/2008/05/hard-call-to-make.html

Only in America? Probably not. Conductive Education World, 17 May
http://andrew-sutton.blogspot.com/2008/05/heres-conductive-education-story-to.html

Conference in Germany: full and varied programme published, Conductive Education World, 20 May
http://andrew-sutton.blogspot.com/2008/05/kongress-zur-konduktiven-frderung.html

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Conference in Germany

Full and varied programme published

Kongress zur Konduktiven Förderung

„Konduktive Förderung baut Brücken“
am 24. - 25. Oktober 2008
in München

PROGRAMM

Freitag, am 24.10. 2008

12.00-13.00

Registrierung, Stehempfang mit kleinem Imbiss

13:00-13:05

Eröffnung des Kongresses

13.05-13.20

Eröffnungsvortrag

B. Sibler, Staatssekretär im Ministerium für Unterricht und Kultus

13.25-13.55

Konduktorenverband 1998/2008 – Vergangenheit und Zukunft
K. Desits, Vorstandsmitglied Konduktorenverband

Entwicklung des Phoenix Förderzentrums
B. Höß-Zenker, Geschäftsführerin Phoenix GmbH

14.00-14.30

Fachlicher Einführungsvortrag
Conductive Education for children with cerebral palsy: effects on hand motor functions relevant toactivities of daily living
Dr. R. Blank

14.35-14.55

Film(e) oder verschiedene Ausschnitte über KF

14.55-15.15

Kaffeepause

Vorträge Workshops

15.15-16.00

Konzept zur Etablierung der KF in dem deutschen Rehabilitations- und Förderschulsystem
Erarbeitet vom Fachausschuss Konduktive Förderung im BVKM
N. Müller–Fehling, Düsseldorf

Verknüpfung Pädagogik und Therapie im Konduktiven Tagesablauf einer Klasse mit schwerbehinderten Kindern
B. vom Busch, B. Gyurasits, Würzburg

16.10-16.40

Konduktorenausbildung/Weiterbildung in Deutschland
Angelika Baumann, München

Konduktive Fachberatung
Katalin Örfalvy, Seniorkonduktorin, Ungarn

17.00-18.15

Sozialpolitische Podiumsdiskussion
Staatsministerin C. Stewens, München, Dr. F. Schaffhauser, Petö-Institut, Ungarn,
F. Jungwirth, Bezirk Obb. (angefragt), G. Steinmann, Vorstand Pfennigparade,
M. Stelczerne-Oberszt, Vorstand Konduktorenverband
Moderatorin: Dr. A. Kühnemann

18.15 -18.30

Schlusswort

ab 19.30
Gesellschaftsabend Bayerischer Abend im Phoenix-Förderzentrum mit
feierlicher Zeugnisverleihung an die Pädagogisch-therapeutischen KonduktorInnen

Hausbesichtigung möglich

Samstag, am 25.10. 2008

08:30-17:30

Workshop Konduktive Förderung im Phoenix-Förderzentrum für Kinder und Jugendliche (von Eltern die am Kongress teilnehmen) – verschiedene Workshops
Anmeldepflicht


09:00-09:20

Humor in der Konduktiven Förderung
Gabor Borics, Schweden

Vorträge Workshops

09:35 –9.50

Voraussetzungen für den Schulversuch in Rohrdorf
Dr. R. Köhler-Krauß

Bewegung und Wahrnehmung
Prof. R. Lampe

International Classification of Function
Prof. K. de Camargo

09:55-10:25

Integrationsmöglichkeiten von Behinderten in Deutschland
Prof. Dr. R. Lelgemann

IntraActPlus-Konzept Förderung von Kindern mit Verhaltensproblemen
Dr. Fritz Jansen

10.25 – 10.45

Kaffeepause

11.10–11.30

Noch unbestätigt
Prof. Döderlein, Aschau

Wahrnehmungsförderung in der Konduktiven Förderung
Monika Weiszmann, Wien

Vorstellung einer Programmlösung für International Classification of Function in der konduktiven Praxis
B. Höß-Zenker, München, E. Faermann, München

OP-Verfahren bei Zerebralparese im Bereich Hüfte und Knie
Dr. P. Bernius, München

Qualitätsmanagement in der Konduktiven Förderung
M. Stelczerne-Oberszt

11:35-11:55

Deutsche und internationale Forschung zur Konduktiven Förderung
Prof. K. Weber, Siegen

Messung und Dokumentation der Bewegungsqualität mit Dartfish

Hilfsmittelberatung im Lichte der ICF- über Konzeptgrenzen hinaus
A. Brüggemann, V. Huber, München

12.00-12.20

Round-tables

Heterogene Gruppen in der Konduktiven Förderung
R. Albers

Konduktive Fazilitation
F. Bock, Nürnberg, Zs. Hadhazi, Rohrdorf

12:35–12.55

Vorführung der Kinder der Pfennigparade Phoenix GmbH
13:00–13.30

Vorstellung des Buches The Hong Kong Conductive Education Source Book
Anita Tatlow, Irland

13.30–14.20
Mittagspause

14.20-14.50

Das Petö-Institut und seine Rolle in Europa
Dr. F. Schaffhauser, Leiter des Petö-Instituts, Budapest

Konduktives Internat für Kinder, Jugendliche
C. Hosp, München, F. Stelczer, München

14.20– 14.40

Konduktive Förderung aus Sicht einer betroffenen Mutter
Frau Brühl

14.20– 14.40

Berufliche Ausbildung von jungen Erwachsenen mit IZP
Thorsten Gegenwart, Wien

14.45 – 15.05

Konduktive Förderung aus Sicht einer betroffenen jungen Erwachsenen
E. Demml

14.55-15.25

Motorik und Nervensystem
Dr. L. Acsadi, Ungarn

Berufsausbildung für Erwachsene und Werkstattarbeit in der Pfennigparade
Fr. Hoelbe, München

15.10 – 15.30

Konduktive Förderung aus Sicht einer Frau mit Multipler Sklerose
M. Collier

15.35-16.05

Motorisches Lernen
W. Weichert

Jugendliche mit ZP und ihr Umgang mit Sexualität
M. Sanna, München

Konduktive Förderung aus Sicht eines betroffenen Vaters, Elterninitiativgründers und Einrichtungsleiters
P. von Quadt

16.10 –16.40

Kooperation im Frühförderteam. Ja, wos hat er denn?
Fr. Dr. Enders? Beate anfragen!

Petö-Therapie in der Rehabilitation für Patienten mit neurologischen Störungen
Dr. Ch. Garner

Unterstützte Kommunikation in der KF
K. Rieker

16.45 –17.05

Konduktive Einrichtungen in Deutschland .
Fragen/Antworten zu den Postern

Konduktive Kompetenz. Grenzen der KF.
Diskussionsrunde Moderatorin: Zsuzsa Hadhazi

Hausbesuch und Begleitung von Familien nach dem konduktiven Konzept
K. Desits, Nürnberg, Zs. Hadházi, Rohrdorf

17.20 –17.50

Zusammenfassung, Schlussworte, Verabschiedung

ab 20.00
Gesellschaftsabend für die Mitglieder des Dt. Konduktorenverbandes


Sonntag

den 26.10.08. um 10.00 Uhr Mitgliederversammlung der Verbände in der Phoenix.

Saturday, 17 May 2008

Only in America?

Probably not

Here’s a Conductive Education story to defy categorisation, picked up from yesterday’s issue of the Gainesville Sun in which it was written up in some detail by campus correspondent Claudia Adrian.


Key words

A Conductive Education story? And the rest! Here are twenty key words that might be applied if indexing the content of this extensive article

Levin College of Law
University of Florida
disability
cerebral palsy
Poland
immigration
visa
national interest waiver
Department of Homeland Security
American Immigration Lawyers Association
Conductive Education
advocacy
Pető Institute
Jordan Klausner Foundation
access
Law School Admissions Council
disability accommodations
Justice Department
discrimination
Disability Rights Advocates

Have you the slightest idea yet of what this engrossing story is actually about?

Just as this story defies classification, so it defies summarising too. It concerns 28-year-old Rafal Strzalkowski who grew up in Poland with cerebral palsy. As a boy he attended the Pető Institute in Budapest for four years, till the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1990. He was then around ten years old. Then… No, this does not do his story justice. Read for yourself what has happened since then, and especially what is happening with him now in the United States:

http://www.gainesville.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080514/NEWS/805140326/1007/NEWS&title=International_student_wants_to_stay_in_U_S__to_help_others_with_disabilities&template=printpicart


Politics

This is an American story but it could happen anywhere. Person-centred solutions to problems like Rafal’s tend to need political intervention with discretion powerful enough to overrule the diktats of a bureaucracy that sees itself as only doing its mandated job.

Rafal’s publicity, his local political support, and all the lawyers involved, do not seem to be solving his problem

Writing from the United Kingdom, I do admire the way in which American newspapers, especially local newspapers, grant such serious attention to reporting local stories. Rafal might be hard-pressed in the United Kingdom to attract much more than the headline ‘Tragic Raf loses fight to stay’, over a brief and equally trivialising report. Of course his specific situation could never arise here because, as a Pole, he would have automatic right of entry – but an identical situation could easily arise if he were, say, Somalian – or American.

What we do have in the United Kingdom, however, is serious national television capable of lifting a situation like Rafal’s to national attention as a cause célèbre. Conductive Education knows the power of television to create a political agenda – and it knows too how hopeless it can be to struggle for a solution to an officially based problem in the absence of a favourable political Zeitgeist.

The best of luck in your struggle, Rafal. Conductive Education for children and adults with cerebral palsy outside Hungary desperately needs wider public advocacy from adults who benefited in their younger years. And if the US Government persists in its position then at least perhaps America’s loss will be Poland’s gain. Or maybe even the United Kingdom’s...

Is there a moral to this story? More than one, for sure.


References

Claudia Adrian (2006) Disabled student protests treatment at LSAT, Gainesville Sun, 2 November

Claudia Adrian (2008) International student wants to stay in U.S. to help others with disabilities, Gainesville Sun, 14 May

Pictures

Friday, 16 May 2008

A hard call to make

Is this a problem for Conductive Education?

It looks like the start of the end game may have come in the struggle to maintain the Xavier Special Education Unit at Whites Hill State College in Queensland, Australia, which the College's website describes in the following terms:

Xavier Special Education Unit (3 months – 18 years)

Xavier Special Education Unit provides education for children and babies with motor disorders such as developmental delay and cerebral palsy; it is the only centre in Queensland where all programs are based on the principles of Conductive Education.

The quality of Xavier’s programs means it enjoys a reputation for excellence, not only within this state, but nationally and internationally. Children attend from many areas including the Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast and many suburbs of Brisbane and surrounding areas. Several families have moved from interstate and country areas and some from overseas, to place their children at Xavier.

What is going on here?

For a detailed account (admittedly from one side in a long and probably bitter dispute), see:


No doubt those who are interested to know the other side of this arguement will have no problem in finding the contrary position.

And what is at stake?

Clearly, a long-standing service with a dedicated and appreciative client group sees a possible end of a much-valued resource in the upbringing of children and their families' well-being. Something humane and effective risks being lost.

But is this, as stated, Conductive Education?

No conductors have been continuously involved in this program. There is of course no a priori reason to consider that Conductive Education is possible only with the full-time involvement of conductors. Xavier affirms that it operates according to the 'principles' of Conductive Education but what in fact is meant here by this misleading, misunderstood and misused term? Have they been able to create a conductive upbringing notwithstanding? If so it would be really interesting to know the mechanisms, the real pedagogic principles, involved.

Xavier's informaive website may help you towards forming your own judgement on this:

Does such distinction matter?

At one level of course it doesn't. Some families may lose a resource that is very important to them and it matters not that this is in the Antipodes or wherever. We are all diminished by this. They deserve all the solidarity that they can find.

But can they look to the CE movement for solidarity over this?

This may be the wrong time to be asking legitimate questions about the relative 'conductiveness' or otherwise of a particular service. But the principled question involved here is terribly important for anyone who rallies around the banner of 'Conductive Education' – what is and what is not to be counted here? Unfortunately, at any time and even in the most general terms, such questions tend to lead to dissent, to friends' falling out and therefore instead to a general shrugging of shoulders and looking the other way. Perhaps if these questions had not been so studiously avoided, the history of Conductive Education in Australia might have taken a different path and the situation there today might turned out rather different.

But that's as may be. We are where we are. Just yesterday, Thursday 15 May, families at Xavier started a blog to help put their case:

This post is all about our and our children's experiences at Xavier. What differences has Conductive Education made to our lives?

It will be very interesting to see how things develop and what arguments are deployed. At a different level, Conductive Education is also at stake here. That too has to be defended.





Thursday, 15 May 2008

Trying out new toy

Machine translation for this blog

English is not the first language of many readers of this site.

Conductive Education World therefore now includes Microsoft's simple machine translation service for the convenience of readers who may wish it. Machine translation is not perfect but may serve as a useful guide. You will find this facility at the top of the right-hand column of this page.

Translations are currently available into the following languages:

Arabic
Chinese (Simplified)
Chinese (Traditional)
Dutch
French
German
Italian
Japanese
Korean
Portuguese
Spanish

Readers' responses to this service would be very welcome. Please make these through the Comments facility at the foot of this posting. There are other such systems available. If you have comparative experience, do please let me know.

Further information, especially if you would like to try out this system for yourself, on your own blog or website, can be found at:

http://blogs.msdn.com/translation/archive/2007/11/02/translate-this-and-translate-my-page-functionality-with-windows-live-translator.aspx

Monday, 12 May 2008

Straws in the wind

Fundamental and infrastructural

Are things really on the change now in Conductive Education? Here is first news of two straws in the wind. Interpret their wider significance for yourself. I shall be drawn back to both myself later.

Fundamental

The book Dina, by Károly and Magda Ákos, has long been an important practical and theoretical source within Conductive Education – even though it has been perhaps far, far less read than it merits.

On the latest posting on her blog Conductor, Susie Mallett builds upon her own long reading of Dina to offer theoretical grounding to her own family-oriented practice in helping bring about conductive upbringings. She links this to Goethean science, with its emphasis upon the intuitive/feminine and the 'holistic' dimensions of humanity.

In her posting this last weekend she extends the essential involvement of the mother in the process of upbringing to the involvement of the whole extended family. Further, she extends the process up beyond the preschool years, right into early adulthood, citing some of her earlier postings for practical illustrations of this and how conductors might positively contribute.

Other conductors may reasonably state that they already know and do all this. That may indeed be the case but this is not the point at issue here. More to the point, Susie Mallett is now making this process explicit, an important contribution to explicit theory- and practice-building in Conductive Education and an implicit challenge to conductive services that do not take this into account.

Infrastructural

Norman Perrin's Conductive Net began only in the first week of April, indexing blog postings on Conductive Education so far for some five weeks.The process is not yet complete but the Net has already turned attention to indexing forums and schools and centres.

These last two are in their very early days, in Norman's own words 'Work in Progress. Just a start!'

Notes and references

For Susie Mallett's latest posting, go to:

Mallet, S. (2008) Die Mütter! Mütter! – 's klingt so wunderlich, Conductor, 10 May
http://konduktorin.blogspot.com/2008/05/die-mtter-mutter-s-klingt-so-wunderlich.html

Dina has been published in German, English, Russian and Chinese editions. The availability of three of these is a mystery to me (other than what might be chanced upon through http://www.amazon.com/http://www.abebooks.co.uk/and the like) but I do know that there is a mountain of mint unsold copies of the English edition still available for purchase through the National Library of Conductive Education. Contact Gill Maguire for further details:

The Conductive Web (blogs)

The Conductive Web (forums)

The Conductive Web (schools and centres)

He's back

Canadian pioneer starts family blog

Jerzy (at one time Jerry) Maslanka has been a vigorous advocate of Conductive Education and trenchant critic of the some of the things that have happened in its internationalisation.

Today he commenced his own blog, called ' András Pető and our family...', surely the first CE site on the Internet signalling its existence with a strand of barbed wire.

I understand that the blog will be a family affair. The first posting appears in English but further postings may also be in French and Polish.

Some will welcome the return of Jerry, whose characteristic contribution a few years ago, when public discussion of Conductive Education was rather more vigorous than it has been over the last few years, often served to keep contention on the boil.

Some others may not.

You will be able to follow the Maslankas at :

Friday, 9 May 2008

It's the same, the whole world over…

Examples from three countries

The previous item on Conductive Education World arose from the question posed by James Forliti of British Columbia at the end of the latest posting on his blog. What follows here stems from that blog’s very title. It’s also in the form of question, a long one, but for some people it says it all: Conductive Education on Canada’s west coast: is there room in our schools for something that works?

This chimes with themes that Norman Perrin had been pressing on his blog. He has brought some of these together in a recent posting of his own (this posting of Norman’s was also referred to in the previous item on Conductive Education World as a fine if rare example of community spirit in action within the generally atomised world of Conductive Education). In summary, Norman compares and contrasts the perspectives of Conductive Education with those of the existing state education services for children with disabilities in the United Kingdom, by posing four brief questions on initial teacher-training, pedagogy, curriculum and understanding disability.

The questions and their answers will hardly come as a surprise to conductivists the world over. All the same, they are worth looking at in full and perhaps downloading for use as an aide-memoir for discussion. I see that he has a version of them in a more visual, tabular form that won’t translate to his blog. If you would like a copy of this I am sure he would oblige:

What we’re up against

The title of James’s whole blog and the theme of Norman’s recent posting spring from two mutually distant locations where citizens (and tax-payers) with disabled children labour equally under the same unspoken policy meme of official pedagogic nihilism! Those who advocate Conductive Education might be disunited, uncoordinated, with no mechanisms established through which to mount collective action, the antithesis of a community. The forces that they face seem to present a remarkably united front.
That's no contest.

Ain’t it all a bleeding shame!

I had been going to leave it there but by coincidence I was sent a cutting from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. I shall not even attempt to summarise this. Read it for yourself, and despair:

This article, written by special-education teacher Wayne Grytting, is not about Conductive Education, nor even motor disorder. It comes from a third country, and illustrates a different dimension of the problems that Conductive Education shares with any other humane, rational educational approach. Together they face not just pedagogic nihilism but its close, wedded associate, overweening and mindless bureaucracy that appropriates to itself control over the nature and even the purpose of pedagogic activity.

The position of the people in Conductive Education then is little different from that of countless others in the human services (not just in ‘education’) struggling to do a decent job of bringinging up and educating disabled children against the obstructive forces of the Jacks-in-office of the professional-bureaucratic complex.
Against the same ‘enemy’

Footnotes

Washington State is the home state of the redoubtable mother-daughter fighters for opportunity, Sue and Suzanne Sweeney, who along their way made the first great public impact for Conductive Education in the United States.

Readers of the Seattle Post-Intellegencer are not backward in coming forward with their opinions on what they read there, including this article:
http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/soundoff/comment.asp?articleID=361857

It’s the poor what gets the blame. ‘The poor’ in the present context are the powerless and oppressed people at the bottom of the services heap, the families with disabled children, whose major value to the burgeoning professional-bureaucratic complex that feeds off them is to provide the children on which its existence ultimately depends. A new proletariat indeed, groaning under a new class of oppressors! The 'rich' in this context are the suits who flourish within the professional-bureaucratic complex, as bureau-professionals or just plain apparatchiki.

It’s the rich wot gets the pleasure,
It’s the poor wot gets the blame.
It’s the same the 'ole world over,
Ain't it all a bleedin' shame!
(British music hall song, time of Great War)

The enemy. An expression of Mária Hári’s, encompassing all those who, wittingly or unwittingy, would diminish or destroy Conductive Education.

References

Forliti, J. (2008) Worldwide conductive community? Conductive Education on Canada’s west coast: is there room in our schools for something that works? 3 April

Grytting, W. (2008) State shows no respect for special-ed, Seattle Post-Intellegencer, 5 May

Perrin, N (2008) Putting in a word for Buddy Bear and Conductive Education, 1 May http://paces.typepad.com/paces/2008/05/putting-in-a-wo.html

Sutton, A. (2008) The'conductive community?, Conductive Education World, 7 May
http://andrew-sutton.blogspot.com/2008/05/conductive-community.html

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

The ‘conductive community’

Towards a virtual solution

A new blog on the block is James Forleti’s Conductive Education on Canada’s west coast: is there room in our schools for something that works? James’s most recent posting (2008) poses a fundamental question to all those people worldwide who struggle and have struggled for Conductive Education:

Most parents who I know, who want this [Conductive Education] for their kids are squeezing it in edgewise. Simultaneously, they are squeezing the dollars for it somehow out of their budgets. I am feeling the squeeze too, as an unpaid volunteer director. I want to build a program, but I don't know how. I want to raise funds for it, but I'm no expert at that either and I don't have all the connections or know how around it. How can I connect with the world-wide conductive community?

How can I connect with the world-wide conductive community? James’s posting attracted responses from just one source. Ben Foulger. Perhaps this in itself suggests the answer. Also perhaps significantly, Ben’s comment pointed to the potential of the Internet, used interactively, to create a new kind of community, a new medium for coordinating and advancing the common concerns of those who work for and in Conductive Education.

If Ben had not got in first, my own simple answer to James’s question, would have been that there is no ‘conductive community’ out there. You’re on your own, apart for whatever individual help and advice you can find from other individuals. To which one should add the old advice about not holding your breath.


A ‘conductive community’?

Conductive in this context means drawn together, joined up.

Community in this context means a group of people having cultural, religious, ethnic or other characteristics in common

Conductive community: please pull the other one.


Mea culpa


I coined the term ‘conductive community’ and put some effort into promoting it, not least through the then widely read Conductive Education Website. To no small part the intention was to create a Wizard of Oz entity that could be used for purposes of rhetoric and argument, to suggest that Conductive Education around the world possessed a strength and possibly influence far beyond the reality. ‘Conductive community’ rolled easily off the tongue and sounded grand. I have no idea, however, whether use of this term in fact conferred any concrete beneficial effect!

Persistent lack of collective activity from amongst the so-called ‘conductive community’ gave serious cause to rethink the legitimacy of the expression. So did recognition that this was a ‘warm fuzzy’, something that I deprecate in most places that I meet it (e.g. Sutton, 2008b). It began to seem rather embarrassing (maybe also a bit shaming) and I discretely stopped using the term.


Is there a better term?

Instead of ‘conductive community’, I have started saying and writing ‘conductive movement’ to describe the continuing geographical spread and diversification of Conductive Education practice. I’m still with this one but have to admit that this ‘movement’ is proceeding in no common direction and any attempt, by anyone or any group, to make this otherwise meets with the same success as herding kittens.

The world of Conductive Education is most certainly a highly dynamic phenomenon. Like the weather system it responds lawfully to all sort of mutually interactive forces, including its own, and we then respond to the movements that we experience as a result. But all this remains far short of constituting a ‘movement’ in the sense, say of an intellectual or political movement. It has no focal points, no leadership (for which one would have to have ‘followership’ and Conductive Education is not the place to seek this!), and there is no infrastructure, no discussed or explicitly agreed positions on anything.

Pity this, would that it were otherwise, but it is not. We are where we are and it is only from here that we can move to a different position.

I have also started to use the made-up word ‘conductivists’ to describe the individuals – and very individual some of them are – who make up this movement, a mass of individuals, all drawn to the movement for their own purposes and operating within it to meet their own goals – and with their own personal (and sometimes mutually unacceptable) understandings of what Conductive Education actually means. Hardy a unique situation: you could say the same about psychologists and many other groups.


All together now?

Not yet, unfortunately. Conductivists are mostly good-hearted at a direct, personal level. Try, however, to get them to do something in response to the needs of their fellows – not necessarily something risky or particularly effortful – and you will find few willing or able to spare time to do something beyond the immediate call of duty as they see it.

The present fuss over the Buddy Bear School Trust in Northern Ireland provides a recent concrete example. A real worldwide community would have rallied round, provided corroborative facts and arguments, lobbied relevant politicians, created publicity. Instead, I chipped in my tuppence-worth, by writing to significant politicians and publishing what I had written (Sutton 2008b). Norman Perrin did the same (Perrin, 2008). Brendan McConville wrote round to CE centres in the rest of the United Kingdom asking for support, and received but a (small) handful of responses. Er, that’s it. A small number of individual contributions, easily ignored and forgotten: a ‘community’ could have done a whole lot better and, in return, its individual members could enjoy same service themselves, should need arise. Twenty Normans acting in concert, now that would be a community.

I cannot recall a concrete example of such a a collaborative intervention having been made successfully in Conductive Education. Please do correct with examples to the contrary if any be known.


Riding the technology


Whatever happens, it is the very nature of the Internet that things do not proceed according to a predetermined master plan, decided and implemented by some authoritative governing body. Large or small, conductive communities will either happen or they won’t, on the basis of their own internal dynamics and the continuingly emerging technologies that give them wing.

It was wonderful and amazing when organisations began publishing their own websites but this application of technology is now weighed down with its own contradictions. Static long-out-of-date websites wither on the vine of the Internet and clog search engines with misleading junk, just another means for transmitting the myths and misinformation of yesteryear to a new generation.

Then discussion forums seemed a liberating technology for communicating between the centrifugal components of the conductive movement. Long ago though (in Internet terms), Janine Milne (2000), the then the Editor of Internet World, warned against pinning too many hopes on this.:

…just bringing a group of people together is no guarantee that they will get on with each other. People never behave how you want, and like kids in a playground, not everyone will behave nicely or abide by the grown-ups’ rules. Petty arguments, clashing attitudes and prejudices all conspire to make rubbing along with each other a prickly business.

She was not speaking specifically about the ‘conductive community’ but over the next two or three years discussion of Conductive Education on the Internet was almost brought to a halt by the behaviour of some of its participants, snide, bullying and outright crazed. The legacy is a fearful distrust amongst conductivists that continues to impede discussion of Conductive Education on the Internet.

So now there’s blogging, still in its very early days as far as Conductive Education goes. Thus far, blogs look potentially easier to police by site-owners than forums – but this remains to be tested against the nutters. For the moment, however, things look optimistic, as they did for forums in their early days, and the new Conductive Web appears to offer a simple, dynamic tool for those who want to elaborate, or just lurk on the virtual conductive community (there are as yet far too few Conductive Education blogs to require a more sophisticated tracker). Then there’s social networking, and new technologies that I for one have yet to get my head round…

We may think that the Internet has made for significant difference in the way Conductive Education has internationalised over the last ten years or so but we ain’t seen nothing yet. We can have no idea what we shall be taking for granted in next ten years’ time. Steve Ballmer of Microsoft speaking last Thursday, was reported by David Rowan in yesterday’s London Times:

The future of the way people consume information, the way people socialise and connect, is going to change a lot more in the next ten years than in the last ten. How you find information, how you consume it, how you share it and connect with your friends… dramatic changes.


Chance for a new start, virtually

So James, it’s largely up to you and people like you. ‘…connect with the world-wide conductive community?’ you wrote. There isn’t one but there’s every chance of making a new start and contributing towards creating one.

James made his plea on a blog, very twenty-first century, a sign of the times. Ben’s comment in response was the same, with specific attention to the growing Conductive Education blogosphere. Perhaps, even though real-life community has so far eluded Conductive Education, Cyberspace potentially offers a different kind of community experience, valuable both in its own right and, just maybe, as contribution towards evolving real-life conductive communities on the ground.

What might such a virtual ‘community’ look like? It would have to represent the common interests of an enormous range of people, with different roles and sectional interests, working and living in very different societies, speaking different languages, with different levels of understanding. Is such a ‘super community’, to embrace the needs and interests of everyone even possible, never mind desirable? Perhaps in the twenty-first century it just about might be, but only via the Internet.

Or perhaps such a world vision is a nonsense, and we should go for overlapping mini-communities representing specific interests, sometimes co-operating sometimes conflicting as circumstances change. These might be communities of interest within Conductive Education, representing national groups, particular age ranges or conditions, role groups such as conductors or fund-raisers, or followers of this guru or that (not that Conductive Education has many of them). Anyone can join in and the potential permutations are infinite. It would be nice to have some geeks/nerds too, to ensure that people keep up with fast-changing technology.

Above all, virtual conductive communities can be dynamic – changing, merging, splitting organically – according to what interests people and how circumstances change in the real world (and I don’t just mean the world of Conductive Education). Legitimately conflicts of interest, employers versus employees, old ways versus new, conductors versus the rest, institutions versus each other in the competition for resources and esteem, uni-disciplinarians versus multi-disciplinarians, etc., etc. might just have the space and flexibility here to conflict and yet co-exist in a way not possible when cooped up within the narrow confines of a discussion forum.


Such virtual communities might be represented by sets of concentric circles between which individuals and institutions move back and forth according to their present circumstances and interests. Nothing new here. For right or wrong, at their centres would be diverse and sometimes divisive anoraks, obsessed enthusiasts bound to adjacent blogs by little more than recognition of mutual self-interest. Around that would be a background penumbra of ‘lurkers’ keeping a eye on things, perhaps adding their own comments, perhaps remaining silent, perhaps graduating eventually to taking the plunge and starting blogs of their own. Beyond that still there will always be individuals who deliberately keep themselves apart – or don’t know or care that there’s anything there. Some of these will sometimes drift or be drawn into a ‘community’, perhaps looking for some specific personal help or advice (‘finding a conductor’, for example), or attending events organised by those who take a more active part. Then off they’ll go again, to do their own thing.

In fact, like a lot of ‘communities of interest’, in any field.


Notes

Warm fuzzies: used here in the sense of a sentimentally emotional response or something designed to evoke such a response

Ten rules for followership: www.au.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate/au-24/meilinger.pdf

Conductive Web: http://www.pageflakes.com/PacesCEO/


References

Forliti, J. (2008) Worldwide conductive community? Conductive Education on Canada’s west coast: is there room in our schools for something that works? 3 April
http://zsippzsupp.blogspot.com/2008/04/world-wide-conductive-community.html

Milne, J, (2000) Internet World, October

Perrin, N (2008) Putting in a word for Buddy Bear and Conductive Education, 1 May
http://paces.typepad.com/paces/2008/05/putting-in-a-wo.html

Rowan, D. (2008) Who’s got the terabytes to smash the Googlopoly? The Times, 6 May, p.19

Sutton, A. (2008a) 1984, 2008, 2050, Interconnections Journal, vol.1, no 1
http://www.icwhatsnew.com/iqj/details.htm#2

Sutton, A (2008b) More for Ireland, Conductive Education World, 24 April
http://andrew-sutton.blogspot.com/2008/04/more-for-ireland.html


Footnote: one-hundredth posting

The present posting is the hundredth to appear on this site in the seven months since its inauguration on 4 October 2007. It might prove instructive to review things so far. This will be subject of a separate item.

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Sing, Muse…

… or leave Conductive Education seriously undersold

Educational practice is hard to describe. An observer inevitably selects, directing attention to this feature or that according to what seems personally significant or interesting or expected. Moreover, the process has a temporal dimension. What is observed at one moment of a process moves towards the attainment of long-term goals. Statistics can confirm the spoken or written word, still photographs can capture an image and documentary film or video provide a powerful impression. Combine all the available media, however, and one may still fail to capture the essence of an educational process. Perhaps the art of education is conveyed only by a work of imagination.

Unfortunately, conductive education still awaits its Makarenko….

I wrote the above words (Sutton, 1986, p.27 ) nearly twenty-five years ago (so long ago, indeed, that I still spelled Conductive Education without initial capitals!). They were the opening words to a long book chapter in which I tried to bring together everything available outside Hungary in the attempt to describe Conductive Education. It is fair to say that most of this (my own contributions included) was dry, factual stuff. No wonder, for this book was being prepared for an academic publisher, with an academic/professional readership in mind.

The book was soon overtaken by events. It was published early in 1986. From 1 April that year onwards it was caught up the public furore that followed the BBC’s two television features Standing up for Joe (1986) and To Hungary with Love (1987) and perhaps rather more copies were bought by parents than by professionals and academics. They were all in for a dry read! All the same, the book ran to, I think, four reprints, and the publishers were gearing up for another when Philippa Cottam and I, the editors, pulled the plug on it. We were beginning to realise how inadequately it represented Conductive Education and how misleading had been so much of the earlier reporting and analysis by Western commentators and would-be emulators. We had produced the first (and in English, the last) academic overview of Conductive Education and had succeeded in perpetrating some serious misunderstandings. In the world as it should the proper thing to have done then would be to wait a little while, crystallise our criticism of what we had already done, elaborate our new understanding and then create a radically revised second edition or, better still, a completely new book. In the event, Philippa died, terribly young, and I was progressively swallowed up into the struggle to sustain Conductive Education in practice against the forces ranged against it.


Two accounts with feeling

It was not therefore this book but Standing up for Joe and its sequel To Hungary with Love that proved pivotal in thrusting Conductive Education into public consciousness. No subsequent television coverage of Conductive Education, and certainly no written account, has had anything like the same emotional and political impact. Both films were billed as documentaries. Looking back, they were heavily personal documents, strongly dependent upon the emotional commitment of the production team and perhaps better described as semi-documentary in nature. As statements of Conductive Education both were flawed but as films, at quite another level, they were brilliant. Ann Paul, the producer, and Michael Dean who wrote and narrated the script, brought more than factual reportage to the task: they brought their understanding and their creative imagination.


Art or science?

Much of the factual error in that book, not least in my own chapter quoted above, lives on, further compounded in the ‘technical literature’ that has accumulated over the years, especially in the English and German languages. Horror of horrors, it now clutters the brochures and websites of Conductive Education centres and one even sees and hears real, live conductors, who should know better, trotting it out in the attempt to explain Conductive Education to others.

Forgive me then for my part in helping pass on the dry, mechanistic, loveless ‘principles of the Conductive Education’, however unwittingly I did so and however much since then I have tried to expiate my sin. Dry, mechanistic and loveless accounts of practice do seem to strike a chord out there, and what I have tried to do to supplement this since then and what I am going to say now are not really acceptable to modern professional ideology and what passes as academe in the field of motor disorder.

Before going further, however, I have to insist that I am not denying here in any way the absolute necessity for the technical understanding and development of conductive practice. Indeed, the themes that I touch on below should all also be subject of cool, scientific analysis. Supposed scientists who say that such phenomena cannot be studied ‘scientifically’ say no more than that their science and its methodology fall hopelessly short of the task in hand and perhaps also that they themselves are simply scientific wimps.


Art and science

Simple. They are not mutually exclusive. Conductive pedagogy has to be both (‘Love is not enough here. It must be an intelligent love.’ – Mária Hári, speaking to camera on Standing up for Joe).

My message is a simple one. It is a message that many within Conductive Education, conductors, service-users, and some others too, know full well – and express often enough privately. It is just that conductive pedagogy and upbringing are concerned fundamentally with creating the human essence, involving centrally, among other things, emotions, hopes, values, love, faith etc, etc, not just within individuals but in people’s relationships with others and in the whole social nexus of which they are a part.

Enough said, it’s self-evident, we all know that, don’t we? Real pedagogy means both art and science – look in a good dictionary if you do not believe me. But do we have the vocabulary, the methodologies, the confidence to express and communicate this in public? So far, apparently we do not.


Which arts?

Any and all of them.

The last two postings in Conductive Education World (on 1 and 3 May 2008) touched upon graphic art and poetry as means to enhance the sense of the conductive experience (perhaps some of its essence too). Yes, painting/drawing and song/verse are used extensively in everyday conductive practice but relatively little effort over the years has gone into describing, analysing and communicating how they contribute to the whole and the messages of Conductive Education itself. And what about other ‘arts’, music, dance, theatre, they all happen regularly in conductive groups, where is their ‘literature’? And where is literature itself, not just verse but also prose – novels, short stories, essays, biographies?

Where are the liberal arts, history, philosophy? Why does Conductive Education allow itself to sit so unprotestingly in the cage of the natural and social sciences? Why does a system that so frequently (and usually meaninglessly) invoke the word ‘holistic’ to describe its own workings adopt such a reductionist view of how it should itself be described, analysed and communicated.

Why, where, how? I know, people have enough to get on with as it is in their daily lives and there are demands enough already upon their time from their practical work. Maybe this is explanation enough, or maybe there are deeper reasons and this is just excuse. No matter either way, Conductive Education is not being successfully communicated by those who ‘know’ and twenty-five years on it remains widely and seriously misunderstood.

And as a result, it is being seriously misunderstood and undersold.


Notes

Sutton, A. (1986) The Practice. In P. J. Cottam and A. Sutton (eds) Conductive Education: a system for overcoming motor disorders. London: Croom Helm, pp. 27-86


Philippa Cottam

One of the brightest young speech therapists of her generation, who died of breast cancer in 1990) She was thirty-two years old and had just born her son. Published posthumously were her brief critical notes on the so-called ‘principles’ that she herself had so enthusiastically (and fruitlessly) followed in her own venture into attempting a conductive practice in the mid-eighties:

Cottam, P. (1994) Inspired by Conductive Education: a note on the development of Ester Cotton’s principles, The Conductor, vol. 5, nos 3-4, pp. 50-54


‘Sing Muse…’

The opening words of the Prologue to Homer’s Iliad.


Makarenko

Anton Sergeovich Makarenko (1888-1939) Soviet pedagogue and would-be literary figure whose apparently auto-biographical account of his own pedagogic practice owed much to his hope of emulating his literary hero, Maksim Gorkii. Perhaps because of this his books were immensely influential in the educational systems of the Soviet Union and other countries in the Socialist camp (including of course, Hungary). His classic Road to Life, even though a prose work, bore the subtitle A pedagogic poem. Translations are available in umpteen languages, including English:

Makarenko. A. S. (1951) Road to Life: a pedagogic poem. Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House.