Monday, 12 January 2009

Small is beautiful

It may even be viable

Do you remember Schumacher's ‘Small is beautiful’? That was over thirty-five years ago now but his analysis of the fundamental unsustainability of the world economic orders seems suddenly very pertinent. Perhaps those now seeking a sustainable Conductive Education might find a useful model here.

(I personally favour a more radical model : ‘free’. More of that perhaps at some future time.)

Petit est beau

In the meantime, here’s a small-scale CE program, established formally only at the start of last year but moving forwards, recession or not. Twice last year last year Conductive World reported that the tiny association A Petits Pas in the small town of Pouilly-sur-Loire in deepest France was looking to recruit its first full-time conductor. It did sound rather idyllic.

Today I received through the email Lettre d’Info no 4 from Mélanie Jeannot of A Petits Pas.

From a standing start, A Petits Pas organised fifteen weeks of EC (that's CE in French) over 2008. Sixteen children came to meet a conductor and make acquaintance with the method. They came from all over France, and one from Brussels too, eight participating in sessions. Now the planned big step is being achieved:

En 2009, avec l'arrivée de Judit, conductrice (qui parle français !) à temps plein dans ses murs, EHM espère pérenniser son action et voir augmenter le nombre d'enfants participant aux sessions. Judit s'installe à Pouilly avec Peter son mari et leurs 2 filles. Le planning 2009 a déjà été envoyé aux parents et le groupe est complet jusqu'20 Mars et déjà 2 semaines en Avril. Deux places sont occupées à temps plein par Alice et Nicolas et 2 autres places sont destinées aux enfants venus de loin qui s'inscrivent à l'avance et à la semaine selon la disponibilité de leurs parents.

Now the association is looking for a volunteer (more if possible) to deal with communication and they also propose a salaried assistant’s post. The association always looks for accommodation, at the lowest possible price, preferably free, for families who stay in Pouilly (usually a mother + child) to take part in sessions. A variety of small-scale community fundraising events is in train, again volunteers are required.

Notes and references

Schumacher, E. F. (1999) Small is beautiful: economics as if people mattered: 25 years later...with commentaries. Hartley & Marks

Sutton, A. (2008) Another small step forward in France, Conductive World, 18 October

Sutton, A (2008) French movement gathers pace: parallels with Anglophonie, Conductive World, 6 April

Machine translation facilities are available at the foot of this page


  1. Congratulations to A Petit Pas for getting something off the ground. Small acorns, big oak trees and all that. One especially pleased to see progress in France.

    Schumacher I always enjoyed too. Especially the sub-title " .... as if people mattered". I think it's the 'as if' that does it for me.

    A model though? Is A Petit Pas doing anything different from countless other such initiatives over the years? I'd be glad to learn more if it is.

    There is a big question:

    Is CE only ever to be an alternative to State provision for those who manage to fund it - a bit like Montessori and Steiner and the host of alternative schools and colleges? Or is CE truly a breakthrough in the education of children with cerebral palsy and should therefore be not only available within the State provision but should actually be the standard State provision?

    The case for CE that needs to be made will be very different depending on the answer.

  2. Like you I came from what I suppose can be characterised as liberal-welfarist tradition, with the implicit assumption that I expected CE to be provided by the (non-centralised, non-micromanaging state). Had it arrived ten years previously then we might just have got way with this.

    Hungarian conductors came out of a rather different statist tradition but brought with the them expectation of a state service, in that respect anyway the conductors were largely working in the mind-set of the non-conductors (I don’t know what expectations the younger ones have in this respect).

    I think that everyone can see that CE has not made it as a state-funded service (at least in the developed economies), that progress towards this aim has already totally stalled, and that the current economic unpleasantness finally closed s the door of that phase.

    For the longer-tern future I have no idea of what out developed societys will chose to fund or hat their priorities will be (and I’m not talking particularly here about CE). The process had already started well before the credit crunch. Do you remember all the things that were take-it-for-granted free in the British education systems?

    Yes, the French exercise does look like the sort of stage in the development of many Anglo-Saxon services, nd my earlier posting relating to Poilly and mentioned in the references above drew that explicit parallel. But the world has changed since then. I don’t know about what the people in Pouilly thing of the long term future of their service but I think that I myself have thoroughly shed one idea that you state very well in your comment: ‘Small acorns, big oak trees and all that’.

    Maybe we should be thinking of miniaturisation, banzai even, certainly for the survival period and just possibly in an unknown future as a major part in how this approach is developed and provided in what we used to call the ‘rich countries’, if only to ensure that practical demonstration of this breakthrough survives as a viable option for the rational and humane society that w all hope will emerge from the present shambles.

  3. Oh dear, I too have fallen victim to the Blogger Comments reply system! The previous comment was not written by the feared 'Anonymous' but by

    Yours truely

    Andrew Sutton