Monday, 29 September 2008

Another straw blowing in the wind

(A further Jeremiad. Sorry!)

It’s only a few days short now of four years since I retired as Director and Chief Executive of the Foundation for Conductive Education but my name still comes up on dusty data bases and I get the sort of letter that people who hold positions like that do get. This is nothing of course to do specifically with Conductive Education; it’s like being invited to join the Institute of Directors.

I received a pleasant invitation by email this morning from the Chairman of a body that describes itself, with justification for all that I know, as ‘the world’s leading organisation for Chief Executives’. Here are some extracts…

Dear Andrew Sutton,

How to Succeed in a Down Turn Economy

As the economy becomes increasingly volatile, how can Managing Directors, CEOs [Chief Executive Officers] and owner-managers succeed in uncertain and difficult conditions?

…we understand the concerns that business leaders have about the current credit crunch and economic uncertainty – that is why we are offering seminars to give top tips to help you through this difficult time.

I am delighted to invite you to join a small group of local business leaders for a private breakfast meeting to learn how to Succeed in a Down Turn Economy. There are tactics to turn these difficult conditions into opportunities and well led companies can emerge from these times leaner, more savvy, customer-focused and more successful. Come along and hear the tips and how you can implement them and out-perform your competition in hard times.

The email notified me of two upcoming venues, both rather posh in a businessman kind of way.
These events would be free but it was hoped that I might then care to join some sort of international organisation…

…dedicated to increasing the effectiveness and enhancing the lives of business leaders. Its purpose is to help leaders realise their full potential and to outperform not only their competitors but also their own historic results. Independent data shows that our members grow their sales revenues more than twice as quickly after joining than they did before.

Pensioners do not ‘historically’ turn down a free breakfast (this one doesn’t, anyway) but I think that I would have little to offer (other than needed advice on proper hyphenation) and amongst the shining, positive people portrayed on accompanying photographs I would have soon been rumbled. I won’t therefore be going. Shame, it might have been a good breakfast, fit to last the whole day!

Sauve qui peut

Interesting, however, to see the tone of the note, and to remember the meaning of the language used. ‘Leaner, more savvy, customer-focused and more successful’ means smaller, more tightly managed, but still holding on and still in business whatever it takes (and the devil take the hindmost).

My invitation continued:

These events are by personal invitation only and places are strictly limited to Managing Directors and Chief Executives of businesses. We would appreciate your prompt response to ensure you secure your place.

There's nothing like the offer for a free meal to fill a hall, at whatever level of society, and never more so when free meal tickets might be already in short supply and may soon dry up altogether. I’m sure therefore that there will be a full house at both events – and at similar gatherings around the country and around the world. I hope that all the people involved get what they hope for and what they deserve.

Why mention any of this? Because I found it another reminder of the storm that is coming. People are beginning to put up the shutters, batten down the hatches, and huddle together for warmth and protection in the rising wind. ‘Managing directors, CEOs and owner-managers’, are looking anxiously to each other to see how their own kind might survive.

How will Conductive Education ride out the storm that is coming?

I think of the final three-and-a-half minute sequence in the first Terminator film:


Sarah Connor was heading south. It has already been suggested that maybe it will be in the South (using development terminology), in the East and in the BRICs, that Conductive Education's greatest promise lies:

Sutton, A. (2008) A short history of the conductive world, Conductive World, 11 January

Hungarian machine translation

Vital communication aid freely available

The Hungarian language is a colossal problem for anyone wishing to make a serious study of ‘Conductive Education’ (as we call things in English). Other than expat Hungarians and their children, hardly anyone outside Hungary understands the language and very few people indeed are able to learn it, throwing the whole burden of communication upon one side of the interaction, upon the Magyars (and if you don’t know what a Magyar is then you really are at a very basic stage indeed!).

This, however, is the twenty-first century, so what about computer translation? After all, the technology has advanced by leaps and bounds. Has anyone yet cracked the algorithms to bridge the huge linguistic gulf between Hungarian and what Hungarians call ‘languages’?

Until now I had thought not. Then last week I saw on László Szögetczki’s blog a link to Webforditas, published free on the Internet by the Hungarian company MorphoLogic.

I have gratefully taken my lead from László and installed the link under the heading HUNGARIAN TRANSLATION at the foot of this page. Other conductive bloggers may like to consider doing the same.

Accessing Webforditas

If for example you have a short passage to translate (a maximum at one go of 512 characters) click on the Text tab that you will find in the little box installed under the heading HUNGARIAN TRANSATION at the foot of the left-hand column.

Cut out what you want translated into English and paste it in the space provided. You may then find yourself on a Hungarian-language page. You can either be bold, making sure that the translation is set to Magyar-Angol (‘Hungarian-English’) and then clicking on Fordít (‘Translate’). The English translation will then appear in a new box underneath the first. Or you can simply click on English version towards the upper right of the page and follow the instructions that you find there.

If you would prefer it, direct links are given below to both the English and Hungarian versions.

Using Webforditas

Machine translations, however good, are rarely perfect. No matter, they usually give you an idea at least of the general subject of a text and you can then struggle with a dictionary or find someone who does speak the language to find out what exactly is being said about this topic.

At least in future you can have some clue as to whether something you see, say on the Internet, might have a bearing to you (and note that one of the facilities of Webforditas is translation direct from Websites). Oh, how I wish that this tool had been around twenty-five years ago!

The site is generally easy to use, so go ahead and try it. If I have a criticism, it is that it would be nice for the little Webforditas box that I have installed on this page to have an obvious way to take English-speakers direct to the English-language page. I suspect that would result in more people's using the service.


Webforditas (in English)

Webforditas (Magyarul)

For a translation box on your own site/blog

László Szögetczki’s CE blog

Saturday, 27 September 2008

New contact information for French national association

Blogs are quicker!

New contact information for l’Association Française pour l’Education Conductive:

President and treasurer: Jacqueline Leroy
Assistant treasurer: Françoise Courchant
Assistant secretary: François Amélineau
Telephone: 02 43 98 75 41

Information posted yesterday on the parental blog, Ulysse et l'éducation conductive, which I picked up through Norman Perrin’s invaluable Conductive Web. You won’t find this information yet on the Association’s website, reflecting the experience across the world of Conductive Education, and the much bigger and more experienced world outside, that news and information travel much faster by blog than through the already ‘old’ method of static, hard-to-change websites.

By the way, even if you don’t read French, the plentiful videos on this site, documenting Ulysse’s progress, are worth seeing!


Conductive Web

New contact information for French Association

TV news item held over

CE holds fire on NBC Channel 5 News

A further bulletin from Jacolyn Leick:

NOT on TV Tonight
Although footage was shot today of Grace's class at ACCDAT (Conductive Education of Dallas), it will not be viewed until next week. I will let you know when it will be. I'm sure you all want to see cute Grace on TV :)

Congressional arguements over financial rescue package and Presidential TV debate: hardly surprising on a heavy news day in the United States that Conductive Education has to queue in the wings for a news slot… it happened last time too, remember.


Thursday, 25 September 2008

Upcoming television report

Can you receive NBC Channel 5 News?

Jacolyn Lieck announces on her blog:

This Friday, September 26th, A Child Can Do All Things (Conductive Education of Dallas) will be featured on NBC Channel 5 News at 5:00 pm and possible again at 10:00 pm. They will be showing footage of Grace's class. Be sure to watch!

If you can't get NBC, then it looks like you will still be able to read the report on Grace and her class at:


The Lieck Triplets

A Child Can Do All Things

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

New century, new expertise?

Avatar or polyhistor?

Last Saturday (20 September) Conductive Education World reported on a short, popular-education description of Conductive Education that had just been published on the Internet by Barry Hynes, described as 'an expert'.

I was asked yesterday by Gill Maguire why I had been bothered by Barry Hynes' account of Conductive Education . 'After all,' she said, sweeping her gaze around her Library, 'there are a lot of other people who have written even bigger nonsense on the subject.' Of all people, she should know.

Of course this particular example is no big deal in itself. How it differs, I think, is not in its substance (and by the way, I have had a chance to talk to a few people about what he wrote and no one can think of an example of the arrangement that he desribes) but in the breadth of its distribution. The books in the Library, good or bad, are seen by very few people and the articles in journals are cited by almost nobody (surely as true as in Conductive Education as in any other academic field). Mr Hynes account, however, has been placed before a potentially huge audience...

It is not specifically this though, that exercises me but yet further recognition of the enormity of the fire-storm that is the information revolution. If this today then what tomorrow...? What are the likely outcomes; the net gains, the net benefits? Does it matter an awful lot, or not at all? Who are the potential winners, and who the losers? Whatever next?

Among the readers' Comments at the end of Saturday's item was a short one by Norman Perrin:

Who or where or what is "Barry Hynes" - an expert he? Does he exist as a real person or is he perhaps an avatar escaped from 'Second Life'? He certainly has a viral presence on the Internet.

Sorry, I can't answer that one, except to note that Mr Hynes also writes authoritatively on 50 Cent, hip-hop clothing, the Cell Phone Store, skateboarding, the Playstation portable gaming device, Sony PSP gaming console systems, Eminem, and cerebral palsy, all of which does indeed rather put him up there with the Akond of Swat.

Neu Seite des Berufsverbandes der Konduktoren

New website for German professional organisation

The Bundesverband der in Deutschland tätigen KonduktorInnen e.V. (Federal Association for Conductors Operating in Germany) has a spanking new website.

Features already up and working include information on the association itself, short reports of meetings, anouncements and proceedings. There is also a lengthy bibliography.

Facilities are also already in place for a jobs market (Jobbörse) and a discusion forum, though nobody has as yet posted on these.

The site is of course in German:

Blogger's note

This new site has been constructed using blogging technology and shows how far blogspot can be customised to meet particular needs.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Social networking

Another virtual world of Conductive Education

Two recent items on Conductive Education World have remarked upon the appearance of a Conductive Education blogosphere and spoken encouragingly about conductors’ developing a public voice..

I missed out something important and earlier today Jurik wrote in fron Calgary to remind me of this.

What about the Facebook???? There are CE groups and conductors have their own!

Absolutely right and I was at fault for omitting mention of this area of the Internet. Can Jurek or anyone else out there help out by providing us all with some URLs of materials involving Conductive Education on FaceBook or any other social-networking sites?

Dziękuję bardzo, Jurek

Saturday, 20 September 2008

Fantasy and reality

What are people to believe?

Fantasy football

I’m not a football person but I do know that there are various, distinct kinds of football in this world and that in each instance their respective adherents recognise and applaud all sorts of perceived virtues. I can’t understand such enthusiasms myself but, as long as they don’t interfere with my own liberties, scare the horses etc., then good luck to everyone involved.

Can one, however, go one better than the existing, diverse situation? Would we not achieve something better if we could somehow combine all these different virtues within a single team.

I know of the following kinds of football:

Association Football
Rugby Union
Rugby League
American Football
Australian Rules
Gaelic Football

There are probably more that I have not heard of but this list of six will do for present purposes.

I would guess (through common sense and the most brushing of contact with sporting culture) that players in the differnt games obey different rules, have different skills, follow different tactics, belong to different historical cultures and even develop different body builds. They have in common that they chase a ball back and forth across a field and try to score by getting it somewhere at their opponents’ end of the pitch. To that degree, whatever the means adopted to achieve this, they are all there for the same thing.

Let us now do a 'thought experiment'.

Differences notwithstanding, let us bring together representatives of each different kind of football mentioned above to create a single team. They can all then learn from each other and, presto, we shall have something better than the six original components.

Let us go further. Let’s have a team captain from another sport which has in common that it is also a ball game, say cricket or baseball, tennis or golf. Now we have something new and innovative. I don’t know what to call it but the term ‘multi-something team’ comes to mind.

I wonder that the fans will think of it…

No I don’t, I know. I can even guess at some of the words they would use…

Conductive Education: expert definition

This morning Google thoughtfully alerted me to the following.

Conductive education - This is to help the child become more independent. Their day will be planned out with physiotherapists, speech therapists and what is called their conductor who will oversee all the tasks to see day to day how the child is progressing and set new more tasks for them, which when achieved will increase the Childs self-esteem. The conductor will form a very close bond with the child, which is vitally important for how successful this treatment will be. The conductor will look at the child not the special need and help to bring out the Childs personality and use their interests to help them learn and achieve more.

FLeoor some reason I couldn’t open the site that I had been alerted me to ( so I entered a few words from the sentence or two that Google had sent as a taster. Try it for yourself. Search for “what is called their conductor who will oversee” (don’t forget to use the double inverted commas) and you get 104 hits from public-information, popular-health sites. They are all identical, and written by ‘expert’ Barry Hynes.
If people think something to be important but can find no clear understanding immediately to hand, then they will create their own, adapting whatever parameters they may have chanced upon, and whatever empirical observations they may make themselves or hear about from others, all blended together and flavoured by their existing knowledge and ideas. Ecce, a new conceptualisation of Conductive Education is born .

It may all be done with the best intentions, and nobody is to blame. You do not have to follow Viktor Frankl to recognise that human beings want to make sense of their world and in doing so create our very humanity. We cannot necessarily blame others for any particular sense that they impose upon any confusion that they might find around Conductive Education.

Rather they should take it as a further wake-up call, if further be needed, calling for coherent definition of the real McCoy from within the Conductive Education movement, before alternative images of reality begin to take hold outside.

Levels of reality

Would any reasonable person put together and captain a football team like the one suggested above?

Why do otherwise reasonable people suspend disbelief when they talk about human services?

What indeed is Conductive Education and on what basis should one define it?

I suspect that the answer to the first question is No. I cannot even begin to try and answer the second, with respect to Conductive Education as for any other human service. I can however venture two contrasting answers for how one might go about the answering the third.

One the one hand, Conductive Education is definable on the basis of explicit parameters handed down, refined and developed and explicitly agreed by those that exercise them. This is often assumed to be the case by outsiders but from the inside it is apparent that this remains far from the case.

On the other, Conductive Education can be defined empirically, by what happens under that name on the ground. Thus 'Conductive Education' might be something done by conductors providing short, occasional programs, or working individually in families, or it might be something found in clinics or special schools as one of the treatments that therapists say that they are able to apply – and, oh yes, it might also comprise a long-term, all-embracing system of upbringing for child and family (but not in many places).

I can also say with some certainty that Mr Hynes’s definition offers only a distant echo of what I recognise as the parameters of Conductive Education, and empirically there can be very few settings around the world resembling the practical arrangement that he describes.

So, if you are a parent, or a student, or a journalist, or an interested professional, asking the perennial question ‘What is Conductive Education?’, then what is the 'real' answer? An explicit reply does not come loud and clear from within Conductive Education, and a survey of what is going on under that name would produce no consistent, compatable impression. But – as of today – 104 websites (and probably rising) will provide you with categorical expert opinion, as real as a fantasy football team..

And that for some is where reality might appear to lie, however implausible the situation described.


Barry Hynes – Expert Author

‘Expert writers’ may post their articles on a searchable database of hundreds of thousands of articles allowing email newsletter publishers to find articles, for their next newsletter The site claims hundreds of thousands of daily visitors , including an audience of email publishers each having thousands more readers on their email lists. This means, says Ezine, that its ‘original articles and expertise may be exposed to hundreds of thousands or even millions of people rather than waiting passively for someone to syndicate it on yet another website with no traffic’.

If this is so, then there is a reality out there in the world of information that real reality will be hard-pressed to match! And people may well suspend belief, and their normal standards of judgement, and believe it.

Friday, 19 September 2008


Ready or not

In Buddy Holly's immortal words:

Everyday it’s a-getting closer,
Goin’ faster than a roller coaster

Or, as an amiable American economist put it on BBC Radio 4 yesterday morning:

That’s not a light you see at the end of the tunnel. That’s the headlight of an approaching freight train on the same track.

I stopped reading the newspapers during the summer, too depressing by far – not just for the economic realities but for the haplessness of those who reckon that they understood what is happening and what to do to stop it. Talk, all talk. This week, at the rate of ‘a bank a day’ it seems at last to be generally sinking home that this is not just any old recession. This is of the order of the Great Recession, something that I know only from the history books, and therefore do not really ‘know’ at all.

At the end of the eighties and the beginning of the nineties I was riding the great Conductive Education bubble, and I really did ‘know’ what happened when the then economic bubble, of which we were but one tiny manifestation, burst around us. I with others experienced first-hand the effects of economic down-turn on individuals' and organisations' hopes and plans for Conductive Education. I learned the pain and the cost of having to cut and change to survive. I remember what was lost. Thereafter, despite the jollies and gravy trains of latter years, for many aspects of our society, including Conductive Education, the recession never really finished – we just got used to new expectations – and a generation grew up knowing nothing else.

This week

This week, however, I have started switching on the main news bulletins again, to catch the headline reported facts of the crash. I don’t really know what to make of these so I soon turn off again, to avoid having to listen to the commentariat who clearly understand them in a fundamental way as little as I do. I haven’t gone back to the newspapers, though. Such glimpses that I have of them suggest that they are filling up with feature articles on how to live on less, grow-your-own, economy clothing, budget meals… not quite yet what I remember growing up in the forties but heading that way.

It’s Friday morning now. The early-morning radio news reports that another major US financial institution has the skids under it, and that Russia’s financial system is also on the slide…. Nowhere, nothing is immune.

It’s the economy, stupid

Conductive Education World last made explicit mention of the ebbing economy six months ago. These six months have been a very long time for world economics. Since then I have been listening out for signs of economic pain from within the conductive movement, looking out for concrete signs of our own economic crash. So far, nothing special to report.

Over recent years the international conductive movement has had to cut back to the bone, and sometimes right on into it to the very marrow. Maybe now it has become so steeped in penury that it is better prepared to meet hard times than it was in the plenteous late-eighties – certainly more so than are today’s fleshy and feather-bedded public services that surround and so often distain us. Maybe the associations, centres, families that around the world drive much of Conductive Education are now so lean, so mean, that most will survive the general economic debacle with very little further deleterious effect upon their activities.


Yesterday someone who runs a tiny and exiguous conductive program in the United Kingdom recounted to me, as people often do, a wontedly frustrating conversation with a local public education official. No, this official was no longer particularly concerned to have Conductive Education’s effectiveness demonstrated to him. Indeed, I have the sense that in lots of places around the world officials are increasingly twigging that so many (most?) of those familiar established services that they themselves are responsible for, in health, education and social welfare, face the self-same evidential problems as does Conductive Education. So some progress there, then. No, the official reached for another stake to hammer into Conductive Education: what he wanted was demonstration not of of Conductive Education’s effectveness – but its cost-effectiveness. So far, though, so unsurprising.

Then, or so it was reported to me, the official went on to state how many children with cerebral palsies are being educated within his bailiwick. Providing them all with Conductive Education (as he understands it) would be financially impossible. What concerned him was not really cost-effectiveness at all – but cost.

There it was, stripped of all the flannel, all the guff, the honestest statement that you could ever hope for from a public official.. There’s just not going to be the money around to direct into Conductive Education, and we’re going to have to accept this.

Quantum leap

Conductive Education World has frequently suggested that changes building up within the international conductive movement over recent years have created pressures that will bring about a new, exciting stage in the development of Conductive Education, as ad hoc internationalisation gives way to something truly global (summary example: Sutton, 2008b).

Such discussion as there is tends to dwell upon ‘micro-issues’, such as generational change (younger people want to move up, older people have to move on), Conductive Education’s abrasion against its immediate institutional environments, and its own internal contradictions. These are all valid considerations and certainly stretch pressure present ways of structuring our practices and our institutions (and our theoretical assumptions too) but, as many have shown, we can live with all this without adopting fundamental change.

Now however, like every other practice and institution in the world, and our individual lives too, Conductive Education will be unable simply to hold on tight, muddle through and end up with things pretty much how they were before. Like in everything else, a new order (as yet unforeseeable) will have to emerge to match the circumstances of a new era (as yet unforseeable too). This will not be easy, and it may not be universally for the good, but let’s not be too gloomy about it. As the management cliché goes: it’s not so much a problem as a challenge! Exciting times indeed, with Conductive Education potentially better placed than most to find a way through.

And let’s be clear about the underlying reason for this change.

It’s the economy, stupid.

Notes and references

‘It’s the economy, stupid’

Attributed to James Carville, Bill Clinton's political strategist in the 1992 Presidential Election, displayed on a sign at Clinton’s campaign headquarters, a simple formula to keep people focused on the central issue of the campaign.

Every day

Sutton, A. (2008a) Economic recession, or even depression, Conductive Education World, 18 March

Sutton, A. (2008b) A short history of Conductive Education, Conductive Education World, 11 January

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Liberation pedagogy

CE to a T?

In a posting on Conductive Education World a couple of days ago, I remarked that I regard myself remiss in not having spotted the relevance of Paolo Friere’s liberation pedagogy to Conductive Education, with respect to both substance and social situation. My sin, I have now had pointed out to me, is even worse than I had thought! Yesterday, Norman Perrin added the following comment on my posting.

In Looking Back and Looking Forwards: a tribute to Andrew Sutton, see ‘Conductive Education - a liberating pedagogy’ by Ray Kohn.

Ray writes ‘It was clear to me that CE, when properly practised, was a systematic structure of liberating pedagogy. I could imagine Paulo Freire smiling at my rather late discovery.’

Ray brings his contribution to a close with this remarkable testimony: ‘[Conductors] are amongst the most interesting educationalists I have come across over the past 30 years. Their willingness to adapt, their speed of understanding genuine issues of learning and their unusual skills give them remarkable insights into the possibilities that are always present for any learner.’

It really does show that I'm really getting old when I don't remember my own Festschrift!

My apologies all round, not least to Ray Kohn, and thanks, Norman, for bringing this so promptly to my attention!

This morning I tried to hunt out my ancient copy of Pedagogy of the Oppressed – to no avail. Just where might such a little book have been filed? Maybe I had ‘lent’ it to a student in some distant past! I found some very interesting things from the seventies but not what I was looking for.

I see, however, that there are whole chapters of this little book published on the Internet. – and can find a copy for just a small handful of dollars.

We might hear very little about liberation pedagogy nowadays in Western education, which marches for the moment to a very different drum, but it's alive and kicking in Africa and other places where its need is recognised.

One point of Friere’s pedagogy was particular poignant to me today – for this has been the day on which this year's new cohort of student-conductors has started at NICE. Meeting new students always make me think of the qualitative change that they will have to undergo in order to become conductors.

On all of which, doubtless, more anon.


NB Paolo Friere was an educator of adults. That does not mean that his understanding cannot be recast to relate to pedagogic practice with children – but his ‘adultness’ should not be simply put aside.

Previous posting

Sutton, A. (2008) Something borrowed... something blue... Conductive Education World, 14 September


Thanks to the wonders of print-on-demand technology, copies of this collection of articles are still available.

In in the US, from:

In the UK, from:

Sunday, 14 September 2008

Something borrowed…

… something blue...

Two very interesting postings from conductors László Szögeczki and Susie Mallett who have most certainly themselves found a public voice though the medium of their blogs – and in doing so suggest just what a store of ideas and experience are waiting out there when more conductors do the same.

Because their blogs are fairly new and as yet fairly little visited, as is graphically indicated by their respective visitors’ maps, I have no hesitation in passing on what they say and urging everyone to take a glance at and even bookmark:

Paolo Freire

Thirty years ago everybody I knew had a copy of Pedagogy of the Oppressed. I could kick myself for not having years later spotted its relevance to Conductive Education, both in respect of substance and for what it says about the ‘struggle’ for Conductive Education.

Nobody else seems to have spotted it either – perhaps victim of the widely met dumbing-down notion of not counting academic sources over five years old!

Unaccountably László’s brief summary of Freire’s ideas misses out the idea of the 'class suicide' or 'Easter experience' of the teacher, a nice way of looking at the personal transformation that is an essential and often personally painful part of becoming a conductor.

I shall enjoy revisiting Freire and, if I like it, might even look out a copy of Pedagogy of Hope. Reliving Pedagogy of the Oppressed. A quick check shows that liberation pedagogy is alive and kicking out there, not least where ultimately Conductive Education promises most, the developing world. Maybe there are productive links to be made there...

I offer László a sincere Thank-you for reminding me of all this.

Conductors: necessary but not sufficient

Are conductors necessary to achieve Conductive Education? There’s a tricky one.

Here’s a question that might seem even trickier: if do you have conductors do you also therefore have Conductive Education – or do you need something more?

Actually the second question might look trickier but is it is in fact much easier to answer!

Years ago, when people were continually asking me the question ‘Where can I get Conductive Education?’ I began the long, frustrating exercise of trying to create a register of places where conductors work around the world.

I deliberately refused to answer the question as posed, ‘Where can I get Conductive Education?’ because of two, not necessarily identical further questions (questions for myself, that is, if not always necessarily occurring to the people making the enquiry of me!) that neither I nor anyone else is in a position to answer:

(1) a criterial question, what is do you mean by Conductive Education?
(2) the quality question, is it any good?

I therefore adopted the neutral criterion ‘where conductors work around the world’. At least with this I could aim to provide a factual, opinion-free reply!

Gill Maguire who has tried to keep this register going (under a less discriminating title) makes the same explicit distinction nevertheless and the listing continues my original exculapatory caveat:

Important caution

Inclusion on this list is strictly according to the criterion ‘employing conductors’ and in no way implies any comment on the nature or quality of the services provided. Caveat emptor!

Susie Mallet gives a conductors-eye view of this important issue in the most recent posting on her blog, Conductor. She is certainly not the first person to voice these considerations but she is, I think, the first conductor to do so, and as ever she makes her viewpoint very clear.


Mallett, S, (2008) No need for a spectacle! Conductor, 14 September

Szögeczki, L. (2008) Paolo Freire, László Szögeczki's CE blog, 11 September

Where conductors work around the world

Something borrowed in the title of this posting refers to the excellent suggestion of borrowing Freire's position and seeing how it applies Conductive Education; something blue refers to Susie Mallet's predeliction for blue ladies to illustrate several of her postings.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Short course in Budapest

Two weeks’ introduction to Conductive Education

I have received the following notification from the Moira Conducive Education Centre in Budapest, which I am happy to bring to wider attention.


27 October – 7 November 2008
Budapest, Hungary

Course language: English

The course is directed towards professionals and assistants who work with disabled children and adults, who have not previously been on a course on Conductive Education but who feel that learning about Conductive Education would be useful in their everyday work.

The course comprises lectures by experienced conductors and outside speakers, demonstrations and participative observations in different kinds of groups.

A certificate will be issued on completion of the course.

Further information

For further information on this specific course (including course programme and application forms) contact:

Informal enquiries are welcomed about this and other courses, and about Moira’s other activities at home and abroad. Moira’s website (now in 14 languages!) also includes information on conductive services, equipment, and the ‘For Conductive Education’ charitable trust:

Monday, 8 September 2008

A relevant thought?

A discussion point, at least...

Over the weekend I was reading the last but one issue of the Times Higher Education Supplement, which had appeared when I was away in Chicago. It included an interesting article on Ananda K. Coomaraswamy, the Ceylonese philosopher of whom, I am ashamed to admit, I had not previously heard.

The article concluded as follows:

Coomaraswamy also wrote an essay called ‘What is civilisation?’ I can do no better than end by quoting one of its concluding sentences. ‘It has often been said that one can be a good Christian even in a factory; it is no less true that one could be an even better Christian in the arena. But neither of these facts means that either factories or arenas are Christian or desirable institutions.’

In this wise observation, substitute for "Christian" the name of whatever system of values seems to you appropriate.

I was barely finishing the first of Roy Harris’s two paragraphs quoted here when I made the jump that he proposes in his second.

I substituted ’conductors’.


Harris's quotation from Coomaraswamy is taken from p. 208 of the modern reference edition.

Harris, R. (2008) A song and dance about Western values, Times Higher Educational Supplement, no 1886, 28 August – 3 September, pp. 38-39

Coomaraswamy, A. K. (2004) The Essential Ananda K. Coomaraswamy, Bloomington, Indiana, World Wisdom Books

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Moscow news

Things coming together in Russia

I have just written and sent off an article for a new Russian magazine ‘Contemporary preschool education. Theory and practice’. A tall order: introduce Conductive Education (at least as it relates to children of preschool age and their families) in around two-thousand words, to a society that had virtually never heard of it!

Earlier materials from Hungary

Never heard of it in Russia? Well, not altogether true. Russian families have been finding their way to Budapest for quite some time, to the degree now that the scale of their presence at the Pető Institute justifies continuous provision (groups) for them, see below. Further, there have been Russians trained at the Pető Institute as conductors – but to little national benefit as most went off abroad (we had a really nice one at NICE for a while; she is now, I think, in Belgium).

Not much, however, was published in Russian from Hungary

Long ago, in 1974, two Soviet visitors published a brief report in a Soviet medical journal, following a visit to the then State Institute in Budapest. In 1981 Mária Hari presented a paper to a medical conference in the Soviet city of Suzdal’ (this was not published at the time but an English translation did appear, in 2004), and in 1982 in the journal Defektologiya she published a different paper.

Later the well-traveled German-English-Chinese book Dina was also published in Russian translation: twenty-thousand copies of this were produced but their current availability is unknown.

In Russian they don't need the equivalent of the generic English term 'Conductive Education' but make the correct distinction between conductive pedagogy and conductive upbringing. Search the Internet in Russian under these terms and find the same sorts of uncertainties about what it is all aboutas emerge, say, in English and German.

Practical developments

In 2005, acting on behalf of Moscow City Council, the organization Globus 21 Ltd invited the Pető Institute to make a contract to help children living in the Moscow region. The work began the following year and in 2007 fourteen groups of Russian children visited the Pető Institute in Budapest. By 2008 this had risen to eighteen. Each group has numbered fifteen children and parents have also been involved.

The plan now is to open a centre in Moscow, to work under the supervision of the Pető Institute, its longer-term development to take account of the prevalence of cerebral palsy in the Moscow region. It is reckoned that three years after successful commencement there the centre could begin training conductors.

In my article I have written as follows:

It may be hard for specialists in the West to understand ‘Conductive Education’ as they are trained in a very different philosophical tradition, but I have always found that people from the former Soviet Union grasp its essentials instantly. For historical reasons, both theoretically and in certain aspects of practice, conductive pedagogy and conductive upbringing have close affinities to Soviet defectology, psychology and education. Of all societies in the world, Russia and its near-abroad should find it easiest to develop their own conductive systems.

I have felt this since I first heard of Conductive Education nearly thirty years ago. Maybe now this hypothesis will be put to the test.

Notes and references

It is most worthy of note that written information about the collaboration with Globus 21 Ltd was provided by the Pető Institute at my request, tangible testimony to the most remarkable turn-around in the openness of that institution under its new direction.

Акош, Kарoли, Акош, Магдга (1994) Помощь детям с церебралниым парaличoм. Кондуктивная педагoгика. Книгa для родитeлей. M. изд-во Улисc

Hari, M. (1981) Presentation to the Symposium of the Socialist Countries on Child Neurology, Suzdal’, 5-6 October 1981 [English translation, with a short English commentary, in ‘Out East’, Chapter 5 of G. Maguire and Andrew Sutton (eds.) (2004) Mária Hári on conductive pedagogy, Birmingham, Foundation for Conductive Education, pp.73-80]

Семенова, K., Мастюкова, Е. (1974) O кондyтивнoм воспитании детей c церебрльными праличaми в Венгрской Народной Републике, Дeфектология, 2, 93-95

Xapи. M. (1982) Meтoд кондyтивнoгo воспитания и eгo poль в coцильной адипций детей c церебрльными праличaми, Журнал невропaтологии и псхиаитpии им. Корсаковa, 82/10, 1501-1510

Globus 21 Ltd:

Журнал «Современное дошкольное образование. Теория и практика»

Friday, 5 September 2008

Major changes at the Pető Institute

‘Three pillars’ to future professional training

Franz Schaffhausser’s presentation to the 4th ACENA Conference in Chicago provides the first opportunity for the world outside Hungary to hear about the radical developments proposed for the Pető Institute, particularly in its professional training courses. This is not the end of the changes to be proposed. Next to be announced will be plans for changes in the Pető Institute’s conductive services.

It is in the very nature or plans that they should evolve: the overview that follows represents how things stand at the moment and is a summary of Franz Schaffhauser’s conference presentation. It is followed by my own brief comments and annotation.

Plans for change
The aim of the changes is ‘the renewal of Conductive Education’ [at the Pető Institute] rather than further ‘continuing tinkering’. This renewal will involve ‘restatement of ‘the holistic approach’, to incorporate implementation of the latest medical, biological, neurological and psychological advances, and take account of ‘methodological experiences’ to develop an evidence-based practice.

The Institute’s profile will change and be extended. The immediate effects of this will primarily affect the training of conductors but changes in how conductive services will be provided will soon follow. General pedagogy will gain in importance alongside conductive pedagogy, while ‘prevention and rehabilitation’ will constitute the third pillar. The development plan includes for the differentiation and integration of the three pillars and, during the last academic year (2007-2008) the Institute has already established an organisational framework for these training and research profile.

Professional training

For some years now the Pető Institute has trained ‘conductor-teachers’. This will cease when the last cohort of students already enrolled for this type of training finish their course, and is being replaced by a new BA training course for ‘conductors’, the first cohort of which started training in September 2006. This change will fit in with the European Union’s ‘Bologna process’ for harmonising higher educational qualifications across the Union. To meet Hungarian requirements for practical qualifications the BA training course will be for four years / eight semesters in duration.

Also to be launched is a second major training program to run alongside, a BA in pedagogy with a specialism in conductive pedagogy. Further, in the more distant future, there may also be training for ‘conductive therapists’

Starting in February 2009 there will be a higher-education course in ‘youth protection’, a specialism for conductors in appropriate provision for young people with cerebral palsy.

Also soon to begin is a masterate program in conductive pedagogy, targeted at qualified conductors, a group for which there has been to date no adequate post-initial training. Aims of this course are to prepare conductors to teach the theory of conductive pedagogy, prepare them for research, and provide ‘legal and management’ skills. The course will run for three or four semesters, depending upon candidates’ previous learning and experience, and will be open to conductors holding the Pető Institute’s new BA qualification.

‘Adult education’ [continuing professional development for conductors] will also be arranged, through short and long, regular and irregular courses, to incorporate ‘anything that could not fit into the MA program’.

The future

To manage this extended operation the Institute is being completely restructured.

The Rektor – overall direction

Institute of Conductive Pedagogy (with its own Director)
Theory of Conductive Pedagogy Department
Applied Conductive Pedagogy department
Inclusive Education Group

Institute of Human Services (with its own Director)
Department of Pedagogical Psychology
Department of School Education and Methodology
Department of Social Sciences
Department of Special Pedagogy

Department of Adult Education

Department of Neurorehabilitation

The Pető Institute looks forward to establishing joint research and joint training programs with institutions in Hungary and abroad.

The intended result of all these changes will result in the Pető Institute’s gaining:

- greater flexibility in research and training
- greater effectiveness for the practice of conductive pedagogy
- greater ‘assertiveness in the market’
- greater attraction for joint projects in research, training and marketing
- greater readiness for any other level of collaboration.

It is hoped that official approval will be granted to change the name ‘Pető Institute’ to reflect these intended changes.


The switch to the BA training for conductors (rather than conductor-teachers) is already under way and the course in youth protection is scheduled to begin in February of next year. Other intentions may take longer to fulfil and, in Hungary as elsewhere, the resources will have to be found, financial and human, to translate plans into reality.

This major reorganisation at the Pető Institute responds in part to that institution’s own historical crisis. In part, though it is also an urgently requires response to changes at the and even supra-national levels. Recent national higher-educational reforms in Hungary require that there should no longer be single-subject colleges. All colleges will now have to teach at least two major programs. The Pető Institute had been struggling for some time now to find a solution to this conundrum. At the same time, it also has to meet the requirements of ‘Bologna’.

My impression at the ACENA conference is that not knowing much about the Pető Institute, Hungary or Europe, many of those present were somewhat bemused at what all these changes were about (‘Hungarian solutions to Hungarian problems,’ I heard,).

For myself, I shall probably not feel confident in understanding it all, especially potentially ambiguous terms like ‘youth protection’ and ‘rehabilitation and prevention’, till I see what they mean in practice. I will also, like many around the world, wait to see what the status of the new BA (or should I write ‘BAs’?) will be in the eyes of education authorities outside Hungary.

And what, I shall be asking along with every one else, will be the distinct areas of competence of graduates holding a ‘BA in pedagogy with a specialism in conductive pedagogy’? What should we call them? What might they do?

The term ‘International Pető Institute’ seems less commonly used now. I shall also await with interest to see whether the Institute will continue to offer on-site training for foreigners or whether any training of foreign conductors will in future be done only through collaborative projects elsewhere (a new such collaborative programme is already anticipated, in Moscow, to be elaborated on in a forthcoming posting on Conductive Education World).

It will be also interesting to see will be how already trained alumni of the Pető Institute might access the new masterate course.

Most interesting of all was to experience Franz Schaffhauser’s extraordinary openness and the new transparency of the Pető Institute under his leadership. ACENA is to be congratulated for offering him this platform to express these.



Schaffhauser, F. (2008) Plans for change at the Pető Institut, Presentation to the ACENA 4th National Conductive Education Conference, Institute of Rehabilitation of Chicago, 28-29 September

Higher-education reform in Hungary

Recent national higher-educational reforms in Hungary require that there should be no further single-subject colleges. All colleges will now have to teach at least two major programs. The Pető Institute had been struggling for some time now to find a solution to this conundrum.

Conductor-training and ‘graduateness’

Conductor-training in Hungary has not previously been to first-degree level and is not recognised as such in countries across Europe (including the United Kingdom) – though the qualification has sometimes been accorded first-degree status in the United States.

Conductor-training at NICE has been to first-degree level from its outset in 1997.


The Bologna Accord is intended to be in place by 2010

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Towards a voice for conductors

Further conductor's blog gets up steam

I have just posted a Comment to the latest posting on László Szögeczki's blog, 'Statement of being a Conductive Education teacher'. I republish my comment here (with my typos and punctuation corrected!) to give it, and Laszlo's statement, a wider currency:

Welome aboard, Laci, and congratulations for your significant contribution to the long, long task of giving conductors a 'voice'. I look forward to reading a lot more in later postings, both on general matters of principle and on specific issues that arise out of your practice and your research.

I have just come back from the annual North American conference where I sensed that a major problem holding back and diverting the development of Conductive Education there is and will be the almost total lack of communication between two 'sides' in the CE movement, the conductors and the non-conductors. The conductors there are a remarkable bunch, but they have virtually no way of voicing what they think about things, about how they feel and what they know. The 'debate' there around CE therefore carries on as if they do not exist!

The situation in North America is no different of course from that elsewhere, in the UK, in Europe and other parts of the world. Conductors are fundamental to the present development of Conductive Educaton but they are in effect mute.

As you know, you are the second conductor to make a major breakthrough into cyberspace. Susie Mallett and you are true pioneers and I do most sincerly hope and expect that soon other conductors will draw courage from your openness and efforts, and join you with blogs of their own, to make their vital contribution to a better public understanding of the essence of CE, not least amongst parents, disabled people and all those confused professionals.

Blogging CE on the Internet is still little over a year old Surely, though, it has barely begun growing to what it might be, in scale and in substance. There are now five regular established CE blogs listed in the information column on the left of this page. Two are now by conductors, Susie and Laci, and two from that equally vital wing of the conductive movement, parent-activists who have funded and now run CE services.

There is also a growing swarm of other bloggers, mostly parents of chidren with cerbral palsy, with a less frequent presence on the Internet or one less exclusively focussed upon CE (Pageflages, for which also see the left-hand column of this page, offers a partial guide to these).

So far I have spotted nothing from either of the major wings of the CE movement, or anywhere else, posted in Hungarian, but I may be missing something important. Any illumination gratefully received.

At the moment, the CE's bloggers are a small and relatively inconsequential group. As the group grows, though, bringing in representatives of other groups currently sheltering under the 'Conductive Education' umbrella, then so will the diversity of opinion expressed and we may at last experience some of the clash of open debate that the CE movement so deperately needs.


Szogeczki, L (2008) Statement of being a Conductive Education Teacher, László Szögeczki's, 3 September

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Mária Hári on Conductive Education

Some renewed attention to the Little White Book

In 2004 Gill Maguire and I edited a little book of previously unpublished papers and conference presentations by Mária Hári who had died a couple of years previously and whose name at that time seemed to have been struck from the cartouches at the Institute that she had devoted her life to developing and preserving.

The materials had been written originally in English, French and Russian. Here they have been all presented in English, with the exception of those originally delivered in English which have been tweaked to bring them into line with modern English usage. There is some explanatory material from ourselves at the beginning and the whole has been strung together to illustrate how her relationship to the world outside had developed over the years.

Briefly, this narrative seemed to demonstrate that, when she started her relationship with Western European professionals in 1968, she did so with enormous faith and optimism, going out of her way to be open and sharing. The first two items in the book, taken from her very first presentation outside Hungary, in Wallingford near Oxford in 1968, comprise as full and reasonable a window on to Conductive Education as you will find in a short space anywhere. To my students, I call this the 'Wallingford window'. This window was soon to close as during the seventies she began to have increasing misgivings about how what she said were being used to legitimate practices that styled themselves ‘Conductive Education’ without capturing or conveying its conductive or pedagogic essence.

Blow-up in Brussels

My personal favourite amongst the book's contents is a stenographic (short-hand) record from a conference in Brussels in 1981. She was the guest of honour at a two-day event called ‘Study Days on the Pető Method’. The programme was something that she was by now beginning to realise was falling into a pattern. She would give an opening address on the means and the outcomes of Conductive Education, then for the rest of the conference a variety of people (mainly therapists) would describe what they were doing under the same name according to the so-called ‘principles of Conductive Education’.

That day in Brussels she could stands it no more. She veered immediately away from her prepared presentation, dispensing with most of her beloved slides and 16mm films, and opened with an extemporary tirade about what she saw happening.

Excuse me for beginning the lecture by opposing myself to the title of the symposium, ‘The Peto Method’. First, as one sees in the programme, other things will be spoken about; secondly, Conductive Education is much more than a method’. (p.67)

The French-language text that we worked from here had been taken down ‘live’ as she spoke by an unknown stenographer then transcribed, again in French, into typescript. It is perhaps unsurprisingl that the official, published, French-language report of the conference made no mention of her outburst. Equally unsurprisingly, the critical factor behind the distinction that she was making fell to training:

A method can be learned during a course but the system of Conductive Education cannot be applied other than by conductors… The quality of results of Conductive Education is conditional upon the quality of the conductors’ training. (p. 69)

On the transcript, emphasis was shown in italics. Capitalisation, presumably, indicated VERY STRONG EMPHASIS INDEED:

THE ONLY CONCLUSION OF THIS SYMPOSIUM is that if one wished to have the results that we have, it is necessary to earn conduction. (p. 72)

The book today

There have been snippets on Mária Hári and her work published over the four years since this book appeared, but not a lot, certainly far less than her collossal contribution to the development of Conductive Education merits. I understand that sometime in the future a larger collection of her materials may be published by the Pető Institute. In the meantime, I suppose that four years is a long time and that Gill and I should soon be turning our attention to a second edition, to correct a few typos and other relatively minor errata and perhaps introduce a couple of other papers. Next year maybe.

The book has been brought back to the forefront of my attention this week by a couple of postings by bloggers Susie Mallett and Gill Maguire. Susie writes a sort of review, pointing out how Mária Hári had the knack of bringing ‘Ahah moments’ to her students in lectures. Susie writes that she can feel this here too, through the written word. Parents, she writes should also experience this through this book. Gill tells a little more about the book's current availability.

You can buy copies either from Gill or, possibly more conveniently if you are in the Americas, from CaféPress. Amazon is currently doing a bargain offer

Notes and references

Mallett, S. (2008) Mária Hári on conductive pedagogy, Conductor, 2 September

Maguire, G. (2008) Mária Hári on conductive pedagogy, Conductive Education Library, 3 September

Maguire, G., Sutton, A (eds) Mária Hári on conductive pedagogy. Birmingham: Foundation for Conductive Education

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

I just got back from the Windy City

The Windy City is mighty pretty…

ACENA has just held its 4th Annual Conference at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. All conference-goers take away their own memories and impressions. Here, rather disjointedly, are mine.

First though, Chicago... I love it

It really is a toddling town, and it really is mighty pretty. In fact the whole setting, physical and social, the bits that I experienced, probably coloured my whole view of the conference (which is why people like to organise conferences in nice places in the first place, I suppose).

Right from the outset Chicago managed to endear, with the Immigration Officer at O’Hare International Airport being the very opposite of the ogres that I had been led to believe that such officials are following 9/11. The very environment that he worked in was positively cosy and he and his colleagues outright welcoming. He was relaxed and easy, seemingly genuinely concerned that I had had a less than comfortable flight and genuinely disappointed that I was intending to be staying only a few days in his country. (How different to the harsh, alienating environment awaiting me when I went back to Heathrow, with its negative and admonitory notices and suspicious and twitchy immigration officers.)

Of course Chicago has its thousands of acres of post-industrial dereliction, run-down residential property, huge areas of social deprivation, and what to a Brit/European appears a desperate lack of a social safety net. And of course, bubbling away barely below the surface, there are all sorts of reminders of what the Americans call ‘race’. While I was there this was emphasised all over the city by Barack Obama’s pervasive presence on wide-screen televisions with the sound off, silently waving his arms and being nominated. Surreal, as was the suddenly edgy argument that I found myself getting into when I carelessly questioned the definition of him as an ‘African-American’.

I personally saw only ‘Downtown’ (the city centre) and a very nice middle-class suburb. I experienced wonderful Mid-Western charm and hospitality, and it was a joy to struggle with the language. I also enjoyed the fulfilment of national preconceptions (the weak coffee, peculiar beer and the nursery food) and experienced again the extraordinary interdependence of our two cultures.

And what places I did see. It was Chicago that ‘invented’ the skyscraper and over the years the city has begun consciously to savour the aesthetic of the skyscraper city. This is not just a matter of individual buildings (though it certainly helps that so many are so good!). There is something else immediately apparent, the coherence of the whole, with buildings of different styles, scales and periods blending together in ways that can wholly transcend the sum of the component parts. It doesn’t work universally but, when it does, Wow! (I subsequently learned that there is a word for this effect when consciously aimed for: ‘contextualism’.). And the suburb that I visited was not just any old suburb but Oak Park where Frank Lloyd Wright lived and worked and sprinkled his own domestic architecture among the Mid-Western wooden family homes.

One further thing to enamour a rain-drenched refugee from the traditional English summer: the weather was sublime. Chicagoans this year have apparently been complaining about their own summer but the end of August was like a glorious English June. As Chicagoans never tire to explain, the soubriquet ‘windy’ is not meant meteorologically but refers to the windbag politicians gassing away down at City Hall.

The conference was held at the Chicago Institute of Rehabilitation, 'Number 1 Rehabilitation Institute of America', use of the conference facilities on the eighteenth floor having been donated free of charge by the Director who is apparently very supportive of the development of Conductive Education.

The conference itself will be subject to a further report, coming soon to this site.


Chicago: Frank Sinatra loves it too...