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.

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