Saturday, 29 November 2008

New blog on the block

Becky Featherstone’s Brazilian adventure

Becky Featherstone started her blog in May. Why she stopped and whyshe started again are interesting in the light of recent comments on the CE blogosphere.

When I am not working I spend time preparing for lessons, writing reports, training the staff that work with me, alongside doing the chores of daily life. Any spare time I have I try to catch up with loved ones and friends in England and around the world, and I also enjoying following the blogs of a few people within conductive education. It turns out that I spend more time following the Blogs of others than updating my own, and I am not alone in this as I discovered whilst talking to another conductor last night. Through a chat on Skype I established that she was updating her own Blog, whilst reading others, at almost 1 o'clock in the morning! As a result of our short conversation I have now been prompted to again start updating my own Blog.

Her blog is at:


Falling in love with a country

Becky's is not specifically a Conductive Education blog, it is a blog by a conductor and as such offers another glimpse into the divers human reality of an otherwise often mysterious tribe. This is how Becky introduces her writing:

Although this is my Brazilian adventure, I would like to share it with those I sadly left behind in England. I came here primarily for my work, for which I have great passion as many of you already know, but since arriving here I have slowly fallen in love with not just this country, but also its culture and people. The purpose of this blog is to share with you the other side to my life here, exploring the vast beauty of this country.

There is a long and honourable tradition of participative anthropology. transmitted through writings that are not necessarily ‘scientific’ or even more generally scholarly (though many of them are) but express a powerful, personal and emotional attachment to a land, a people, a language, a society. Such writers do more than simply settling in to a new environment, they embrace it passionately, and they play a major part in shaping how people back home perceive the world, as the British well know (particulary with respect to India).

Blog it

I have met other conductors who feel this way about their new countries, Canada, the United States, yes and even England. Becky is the first that I know of to commit this to writing. She happens to write rather well. What other such talents are already lurking out there in Conductive Education? This is the twenty-first century: no talent need go unexpressed simply because of geographical isolation:

Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,
And waste its sweetness on the desert air.


That was a harsh reality once but remains now so only in so far as people allow themselves to think and act ac if it still has to be. There’s no excuse to perpetuate this situation. I wonder whether a major factor in this doing so may be no more than lack of confidence (sorry, I don’t buy ‘lack of time’, except in the most specific circumstances). Conductive Education will be a richer and more relevant movement if more conductors, parents etc who are its life blood go public and tell about what they do, the circumstances of the work, the triumphs and the frustrations.

If you’re shy, or if you fear some kind of reprisal, then do it anonymously or under a pseudonym (great historical precedent here, in András Petö !).

If you don’t think you have enough to say, do it with friends or colleagues.

If you’re nor sure how to proceed, get a mentor!

And if English is not your native language then so what, write in the language if your choice.

Just do it!

Notes
Featherstone, B. (2008) My Brazilian adventure

Conductor Becky Featherstone works in the project Com Amor in Florianópolis, with Leticia Búrigo, the doyenne of CE bloggers (who writes not in English but, to great effect, in Portuguese):

Gray’s Elegy
http://www.blupete.com/Literature/Poetry/Elegy.htm
There is an awful lot of ‘village Hampdens’ and all sorts of other undiscovered, unsung heroes and innovators, unseen within Conductive Education. There needn’t be!

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Please, not just retrenchment: surviving the recession in a socially responsible way

Some advice from people who might know how boom can follow bust

Some people who might know

Ten years ago the Asia financial crisis laid low the ‘Tiger Economies’ of the Pacific Rim. Boy, did they learn from this and did they recover in the years since!

Now of course they too are severely affected by the collapse of world trade. Last week the Government of Singapore issued advice to companies, based presumably upon fairly recent experience of building new prosperity following financial ruin.

An article in the Straights Times has summarised salient points of potential interest to those involved in Conductive Education around the world, employers, employees and service-users.

Employers… must be socially responsible as the economic downturn bites harder, and resort to retrenchment only after all other options have been exhausted.

There are many other alternatives available before the dreaded axe is wielded.

The Singapore Government is releasing a list of cost-cutting options available to companies with excess staff in a time of slowing business (a position in which CE around the world services might find themselves):

The guidelines - which are not mandatory - include having flexible work arrangements, a shorter work week and sending employees for upgrading.

Acting Manpower Minister Gan Kim Yong says:

'We want to help these companies and guide them through the process, so that they look at the whole challenge holistically, and so that they also understand that there are many other options available other than retrenchment'.

In Singapore, as (so far) in many other places, services industries like the education and childcare sectors, are still hiring. Mr Gan added:

'The key is how we can help the retrenched workers transit to these new industries.'

Who will be most affected? Again Mr Gan has an answer:

On who will be hardest hit, he said that the impact will be felt most keenly at middle-management levels and in PMET (professional, managerial, executive and technical) occupations. This, he explained, is partly a factor of success…

The majority of jobs in world CE fall within the PMET bracket.

A socially responsible response

In no spirit of criticism, and acknowledging some outstanding exceptions, it is fair to say that Conductive Education has not expanded around the world on the basis of social responsibility. Much of it has been driven at best by enlightened self-interest, and often simply by self-interest. Why not? That has been the spirit of the times.

Now that the CE bubble might be bursting, the corresponding risk is that the major response within Conductive Education will be sauve qui peut, ‘every man for himself’’. And Devil take the hindmost.

A socially responsible response would involve, at the very least:

Setting aside time and resources aside to safeguard clients, so that they are not left wholly on the lurch where their CE services shrink or vanish.

Doing the same for employees (and, again, the hear the plea that non-conductors are remembered here too)

Doing what in Singapore the Government calls ‘sending employees for upgrading’. Now what could that mean for Conductive Education, not just for the benefit of those directly involved but also for would-be beneficiaries of the system. Most importantly of all in the long term, the survival and future development of the system.

Painless? Certainly not, but it will hurt, whatever is done. Even over the medium term, simple retrenchment might hurt even more. This way, however, perhaps increases the chance of Conductive Education’s surviving in the longer term with three important assets, not just intact but also enhanced, as a basis for rebuilding a new CE order as we emerge into a new world:
    • reputation
    • people
    • institutions
That might be what they would recommend to ensure the survival of Conductive Education in Singapore, at least, they might do if they had any there yet!

Maybe, though, one day they will.

Reference

Chow, J. (2008) Guidelines today on options before wielding the axe. Ministry of Manpower list will include flexible work plans and shorter work week, Straits Times, 19 November
http://www.straitstimes.com/vgn-ext-templating/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=c0bdb7b9560bd110VgnVCM100000430a0a0aRCRD&vgnextchannel=cf70758920e39010VgnVCM1000000a35010aRCRD

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Fleas on fleas

And fleas on fleas on fleas

Catching up on recent issues of the newsletter Research Fortnight I spotted the following news item:
‘Third sector’ centre opens

The University of Birmingham has opened a £10-million centre to study the impact of charities and other not-for-profit organisations, known as the ‘third sector’. The centre, which is a joint venture with the University of Southampton, opened its doors on 23 October. It has received funding from the Economic and Social Research Council, the Government Office of the Third Sector and the Barrow Cadbury Trust...

No comment, other than to ask who says that there is a shortage of funds to spend on the voluntary (charitable ) sector?

You can see more of what this centre will do, and for whom, on its website. As suggested by the involvement of the Orwellian-sounding ’Government Office of the Third Sector’, you might suspect the familiar mechanisms of encroaching government control, clumsily emphasised rather than obscured by all the managerialist jargon.

For an interesting and very recent snippet on CE fundraising at the close of 2008, just perhaps a straw in the wind, scroll a little way down this page to Rony Schenker’s frank Comment to the last posting but one on Conductive World, on ‘BISH’.

The University of Birmingham: an historical aside

Only about twenty minutes’ walk from the National Institute of Conductive Education, across one corner of ‘leafy Edgbaston' but a million miles away in every other way, stands the Main Campus of my alma mater, the University of Birmingham.

When universities in the United Kingdom had considerable discretion over how they spent their money and managed their premises, Birmingham University played an essential role in the mid-1980s in the early collaboration with Mária Hári to establish Conductive Education outside Hungary. The story of this, like much else of that turbulent and formative period, has yet to be told.

The leading figure in the University’s involvement was the then Acting Vice-Chancellor, Professor Mike Hamlin, an engineer, that is a bloke who knew that problems are not 'challenges' but things that you do something about. In June 2006 I was pleased to present him with the Founder’s Award of the Foundation for Conductive Education, in small token of the important contribution that he had made to breaking Conductive Education out of Hungary.

Universities nowadays are rather different animals.

Notes and references

--- (2008) ‘Third sector centre opens‘, Research Fortnight, 5 November, p. 3

Third Sector Research Centre
http://www.socsci.bham.ac.uk/research/Third_Sector_Research_Centre/index.shtml

Schenker, R. (2008) Comment on posting on BISH, Conductive World, 26 November http://www.conductive-world.info/2008/11/bish-strange-bedfellows.html#comments

University of Birmingham, Main Campus
http://images.google.co.uk/imgres?imgurl=http://img-fan.theonering.net/writing/reviews/images/spain_image2.jpg&imgrefurl=http://fan.theonering.net/writing/reviews/files/spain_trail3.html&usg=__0Z1tFVwmwztHsjTth4LaLLD5Ir0=&h=603&w=866&sz=37&hl=en&start=10&tbnid=7pdDJsTGN2ZfEM:&tbnh=101&tbnw=145&prev=/images%3Fq%3DUniversity%2Bof%2BBirmingham%26gbv%3D2%26hl%3Den%26sa%3DG
Other than a bit of misguided in-fill in the nineteen-sixties, the main building has hardly changed over a hundred years.. The original grand plan of a century or so ago was never finished: the money was no longer there. Earlier this year the University announced its ambitious intention of finally completing the long-discontinued building, realising the original design and completing the semicircle. That was earlier this year.

All quiet in the news front

CE out of the news

Something on Gill Maguire’s Conductive Education Library blogsite has made me aware of something that I had not consciously noticed.

Her blog’s side bar had included notification of mentions of Conductive Education in the world’s media, as picked up automatically by Google’s Media Alert.

She had started this because over the summer when there was a long spate of stories involving Conductive Education in the world’s news. Nothing of a policy nature but quite a bit on local fundraising activities, and a lot of reports, mainly from the United States, of excited parents about to venture on an experience of Conductive Education.

This week she announced that in the absence of real news she is discontinuing the service until and when news picks up again.

Without real Conductive Education stories to spot, Google’s ever-helpful but mindless search robot was serving up anything that it could find with the word ‘conductive’ in it – including the inevitable conductive/conducive confusions.

I don’t know precisely what to make of this diminution of reported activity. It would be hardly surprising if fundraising events in general were to fall off over the recession, though imaginative activities well-founded in their home community can still bear fruit, as shown by the example cited below. As for the relative lack of autumn’s ‘after’ stories to follow ‘summer’s ‘before’ reports of children off to experience Conductive Education, I just don’t know. Maybe most folks just have something more pressing on their minds.

Or perhaps this is all of no significance whatsoever.

References

Gill Maguire’s blog
Maguire, G. (2008) Conductive Education Library,
http://ce-library.blogspot.com/

Fundraising for CE goes on
(2008) Goosnargh Olympic athlete wins Lancashire's Strictly Come Dancing, Longridge and Ribble Valley News and Advertiser, 26 September
http://www.longridgenews.co.uk/features/Goosnargh-Olympic-athlete-wins-Lancashire39s.4732737.jp

Conductive/conducive
Sutton, A. (2008) Conductive and conducive: another source of confusion, Conductive World, 23 April
http://andrew-sutton.blogspot.com/search?q=conducive

BISH: strange bedfellows

CE midst the sick men of Europe

Very early this morning BBC news picked up a catchy story line on economic trends from this morning’s Guardian newspaper:

Britain has been bracketed with Hungary, Iceland and Spain as one of the countries most affected by the global credit crunch and falling house prices, according to the west's leading economic thinktank.

Britain, Iceland, Spain and Hungary, all on the road to economic hell in the same economic handcart: time to coin a new acronym ‘BISH’ to counterpoise BRIC (Brasil, Russia, India, China), the economies supposed to be passing us in the opposite direction on the way up.

Actually, not quite so neat a grouping. The Guardian’s story continues by adding that Ireland, Luxembourg and Turkey are also members of this unfortunate club.

Who says so? The ‘think tank’, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’. So maybe not to worry quite so much. Remember the uncritical and unquestioning stance that the OECD produced over special needs and inclusion not all that long ago. But worrying all the same, since on this topic it's on home ground and ought to know rather more what it's talking about.

CE in these countries

Turkey, and Iceland: as far as I know, as yet untouched by CE.

Ireland (North and South): for twenty years CE‘s graveyard of dreams, due not least to the implacable opposition of existing hegemonies.

Spain: scene of CE’s biggest public financial scandal a few years back, and nothing strategic since.
Britain and Hungary: in their different ways, countries that have been vital in the story if Conductive Education so far. So far…

It’s the economy, stupid, again

It’s now all of six days since Conductive World last opened the porthole and peeped out to peeped out timorously to see how the storm and the icebergs are getting on. No, close it tight again quickly! It’s all so much cosier shut safe in our tiny, bright, warm cabins. The band is playing in the First Class lounge and, if there really is something needing doing, there are always the deckchairs to rearrange.

Oh, and by the way, just after I began writing this item, the news came on over the radio:

Ten minutes ago it was announced that trading in shares in Woolworths has been suspended on the London Stock Exchange.

Notes and references

Most recent economic report on these pages (featuring Woolworths, actually!)
Sutton A. (2008)Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible, Conductive World, 20 November
http://www.conductive-world.info/2008/11/normal-services-will-be-resumed.html

Brazil, Russia, India, China
Elliot, L., Bowers, S. (2008) UK to be hardest hit thinktank, Guardian, 26 November
http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2008/nov/26/uk-recession-credit-crunch-forecast

Hungary’s economy and possible repercussions for CE worldwide
Sutton, A. (2008) God help the Hungarians, Conductive World, 30 October
http://andrew-sutton.blogspot.com/2008/10/isten-ldd-meg-magyart-god-bless.html

Monday, 24 November 2008

What to do between 'blocks'

Personal and policy suggestions required

The following cri de coeur was published last week, on Jacolyn Liek's blog Liek Triplets. Jacolyn describes herself as a 'barely sane mother of triplets'.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

and 2 steps back. Sometimes it feels like 3 steps back and that we are starting all over. Grace finished her September Conductive Education doing really well. Sitting up well, walking well, great attitude. Now she is afraid to sit up, she is complaining about her right leg and has become most difficult at times to get along with (especially with me). I was feeling so great about things in September. We had the right therapists, the right equipment and things were really, really moving forward. And now I fell like I just can't do it all! Is this the way it is with CP? I guess I thought things would always continue to get better. I guess I really don't know what I'm doing or what to expect from this journey. I guess I feel like I'm letting everyone...especially Grace...down.

Posted by Jacolyn at 5:06 PM 8 comments Links to this post

Eight Comments have been posted in response to that, including this one...

Billie said...

This has TOTALLY been our experience and we're kinda in a slump right now too...right at a time when I had been feeling like everything was going so well!Try to keep in mind, that when you take 3 steps forward, and only two back, you're still ONE STEP AHEAD!I also frequently remind myself that "this too shall pass."Keep your chin up:)Billie

None from a conductor, nor from anyone who knows something positive to do.

Two questions

1. Is there no one out there able to offer positive suggestions to Jacolyn and her family?

2. This is hardly the first time that this issue has arise. I saw it first in 1987 when British parents started short-term attenances at the Peto Institite in Budapest: a 'switchback effect' of a zoom upwards in performance followed by dive back almost or entirely to previous levels. This did not of course happen for everyone (why not?) but it was common enough for the concept of 'top-up' to emerge soon as a possible way of cushioning the probem.

So here's the beef

Twenty years have seen all sorts of variation on this experience: 'summer schools, 'blocks' 'intermittant Conductive Education' etc. What do we actually know about the outcomes of such experiences, whether in the short term or in the longer-term perspective of childhood and family life?

And the most salient question, what do such short-term programs provide to prepare parents for what might happen next, or to help bail them out when things do not go well? Surely there are responsibilities here, both technical and moral?

Short-term programs have been an important factor in the international expansion of CE, and in the employment opportunities of conductors. They have been very important in exposing an ever-greater population to the conductive message and in some instances instrumental in the subsequent development of permanent services as one answer to the question of what to do when the circus leaves town

But we should not take them for granted.They are not umproblematical. What other solutions are there to the problems that they might leave behind them What works, and what does not?

And can anyone help Jacolyn?

Notes

Liek Triplets

Food for thought
I picked this up this story from Norman Perrin's Conductive Web, from its 'Parental blog' page. Day by day, week by week, this offers a window into the joys and sorrows of bringing up children with cerebral palsy, mostly of course when the conductor is not around.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Well, shall we discuss it?

Evaluation from Brazil

There is quite an extensive discussion on mentoring bubbling away on the Comments section of yesterday’s item on Conductive World. You might like to join in the rough and tumble for yourself.

The most recent Comment posted there at the time that I write this is by Judit Szathmáry. As often happens on discussion threads on the Internet (and no harm in that), she suddenly introduces à propos de rien a huge new topic of great significance in its own right As such.it merits headline attention here.

She opens her posting as follows…

This is what we need to hear more of

Pesquisa da Educação Condutiva em Santa Catarina

This research was conducted during the year 2007 by educator Célia Diva Renck Hoefelmann with the Special Education Foundation of Santa Catarina.

She is referring to yesterday’s posting on Leticia Búrigo’s blog, reporting the report of an evaluation carried out in Brazil last year. You can find Leticia’s blog at:

Machine translation

Leticia writes in her native Portuguese and all credit to Judit for providing the Google machine-translation of Leticia’s posting in her own Comment. Portuguese and English can be pretty close and the translation is fairly easy to read, certainly for its gist.

Just watch out for one tricky linguistic ‘false friend‘. The word conductor in Portuguese means ‘driver’, and the drivers that are mentioned in this translation are in fact conductors!

Or are they? Let’s find out…

Always check

This is what I say again and again to my students when they tell me what they have heard or read (especially of course with respect to what I tell them!).

Judit tells us to be in good cheer about yet another evaluation to go into the pool. As ever, though, it will do so without heed from the ‘conductive community’, with no critical evaluation, and with little account of the social effects of the report. In other words, it will vanish.

I do not wish to upset Judit, or Leticia, both of whom will have spotted these words before most of the rest of Conductive World's readership. All I wish to do here is to approach this latest study with the same open-minded curiosity that all such investigations merit.

This time, however, I wonder whether more people around the world would care to walk alongside me in this.

How to check?

The first thing to do is to find out more. Join me. If you are not used to this sort of thing, as a start enter into your search engine the name of the organisation that undertook this study, plus the Portuguese word for ‘conductive', thus:

"Fundação Catarinense de Educação Especial" “condutiva”

At the time of writing this brings up at least nine hits (though by the time that you get to the page this total will be at least one more). Two of these hits concern conductive hearing loss and can be discounted from your search. That leaves only seven to look through to form a first idea of what is going on.

Your second task is to render these into English. In 2008 this is simplicity itself. Just click in the square-bracketed instruction [Translate this page] at the end of each of the seven relevant items.

I can especially recommend, by the way, the item presently third on the list, headed APAE - Assistência

Your third task is to do what all serious investigators do. When you have seen just an extract from a report: write to the author for the full text. She won’t be at all put out by this: it is what all report-writers want and only rarely get enough of. Believe me!

The report was written by Célia Diva Renck Hoefelmann.and Leticia has kindly provided us with her email:

An informed discussion

Now we can have an informed and public discussion on this new investigation.

Well, shall we?

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Mentoring: do we need it in CE?

Can we do without it?

Me, a mentor?

Someone whose work in Conductive Education I have known and respected for quite a few years now recently asked me an unexpected question. Would I agree to ‘mentor’ her. To be frank, I was a little taken aback; one did not ask such things in my day.

Immediate consideration, however, reminded me (as do so many other things), that I no longer live in ‘my day’ and that mentoring is indeed a commonplace kind of relationship, to be met at every rank of professional life. I quickly stopped being taken aback and instead felt rather flattered – till I began to wonder what further, extra, unpaid job I had picked up from Conductive Education!

And then, of course, I agreed.

Due reflection had made me realise that mentoring is hardly a new kind of relationship – it was just the terminology that I had found unfamiliar. I have to admit, though, that I do find the word persistently uncongenial. I do not know where it comes from but it bears the smack of managerialism. I would prefer simply to collaborate or, if some hierarchical relationship in really essential in the transmission and development of knowledge, then just maybe to tutor. Earlier this year, in fact, I had received a similarly phrased request and admit to not having repond to in a positive e nough way that it deserved. I had been put off by the terminology. That was silly of me and I shall go back, make amends, and see whether I might still be welcome.

After all, the role of mentor had been already sneaking up on me unannounced. Earlier this year, Tor Inge Martinsen relinquished the role of Styreleder of the Norsk Forum for Konduktiv Pedagogikk. In a brief valedictory article in the Norsk Forum's newsletter, he remarked (too generously by half):

Andrew Sutton from NICE, an energetic and outstanding idealist, has been my professional mentor all the way through, and was probably the first person to see the possibilities that we have to develop conductive pedagogy in Norway...
We had never made any formal agreement (perhaps blokes don’t) but this relationship had indeed proven most enjoyable and productive for us both.

Mentoring in CE: who needs it?

So, is there a general point here? Whatever I do in this repect, be it explicitly ‘mentoring’ or something with no particular name (and I don’t mean ‘supervision’), my own experience can hardly be unique. Is mentoring yet another of those mechanisms struggling into life or even already burrowing away vigorously beneath the surface of the world of Conductive Education. How many of the dots that appear on the map at the top of this page are already joined by thin, invisible lines of personal communication for the transmission and enhancement of expertise and knowledge? After all, there is no need for anyone outside a mentoring relationship to know that it is happening, unless it is specifically published (such as Tor Inge did when ours had run its course).

Is there need for such connections? Put it differently. Consider the nature of the conductive movement, its frequently isolated practitioners and service-managers and others in CE, many of them barely prepared for the issues thrust upon them and desperately engaged in reinventing the wheel in a time of major change. Then ask, how on Earth can we expect to manage without it?

I am assuming that my own experiences of this kind are not unique. I really do hope that they are not and that an ad hoc and unstructured, informal network already exists for mentoring conductors and service managers and others worldwide, at every stage of their professional development. It is horrendous to contemplate a possible conductive world in which the major learning method for isolated individuals and institutions is to learn, primarily or even solely, from their own mistakes, with no means of at least checking the possibly very similar mistakes by those who went before.

Something else that we’re behind on in CE?

If there is indeed a need, how best might this be met? What experience has already been gained (and as ever, not shared), what mechanisms have been successfully utilised (surely the email and Skype should figure rather high here)? And what mentoring know-how is there that has been already elaborated in other sectors and might be productively adapted to the service of mentoring within the world of Conductive Education – so that the very process of mentoring within our own sector is not another one of reinventing the wheel.

I have to admit that my own experience of working like this has been wholly ad hoc, and that I have no intention at this point of undertaking ‘mentoring training’. My own attitude is therefore perhaps hardly a model that conductors and non-conductors alike should adopt in approaching this matter in the future. I excuse myself by saying that I will not be incorporating mentoring into my professional role. I no longer really have much of a professional role, as I do such things unpaid, what I do is by definition undertaken as a gentleman rather than as a player. I am pleased here to remain an amateur in its literal sense, someone doing it because he likes it.
 
Those who are continuing as professionals in Conductive Education might consider a rather more 'professional' approach, both to finding out what they can learn from the experience of mentoring in more elaborated fields and by looking seriously at how they might incorporate such a role into their present activities – even to the extent maybe of incorporating this into their job descriptions.
And do please note that the question of mentoring raised here is intended to apply to everyone who works in Conductive Education, in whatever role and at whatever level – not just to conductors.
Don't look at me

This article is most certainly not an invitation to approach me or to offer myself in such a role. Life is too short. The intention is simply to put into the public domain the place, value and potential significance of mentoring in Conductive Education. My personal experience shows the possibility of collaboration and learning of this kind within Conductive Education. This might also contribute to the life of a system that has few if any other ways of transmitting and challenging knowledge at a higher level as it moves across generations.

Of course, ‘continuing professional development’ and ‘in-service training’ may also have their part to play, if you can find them and if you can afford them when you do, but in various ways these are not the same as personal interaction with a tutor or mentor.

A silent, informal network of individually arranged mentoring arrangements may prove an important instrument for holding on to the experience of the past (and do remember that, after twenty or so international years, Conductive Education’s past is no longer exclusively a Hungarian one). Like everything else in our world, the conductive movement has now to make its own awkward and unplanned transition into the uncertain future, and the people at the sharp end may need to talk about this, critically, if Conductive Education is keep its point

Note and reference
Styreleder.  Don't you just love the language of the Norsemen? I am as prone as anyone to false etymologies, so I cherish here the image of a sturdy Viking chietain heaving at the steering oar of his longboat, on the way to some hard-earned rapine, burning and pillaging in the villages and monasteries of Northumberland. So much more confidence-inspiring, don't you think, than the contemporary titles 'chairman', 'CEO', 'manager' or 'leader', favoured by the Anglo-Saxons of today?

Martinson, T. I. (2008) Sluttor [End of the road], Medlemsblad for NFKP, May, pp. 6-7

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Normal services will be resumed

as soon as possible

Sod's Law strikes again! The dots on the map at the head of this page have been blossoming this week... at which very point I find myself without the use of a computer.

This quick posting comes courtesy of a public computer terminal. If anything major happens in the world of Conductive Education over the next few days, something that can be briefly reported, then it will be off to the nearest Internet cafe.

So, until normal services are resumed, do please watch this space and continue making your own comments on what is written here. An increasing number of people around the conductive world will pick up your opinion if you express them this way.

And don't forget the other conductive bloggers (see the DIRECTORY to the left of this page).

The computor problem should be solved this weekend, and won't cost me a penny (1p. or £0.01), and a penny buys more every day in the recession-hit United Kingdom (see below what you might pickup for 100 of them). A lot of people's problems are not going to be so easily resolved and 'normal service' may never be the same again.

Sale! Sale! Sale!

The Christmas and New Year sales have started already in High Street UK (I guess in Main St USA as well).

Next to where I am sitting to write this item there is 20% off everything today in Marks & Spencers, and some places are announcing far bigger reductions: 'Up to 70% off''.

And the biggest bargain of all? It is now rumoured that 'Woolies' (F. W. Woolworths) is looking to dispose of all 800 of its UK stores, for £1.00. That's not £1.00 for each store but £1.00 for the lot. Not such a bargain, of course, you think of all the financial commitments and obligations that you will also pick for your pound (like a £385m debt, for example!).

So we now have yet another economic index to our the daily tidings of falling interest rates, stock-exchnge collapse, repossessions, foreclosures, bail-outs, job-losses, unemployment, etc. etc: falling prices, bargains for some but for the economists grim harbingers of deflation and the dreaded deflationary cycle.

A pound for Woolies. A penny for your thoughts? What price Conductive Education?

Notes

Sod's Law

The wonder of Woolies

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Mi come fi drink milk

Mi noh come fi count cow

I have just come across this telling Jamaican proverb: ‘I have come to drink milk, not to count the cows’.

Research and development, practice and theory, art and science in Conductive Education

Each component of each pair has its vital place, each has its particular value for particular people, for specific purposes, at certain times. Each is a legitimate position, each depends ultimately upon the other.

I was reminded about this yesterday when writing about Andras Peto’s not being an ‘academic’. There are other things to be done in this world, just as important – and, in their place and time, more so.

Training conductors

Here is one small manifestation of this. When we constructed the conductor-training course at the National Institute in Birmingham, back in 1996-7, the course was to be at Batchelor’s level, a BA degree course, validated as such by Wolverhampton University.

Right from the outset the small group of people involved in putting this together, Chas McGuiggan, Jayne Tichener, Mel Brown, Tünde Rózsahegyi and myself, took on the contradictory task of constructing the course on the over-riding principle that conductive practice would always take the leading role. This seemed to correspond both to the history of the system and to the future needs of those who would use the services of the graduates of our course. We think that we satisfactorily resolved the contradiction in that context. That’s one reason why the students have had to to work so hard.

Research and development

There is probably no universal priniple to be derived here, but in the putting-things-together stage of something in the human services like education, be this in the workaday preparation of professionals or, more fundamentlly, in the very origination of the system in which they will work, it seems likely that practice and art have to take the leading role over theory and science.

Perhaps in an ideal world the development process might be enhanced (faster, broader, more effective etc.) if research could be harnessed to help it along its way. I would have dearly loved to develop Conductive Education through the linked process of research and development (R&D). Indeed, at one point in the nineteen–nineties, Ronnie Nanton and I proposed a specific R&D package to the then trustees of the Foundation for Conductive Education. As often happens, however, the pressures of existing practice took precidence and the R&D programme had to go to the wall.

Times change. Maybe priorities will, and someone, somewhere will give this another try.

Parents, carers, adults, users

The most important people in Conductive Education are its users – not just on a priori and ethical grounds but because it is largely upon their needs, demands and hard work that Conductive Education has begun its international spread.

And as far as they are concerned, they are here ‘fi drink milk’.

Let us not forget that, and its implications for all the other actors in the drama of Conductive Education.

Monday, 17 November 2008

Conductive Education, who cares?

Carers might

I’ve just had an email from Emma McDowall, one of the original RACE stalwarts from. She now fights her fight through Carers UK and has sent me a report by Rob Kay on Carers UK’s recent AGM.

Here are some extracts.

Attendance is up ... a good crowd gradually fills the main auditorium. Very mixed and diverse - all ages and races shoulder to shoulder. There is lots of chatter as old friends and comrades greet each other….

Phil Hope, MP, and Minister for Carers in England makes a speech, pleasant, the usual kind of placatory comments. I've been here before, heard the same things so many times. Anyone remember Paul Boateng back in 1997, or was it 1998? These spending ministers have far less real power than people think, they come, they speak, they make no real promises because they have no new money, maybe a few hundred million here, a few there, all quickly lost forever in the morass of local and health authorities budgets. In a year or so off they go again: either up the greasy pole or down it, never to surface again. We'll still be caring in ten years time, still hearing the same speeches no doubt.

I sense a new mood on the floor - carers are angrier than ever I can remember, frustrated by the slow pace of change, still polite and good natured but there is a new edge. A whiff of revolution in the air..... and it's about individual stories, individual situations.... there is so much wrong with the system, whether its health care, social care, or just plain poverty, rising costs and miserable financial rewards.

…it is Jonathan Shaw, Junior Minister responsible for benefits, who takes his place. He has been in post just a few weeks since the reshuffle, giving him a good excuse to give a short speech (with at least one gaffe using the word "informal carers" ) then take questions. A forest of hands is raised, and what follows is not so much a question and answer session as an extraordinary outpouring of short personal statements. Some delivered with passion, some with tears, some with anger, all totally convincing and from the heart. There isn't any personal rudeness - just an extraordinary sincerity. I can see the Minister visibly reeling, almost unable to take it all in - he did well to stay standing…

"I will work with you" he declared… Well, I believe that he probably will - the expertise is clearly on the floor - not the platform. But whether he will still be around for long enough to really honour that pledge of partnership, and whether carers will ever get a fair deal for their labours, is in the lap of Gordon and the hands of the electorate.


Emma’s idea

What a vivid piece of writing. I feel almost that I was there. Emma, who was, writes to wonder whether Conductive Education might get further in the United Kingdom if it joined its interests with a vigorous, consumer-led and national lobbying group (like RACE was in the old days) and fought the common ‘enemy’ over common ground.

If that were to be such a strategy then there is still little or no mileage to be gained from collaboration on the cerebral palsy front, nor through the adult disability organisations. They already have agendas of their own (it was always thus) and are professionalised out of the hands of the consumers. I suspect that one might say the same for analogous bodies in many other countries where Conductive Education struggles for political support.

But the carers’ organisations? Most fighting consumers in Conductive Education are parents – and many of these will be carers for much of the rest of their lives. It is commensurate with stated concerns within Conductive Education that the process should be life-long and concerned with a far, far wider range of social and psychological issues than any medical condition that constituted the initial reason for families’ identifying common ground.

I could of course argue the other side of the case, advocating Conductive Education as a stand-alone cause. but I might have to concede that, early days excepted, twenty-odd years of this strategy in the United Kingdom have brought little to show for our pains. Maybe this might apply elsewhere too.

Well?

What do people think? What other strategic approaches are open to Conductive Education? Rely on conductors as a disciplined, fighting political force? Look for international collaboration with (equally impotant) CE bodies overseas? Alternative strategies gratefully received...

At least the carers sound like they have fun meetings.

Notes

Carers UK
http://www.carersuk.org/Home

Emma McDowell
avmcdowell@avmcdowell.freeserve.co.uk

Petőnap / Pető Day

This year: 21-22 November

Every year the Pető Institute in Budapest holds a Pető Day. This year's will take place on 21 and 22 of this month, under the patronage of Academician Dr József Hámori who will give the opening address ‘Pető’s living heritage’. The second day is for the Institute's First Students’ Conference.

The full ‘Invitation and Programme’ is published on http://www.peto.hu/ and a summary is given below. For the programme in full, follow the link that you will find there: Bövebben... Sorry, the Pető Institute is currently providing only limited documentation in other languages on its website (Sutton, 2008a). If you would like a translation, then please use http://www.forditas.hu/php (see also Sutton, 2008b).

If you read the recent posting on the Hungarian distinction between professors and college lecturers (Sutton, 2008c), then you will see it clearly in operation here. An ‘academician’ is something else, and altogether rather grand.

Hot tip for some innovative thinking in Conductive Education: Franz Schaffhauser’s psychotherapeutic background and the link in his presentation through Viktor Frankl and across to Carl Rogers (see Sutton, 2008d).


Pető Nap - Tudomány Ünnepe
Meghívó, Program

Pető élő öröksége

Dr. Hámori József akadémikus
védnökségével

2008. november 21-22.2007
1125 Budapest, Kútvölgyi út 6


Program

November 21.


0900 Köszöntők, megnyitók. Dr Hámori József akadémikus, Dr Schaffhauser Franz rektor

0930 A MPANNI támogatóinak köszöntése, dolgozói kitüntetések átadása

1000 21. századi „periszkóp” az agy működésének megismerésére: digitalis képi vizsgálatok. Dr.Dóczi Tamás professzor, Pécsi Orvostudományi Egyetem

1045 Kávészünet

1115 Emberképek nyomában: Pető, Rogers, Frankl. Dr. Schaffhauser Franz, főiskolai tanár, MPANNI

1200 Emlékezzünk Pető Andrásra! Beck Ferencné, főiskolai docens, MPANNI

1230 Ebédszünet

1330 Nemzetközi partnereink előadásai. UK, Ausztria, Németország, Németország, Svédország, USA

1450 Kávészünet

1510 9-10 éves mozgássérült gyermekek fogalmazási képességének fejlesztése. A formatervezés emberi minősége

1540 Vigil kómás betegek komplex terápiája Veresegyházán. Kapcsolat a társszakmákkal Szigetszentmiklóson. Az integráció és a konduktív szakszolgálat kapcsolata Győrben. Kondukció a fejlesztő iskolai oktatásban / Színjátszás Egerben.

1610 Kezesség tendenciáinak alakulása mozgássérült óvodások esetében a Pető Intézet óvoda tagozatán (4 éves vizsgálat eredményei). A konduktorképzés hatékonysága.

1640 Adaptív evezés

1700 A Konduktív Nevelési Rendszer Nemzetközi Pető András Társaságának bemutatkozó előadása

1730 A Tudományos Ülés Zárása


November 21.

Az I. Intézményi Tudományos Diákköri Konferencia programja
Fiatalok a tudomány kapujában

0900 A Konferencia ünnepélyes megnyitása. Dr. Schaffhauser Franz, rektor

0930 A MPANNI I. Intézményi Tudományos Diákköri Konferencia köszöntése. Dr. Szendrő Péter, az OTDT elnöke

0940 Az I. Intézményi Tudományos Diákköri Konferencia versenyzőinek köszöntése. Dr. Zsebe Andrea, az Intézményi TDT elnöke

1000 TDK pályamunkák bemutatása

1200 Ebédszünet, versenyeredmények összesítése

1300 Mérföldkövek a kutatói életpályán. Molnár Krisztina PhD

1330 Ünnepélyes eredményhirdetés. A díjakat átadja: Dr. Schaffhauser Franz rektor

1400 A Konferencia zárása. Dr. Zsebe Andrea, az Intézményi TDT
elnöke


References

Sutton, A. (2008a) Isten hozott / Welcome Back: Pető Institute opens a window, Conductive World, 14 February 2008
http://andrew-sutton.blogspot.com/2008/02/isten-hozott-welcome-back.html

Sutton, A. (2008b) Hungarian machine translation: vital communication aid freely available, Conductive World, Monday, 29 September 2008
http://andrew-sutton.blogspot.com/2008/09/hungarian-machine-translation.html

Sutton, A. (2008c) Dialogue with Judit – II. Was András Pető a professor? Conductive World, 16 November
http://andrew-sutton.blogspot.com/2008/11/dialogue-with-judit-ii.html

Sutton, A. (2008d) Stretching not shrinking: logotherapy offers useful distinction, Conductive World, 12 February
http://andrew-sutton.blogspot.com/2008/02/stretching-not-shrinking.html

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Dialogue with Judit – II

Was András Pető a professor?

Specific questions, specific answers

Four days ago, quite unrelated to the topic of the previous posting on Conductive World, I received the following email enquiry from Judit Szathmáry.

I had an interesting and compelling enquiry from László [Szögeczki], regarding the validity of using the professor title in front of Pető’s name. Do you know or have any document, which proves that Pető was given this title officially and if yes when?

In the book published in Budapest for the Pető centenary, in September 1994, under ‘In Memoriam Pető’, Mária Hári, the then director of the Pető Institute wrote:

‘All those who respected and knew Professor Pető will know that he unselfishly sacrificed his life for an ideal, that he rejected any rewards or personal praise demanding instead the development of the network.’ (page 32)

So it’s double wrong: titling him ‘professor’ and he would have rejected it anyway.

No apologies for the very long response to this. László and Judit have made explicit a small but important issue in the narrative and the image of Conductive Education. Perhaps what is written here, and any comments or corrections that others might like to add at the end if this article, will emerge in future Internet searches as a necessary corrective to one small part of the misinformation around Conductive Education.

The simple answer to the main question asked here: No, András Pető was not a professzor – and therefore it is wrong to refer to him as 'Pető Professzor' in Hungarian, and 'Professor Pető' in English and other languages.

As part of the permanent András Pető display, on the first floor of the Pető Institute in Budapest, there hangs a photocopy of the letter to Pető from the Ministry confirming his appointment as főiskolai tanár (‘college lecturer’) at the special education college. There is nothing to suggest that he was ever an egyetemi (university) lecturer. As you both know better than I, the distinction, between főiskola and egyetem is more jealousy guarded in Hungary than has come to be the case in the United Kingdom over recent years.

Why have people persisted in calling him this over the years? Laszlo and Judit, you both grew up and were educated in Hungary, including at the Pető Institute, and you have both known some of the chief protagonists in this tale. You tell me. I can but guess…

Sorry, I just do not know his own attitude if people referred to him as Professzor. I suspect, however, that such was his power over his acolytes that he could have stopped this instantly had he so wished. Incidentally, the title that he seemed to favour during his directorship of the State Institute was a Főorvos (the ‘Head Doctor’). (Possibly conversely, Mária Hári was universally known till her death as a Doktornő (the ‘Lady Doctor’ – die Frau Doktor), and still is by those who knew and loved her. I see in your first Comment to the previous posting on Conductive World that during your training:

We were constantly told ‘This is what Dr. Pető said… this is the way the Fõnök wanted things to be done and why…

Főnök means the 'the Boss'. I had not heard it used before in this context. Thank you, Judit. How general was this usage in referring to Pető when you trained, almost twenty years after he had died?

A way of speaking

Certainly, many people in Hungary still speak and write about ‘Pető Professzor’, without apparently thinking about what the term implies. This was the case in the past and it has persisted to the present day. Where do they imagine him to have held his chair? In what subject?

Others, who know something of András Pető and, just as important, the proud standards of Hungarian academe, are likely to shake their heads and smile wryly if asked the same question that you have asked me. I know, I’ve tried it – and so should you if you don’t believe me.

András Pető may have been many things but one that he certainly was not was an academic. I base this partly on what (admittedly little) I know of his written work. This was in no way akademische or tudományos. He was a ‘doctor’ but in the medical sense, a physician. I don’t know what this means in Hungary but in the United Kingdom this is an honorary title, not in itself indicating academic training. That is why ‘research doctors’ go on to take a PhD. András Pető had no such further training.

One may wish to argue this judgment (though I do suspect that there will emerge no evidence to do so). It is not, however, possible to set aside the formal fact that he did not hold a university post.

No university, no chair, no professzor.

Why?

With reference to the previous posting on Conductive World, people seem to like the phrase ‘Dr Pető’ said…’ This sounds so much more authoritative, ex cathedra, if it is stated as ‘Professor Pető said…’ That is of course unless the listener knows or even just suspects the truth – in which case any respect that the view reported might merit in its own right may be immediately discarded as just a con. This is reason enough, in a situation in which the reputation of Conductive Education remains so delicate, to avoid the phrase like the plague.

Probably the reason that people continue using the phrase at all is in most cases no more than habit. They have seen it written or heard it said so many times, from sources that they may regard rightly or wrongly as impeccable… and even when it is challenged they may have nowhere to turn in order to help form a more measured judgment (is that why you wrote to me...?)

This is just one more small illustration of the problems of having as yet no consolidated corpus of ‘literature’ in Conductive Education.

Still, ‘Professor’ he now is, in some at least of the popular imagining. The best way to deal with this is for sophisticated people in Conductive Education with the best future interests of the system at heart to discipline their own speech and eschew this expression entirely. Further, they should gently but firmly correct others when they hear or read it.

And don’t forget along the way that the Professor-title, once introduced, has tended to drift around in Conductive Education and get attached, equally unjustifiably, to the names of other figures in the field. These attributions should also be gently but firmly corrected. I tend to give the benefit of the doubt to how these might have come about, since after all personal experience puts me in the same category! Often when at meetings abroad I have been introduced as ‘Professor Sutton’, even though it has long been patently apparent that I would never make an academic and I have indeed never held a tenured university post. Why do people call me this? Maybe it’s just because I’m an old bloke with a white beard

So is Santa Claus.


Three footnotes

1. What is a ‘professor’ anyway?

‘Professor’ is a formal title awarded by a university to academics of high academic standing. That at least is its primary meaning in British English.

If only the wider situation could be answered so simply!

In Britain the title of professor has been stretched over the last few years (British universities dumbed down? Perish the thought!) while in the United States and certain other countries the title has been more widely bestowed for a long time and in many cases means no more that university or even just college lecturer.

In some European languages the meaning of the word also extends to mean no more that ‘schoolteacher’.

Be all that as it may, there is understanding that there is such a thing as a ‘full professor’, the title being awarded in recognition of a body of significant, published, scholarly work. Ludwig Wittgenstein’s achievement of being awarded a chair on the basis of a single book is very rare indeed and, whatever his practical achievements, András Pető produced no Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus.

Sorry to bring up these academic niceties but these are the rules of the world of academe and scholarship and they are very important indeed to those who play that game. András Pető, however, worked apart from this, in his ‘Institute’ (which was not an ‘institute’ at all in the usual English-language sense of the term but in his lifetime more of a children’s home cum rehabilitation facility, with no formal training function, and no research and publication). He was not part of the world or scholarship and academe. He did other things, in a different way, and these are what we value him for today.

I do not know the situation in other countries but, in the United Kingdom at least, if you award yourself the title Professor, you tend to be looked upon, well, quizzically… and if others then use the expression to refer to you they will do so ironically, perhaps placing it in inverted commas to emphasise what they think. Let’s avoid this for András Pető, shall we.

2. Gently but firmly

Suaviter in modo. Fortiter in re (Csendes, finom modszerrel, de leghatarozottabb lenyegre toressel). I could not resist this. András Pető wrote this (alledgedly): see the first of Judit Szatmáry’s Comments on the posting on Conductive World previous to this one.

3. And just to complicate things a little more…

There are two real Professor Petos in Britain today, both epidemiologists, the brothers Professor Julian Peto and Professor Sir Richard Peto.

No relations to our man. Peto is an English name. There’s even a Peto in Shakespeare.

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Dialogue with Judit – I.

The oral culture of ‘Petö said…’

This afternoon I was moved to respond to something in a recent posting on Judit Szathmári’s blog. When I came to post this, however, I found that Judit’s blog has no facility for Comments – or, if it does, then I couldn’t find it.

I did not wish simply to discard my response. What Judit had written raises an important point that merits further and wider consideration. I have therefore taken the liberty of publishing what I wrote here, and welcome any comments.

Dear Judit,

I was intrigued to read the following in your recent posting:

When Dr. Petö said bring order into disorder, learn and teach a better way of organisation, recognise and show each other the beauty of the world, believe and let everyone believe that they can and will learn, create an environment where everyone feels that they belong to and so on… He didn’t just mean have a well organised, clean and tidy environment, structured and inspiring programmes with high expectations, but he meant a lot, lot more…

It’s not specifically what he said that intrigues me, I have heard and read many similar messages over the years. What intrigues me is the question: ‘How do you actually know what he said?’

I have come across all sorts of people in CE who start what they are saying or writing with something like 'Dr. Petö said/believed ...' It can sound very authoritative (and doubtless it is sometimes mean to sound that way). My question has always been: 'How do you know that he said/believed that?' This of course relates not just to you and what you yourself wrote here but to all the other people who say/write such things.

Did you read it somewhere? I have to say that if you did it was probably not a direct quotation but somebody’s unreferenced report. Or are such sayings primarily oral tradition... representing a wider culture that concretises its unwritten principles, and perhaps aims for a certain legitimacy, from invoking the Word of Pető?

If that makes the people involved happy, and along the way helps convey some of the ‘poetic truth’ of that culture to the next generation of adherents, then so well and good.

But for many of us, especially those outside looking in, we have to distinguish a different kind of truth, an historical one, including what Peto might really have said (and what he meant by this), from what may be later perhaps hagiographic embellishment.

I know from conversation with you that you could probably could dig out old papers, lecture notes etc. and tell me lots of stories from learning situations that you met in your training, not least from Mária Hári, in which it was explained what Pető said and meant in given situations.

I suspect that, even so, in terms of the actual historical record we may not be able to get back beyond the oral tradition to which you are heir, via the anecdotes etc. of the generation who knew him personally, especially perhaps Mária Hári.

Oral tradition and the words of those who transmit it (and, we have to recognize, who also inevitably transmute it) are also facts in themselves. With respect to Conductive Education these are potentially very important, even essential facts in ‘knowing’ the essence of the Conductive Education of the recent past with a view of its effective transmission to future generations to adopt or adapt as they wish. Yet oral report alone is a notoriously fickle mechanism for passing on knowledge of even the most basic kind (did you ever play Chinese Whispers?).

The knowable substance of this oral tradition may indeed be as important to us today as the essentially unknowable actual words of Pető. Conductors of every generation, but perhaps most importantly of yours, owe it to the rest of us that you write down your oral tradition, the principles and the beliefs that you have carried with you throughout your professional lives, the ‘Dr Petö said…’ principles such as the one that you brought up here, and the ‘Dr Hári said…’ ones too.

There is no huge task required in this of any single person, it requires no more than individuals’ sharing snippets that they recall or have written down in lecture notes etc. That would be enough to begin a written codex

Is the cultural tradition within Conductive Education open, selfless and generous enough to do this?

In struggle,

Andrew.

I don’t hold out much hope for the culture’s displaying such enlightened self-interest… and, anyway, something like I have suggested above is hardly likely to take place without leadership of some sort. All the same, while hope for the salvation of Conductive Education continues – amazingly – to be invested in expensive and futile outcome research, here is a nice little anthropological investigation for someone to take up into the beliefs of the conductive tribe. This would not cost much and could prove very productive for coming generations.

And if not? A couple of days back I found myself writing about Mauritius, and Susie Mallett's Comment to that item has reminded me of something else Mauritian to consider when thinking about the need to exercise more enlightened self-interest, mentioned in my previous paragraph.

The dodo.

Reference

Szathmári, J. (2008) It’s good to come together… Sourcesense, 13 November
http://sourcesense.blogspot.com/2008/11/it-is-good-to-come-together-for-purpose.html

Thursday, 13 November 2008

A great place to work, especially in hard times

So why can’t they find a conductor?

It’s dark, it’s raining and it’s tea-time in England as I sit writing this item. In the background BBC Radio 4 news is droning away subliminally, mainly domestic news: shut-downs, job cuts, redundancies, closures, more rain forecast, gloom, gloom, gloom… Oh yes, and Germany has just admitted that it is in recession, and Japan’s next. Next year, it is projected, all the world’s major economies will be in recession. I think that I shall turn if off now, thanks.

Island in the sun

I had lunch today with Abbie Wolfe, conductor, who qualified at NICE this summer and has just come back to England for her summer holidays. She’s working in Mauritius, in the Southern Hemisphere, at the Ranger Foundation Trust’s still new centre there.

It does sound very pleasant. Never mind the climate, this is a new society, building up its human services from scratch. All a bit rough and ready perhaps but there is an established education service, free health entitlement and now the first stirrings of services for the disabled.

Virgin territory for Conductive Education and it sounds like she has a smashing job out there. She loves it. The centre is charitably maintained and moving towards official recognition as a school. That granted, a larger building will be prepared. She is the sole permanent conductor and, with non-conductor staff, she serves seven day children and three parent-and-child dyads. Children attend free of charge, already parents speak highly in the changes that they are experiencing, the President approves and as word spreads demand and numbers are sure to rise.

The centre has already advertised for a second conductor.

What is the real state of the world conductor market?

A week ago I published a rather glum item on the future of the conductor job market in the light of the economic crisis. Economic stress in Hungary, I argued, could unload an increased number of conductors on to the international market at a time when, around the world, charities, sponsors, public bodies and individual families alike are cutting and prioritising their budgets. The balance of supply and demand might tip, the conductive bubble burst and the cost (wages) of conductors fall consequentially.

Earlier this week I was in Hungary. Was it imagination, or was it the case that people I spoke to really are are preoccupied, distracted? And was it mere coincidence that the main preoccupation of the news media was the very public action of a far-right revanchist (and uniformed) political group, stirring up trouble internationally and driving ecomomics out of the headlines.

Meanwhile, the band plays on… Human services are not yet directly affected, so it’s all alright in Hungary then, isn’t it? Well, not quite: I heard of a large and already cash-strapped institution for 150 disabled adults that has just been told that its grant is being cut by twenty percent. What will happen to pensions and other social-welfare allowances has yet to be fought over...

The band is playing on in England too, and other countries where Conductive Education is expensively provided to meet elaborate national expectations and requirements. Yesterday I took a look at the CE Job Centre to see whether there is any hint of a down-turn of economic activity there.

No slackening of activity internationally apparent there and, on this index at least, the party looks far from over. Lots of advertisments, with more people looking for conductors than there are conductors advertising for jobs. Just perhaps the balance of economic forces behind the conductive bubble is such that the conductor job market will drift on through the world recession blissfully immune to the mayhem around it. Just perhaps…

No common pattern, and perhaps no commons sense

One thing, however, does seem certain that the very diverse world of Conductive Education will show no common, universal pattern in this respect. Some CE situations will unaccountably do well and others, equally unaccountably, will not. But what will be the cental tendency (that is what will happen to the market as a whole) and what will be the reasons that some places continue thrive while others go to the wall.

Abbie has a nice job in a safe and lovely island, no paradise but there are many, many places that are far less secure and lovely. Her job comes with a reasonable package. The Swiss charity, the Ranger Foundation Trust, that stands behind the centre in Mauritius advertised in September for the second conductor that it needs for its expanding service. Result: a couple of informal enquiries and no takers.

For years I have used the term ‘market’ to describe the trade in conductors’ service but, as often in Conductive Education, I really do wonder whether I am judging things too… well, too rationally. A ‘market’ implies conscious decisions on price and value, and an understanding of the realities of supply and demand. But who really knows what is going on, what are the motives and attitudes that drive the exchange of labour in this market. I certainly don’t.

Quite by coincidence, also yesterday, I go involved in a thread on the Conductive Community Forum, addressing the perennial question: 'What should a conductor earn?' This might peter out, as such things do, or it might go on to make the prices in the market place just a little more transparent. I had better stop here, as I already feel a gloomy premonition of what this could reveal...!

Meanwhile, away from al the gloom, if you’d like to know more about the vacancy in Mauritius, email Adel Sopronyi at mail@therangerfoundation.org or mail@secondstep.ch.

Notes and references

The Ranger Foundation Trust
http://www.therangerfoundation.org/

Presidential approval

Ranger Foundation Centre: September's job advert

Conductive Education Job Centre

Salaries for conductors. How much should a conductor earn?

How much should a conductor earn?

And what are reasonable terms and conditons?

On the Conductive Community Forum this morning I posted a reply to an enquiry of conductors’ salaries and on some aspects of their terms and conditions of service.

http://www.conductive-community.com/node/17

In doing so I drew the writer’s attention to an introductory article on employing conductors that I first wrote and published on the Internet getting on for some years ago now.

Since then times have changed, the world had moved on and I am very aware I that have long since relinquished involvement the practical world of job-creation. Is there not more recent information than this?

http://www.conductive-education.org.uk/2008/job%20list%20latest.htm

Recent developments in the European Union, for example, mean that conductors who also have a teaching qualification now have an automatic right to recognition as ‘a teacher’ in any member state (at least that is the general situation as I perceive it). How this will persist when conductors’ basic qualification becomes a BA, I do not know. Nor do I know the present specific double-taxation arrangements between countries (especially ones involving Hungary) but I do know that these do not permit employees to avoid tax at both ends of the arrangement!

Formal permissions to work in another country (work permits, green cards, visas etc) remain probably unchanged, despite regulatios on non-working stays easing up slightly in some places (such as the new three-months visa-free arrangement for Hungarians to visit the United States, that comes into force this coming Monday).

http://andrew-sutton.blogspot.com/2008/10/united-states-visa-changes-for-visiting.html

Employers (and conductors) must understand that this does not grant permission to work.

Does no one offer information?

What I could not do was to respond by directing the enquiry to some comprehensive and reliable account of the present conductor job market, both at its most general in with respect to very specific matters such as possible pay scales.

I do know from personal contacts that some conductors still earn over-the top salaries on the international market, with all sorts of extras. Conversely, in parts of Europe some employers still regard 24 Euros/hour (with no perks, benefits or other incentives) as a reasonable wage for a highly skilled, emotionally charged and physically demanding professional service carrying enormous human responsibility for human welfare.

The question is too important to be left to hearsay and pletyka. Do none of the various organisations in the sector direct resources to providing up-to-date advice on such a matter of the common good?

If not, are individuals able/willing to help, either here, through the Comments facility at the foot of this item, or through the Forum on which today’s specific question was raised?

Knowing the 'sensitivity' of questions around salaries and the experience (on both sides) of conductor-employer relations, I would point out that both comments on Conductive World and the postings on Conductive Community Forum can be made anonymously, using a pseudonym.

Unite

You have nothing to lose
You have a world to gain

There have been many forces driving the internationalization of Conductive Education – within which the politicisation of parents coalescing around their common local cause, has been both a vital product and a motor.

Yesterday’s posting on James Forliti’s blog from British Columbia says it all.

Still here...

Our last blast of CE ended mid-August, and everything seems to have gone so quiet. Being a parent of a kid with CP kind of automatically shuts the whole world out anyway, but I'm holding out for bigger things to happen. Just want to say thanks to Lori-ann, Darcy, Deb, Nicole, and Roxy for reminding me that it's still worth pursuing. We're arranging a small "demo" of CE for a local school board. Even more importantly, there is a small group of parents who are standing up for CE, and they're not ashamed to say it!

I realize now more than ever, that none of us set out to be political; but the situation calls for it. When the professionals never ask about what this CE thing is, and years go by, and you're still wondering who is going to see what you're seeing for your child. Well, I guess we just gotta take it to them, in every sense of the phrase. It's time to set up a BC Conductive Education Association, or the art will never take root here. Parents have to coalesce, just a few to start.

I can't do this any longer on my own.


Forliti, J. (2008) Still here… Conductive Education on Canada’s West Coast, 12 November 2008
http://zsippzsupp.blogspot.com/2008/11/still-here.html