An important new Conductive Education blog has commenced publication.
It is called Conductive Education Library and comes fron Gill Maguire, Librarian at the National Library of Conductive Education.
Economium for Annie
1 April 1986, twenty-two years ago. How different our world was.
Some of the young people whose apotheosis to conductors we recognise to-day were not even born, and most of the others were no more than one or two years old.
Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, Mikhail Gorbachev. The Cold War. The Iron Curtain. And Conductive Education.
Yes, Conductive Education had been heard of in the West, heard of, misunderstood and forgotten, by the start of the eighties relegated to a mere footnote in a paediatric text-book, just one another thing that had been tried in the West, and found wanting. That was the context in which, in 1984, the late Mária Hári agreed with me to transfer Conductive Education to the United Kingdom. All I had to do was find the money to pay for this.
The project was opposed by the start, vehemently and at times viciously. The opposition included the then Spastics Society, the then Department of Education and Science, many of the professionals working with motor-disordered children and, surprisingly to some, many who had previously worked to implement on their own terms what little they knew of this work. Even so, despite this opposition, some money was pledged to our project, but not enough to start.
After a year the patience of my sponsors was beginning to run dry. I changed the strategy. If the professionals, the charities, the bureaucrats would not play ball, then we would ignore them and go over their heads to the people who paid them, to their political masters. To drive the politicians we would need the will of the people, and to get that we needed the media.
An article planted in the Guardian newspaper caught the attention of a British family, the Horsleys. Quite seperately it also caught the attention of a BBC documentary producer. I was able to put the two in touch with each other and in 1985 production began on the film Standing up for Joe, depicting the Horseleys' first experience of Conductive Education, in Budapest. The film was shown on BBC 1, at peak viewing, straight after the Nine O’Clock News, on 1 April 1986. Eleven thousand people wrote to the BBC wanting to know more. Bootleg videos went around the world. At parental insistence, other national networks broadcast the film. A little over a year later an impactful follow-up film was broadcast, from the same source, To Hungary with Love, showing the unprecedented internationalisation of Conductive Education already under way. The rest, as they say, is history.
Why were those two films, Standing up for Joe and To Hungary with Love, so impactful, not just for the families of disabled children but even for the population at large, people with no personal reasons to know or care about disability? So impactful were they, in fact, that more that twenty years later people still remember watching them.
To answer this question one has to remember just how different the world was then. An important reason for the widespread fascination of this film can be summed up by a frequent local newspaper headline over the next few years, announcing yet another hopeful family setting of in the Horsleys' footsteps, something like ‘Brave mum off behind the Iron Curtain’. This was a Len Deighton Cold War story, coming from a suburban street near you. I cannot convey the force of this to younger people today except by asking them to imagine that something analogous were to be developed in Iran, generating a similar mass movement of families and their disabled children. ‘Brave mum off to Teheran’. No, they cannot imagine such a thing ever happening.
But in 1986, just as implausible at that time, Standing up for Joe did spark such a movement, first here then very quickly in other countries. A year later To Hungary with Love was able to show the first fruits of this, parents from around the world turning their eyes to Budapest.
And of course part of the reason comes from the very nature of the films, from how and what they projected.
Were they good films? Yes and no. For the first and perhaps the last time they opened Conductive Education up publicly to convey the deep wells of emotion, determination, love and hope that lie at the heart of this work. At a technical, pedagogic level some of the things said make me now squirm a little. Had I understood Conductive Education better then I could have given the film-makers better advice. And the late Mária Hári did allow herself to say something to camara that was unguarded and ill-judged. But these are details, technical details.
I have long held that the spirit of an education can be only fully conveyed by a work of the imagination. Never mind about details apparent to the wisdom of hindsight. Technical specifics are of course important, but the overall whole is more important still. As films, they were deeply affecting; as propaganda, masterly; as agents for social change, priceless. We got our popular and political support, the money crystallised and within eight months the Foundation for Conductive Education had been established on a national wave of public enthusiasm. More importantly for the grand scheme of things, the world got Conductive Education, and Conductive Education found a new future.
Always be careful of ‘What-if history’. On the other hand, had it not been for these two films, particularly Standing up for Joe, it is reasonable to say that none of us would be in this room today, indeed there would be no room, no National Institute, no training for conductors here in the United Kingdom. Indeed, there might well be no Conductive Education at all in the United Kingdom, or in Norway, or in New Zealand, or anywhere else for that matter. Further, over the years many people in Hungary have assured me that, without the events that sprang directly from Standing up for Joe, by now Conductive Education would have long vanished in Hungary too.
Who was responsible for this? Who was our salvation? Mike and Lisa Horsley, the two parents in Standing up for Joe were incomparable. Roger Mills' script and Richard Denton’s commentary were masterful. Many others in the BBC and in Hungary made vital contributions. But pride of place has to go to the Producer and Director of these two films, who first spotted this story in the Guardian, followed it up, developed it, orchestrated it, and in doing so brought Conductive Education to the world: Ann Paul.
It is a privilege to present Ann Paul with this simple medal. It bears the Latin tag ab esse ad posse, ‘From what is to what can be’. This is a telling enough motto for Conductive Education as a whole, in its confident purpose to transform present and knowable human lives, to create something new and unknowable.
Annie, it also nicely sums up what you have done for us all.
Love is the only way to grasp another human being in the innermost core of his personality. No one can become fully aware of the very essence of another human being until he loves him. By his love he is able to see the essential traits and features in the beloved person; end even more, he sees that which is potential in him, which is not yet actualised but which ought to be actualised. Furthermore, by his love, the loving person enables the beloved person to actualise these potentialities. By making him aware of what he can be and of what he should become, he makes these potentialities come true. (Frankl, 2004, p.116)
Frankl. V. E. (2004) Man’s Search for Meaning: the classic tribute to hope from the Holocaust, London, Rider
A longer account and discussion follow, in the next posting.
[The inference] from what is to what can be, is a sound oneLatin can be such a concise language!
Not a comment but a question really. Do you have any evidence for or against the use of C.E. in children with Downs Syndrome? Thanks for any help.No one else has responded so I had better do so myself. The question raised and its ramifications are too important to relegate to the tag-end of a Comments list on a different topic, so I deal with them up front here, not least in the hope that they will stimulate further Comments below, based upon practical experience.
How are you? We are really good, although we are writing this email with a plea for help. As you know we are planning to run a summer camp this summer and everything is in place to run a fun and successful camp for children, except we have no children!!!
Join us in Chicago to share ideas, network and learn about recent advances in conductive education, and other services available for children with cerebral palsy.
Over the course of two days, you will have a chance to hear from some of the leading professionals working within the fields of Conductive Education, cerebral palsy and overall physical disabilities. Thursday and Friday’s morning sessions will be a chance for all attendees to hear from leaders in the field including:
Andrew Sutton, Founder-President of the Foundation for Conductive Education in Birmingham, England – enjoy Andrew’s humor and passion for Conductive Education during his key-note address.
Franz Schaffhauser, the newly appointed Rector of the International Pető Institute will give an update on the recent advances at the Pető Institute.
Michael Mosall is creating the first-ever national cerebral palsy registry within the United States of America and will share his current research & database.
Deborah Gaebler Director of the Cerebral Palsy Program at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, will speak about her work on the classification of movement disorders.
Krisztina Harsanyi, a pediatric neurologist at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago will share her insight into sleep disorders as they relate to individuals with cerebral palsy.
James Rimmer, an expert in the field of exercise and movement for those with disabilities, will share his latest research findings as well as the resources available on the NCAPD website.
Further information will follow. For further detailsin the meantime, contact: