Friday, 27 February 2009

NOT NICE NEWS

Problems in Birmingham have international impact

Two weeks ago a brief news item in a local paper (Dayani, 2008) revealed that the Foundation for Conductive Education, based in Birmingham, England, is experiencing financial difficulties. That was on Friday 13th. Unlucky for some. On Wednesday 25th, just two days ago now, further bad news followed. As part of a range of cost-cutting measures, the post of Librarian at the National Library of Conductive Education is to be made redundant.

There is as yet no news on how this Library is to continue to function. In very quick time, however, the world of Conductive Education is beginning to wake up to the fact that, without a Librarian, it might not be able to.

Gill Maguire

Without the Librarian…

Conductive Education is a small world and people know each other, as people. And if anyone has had personal contact with individuals around the world struggling to make sense of what is represented by the words Conductive Education, that person is has been Gill.

She is not the only one in CE who ‘knows everybody’ but, more rarely, she has probably never ruffled anyone's feathers. Of course she has disappointed people, probably by now in their thousands, by having again and again to point out firmly and clearly that the sort of answers that they are seeking just do not exist. She has gathered and guarded not simply a sum of knowledge but, a fairly rare attribute in Conductive Education, she has been sharp to indicate its limits…

Oh dear, despite my careful use of the perfect tense, this is beginning to sound like an obituary. It is not.

The National Library of Conductive Education

The Library was created in 1981, out of the collection of materials on Conductive Education that I had been accumulating for some ten years and was by then totally out of control. Gill came in to help, initially as a volunteer, to catalogue and process these materials, and soon became a salaried employee of the Foundation for Conductive Education. Despite the Foundation’s perennial inability to pay the rate for the job or direct sufficient funds to equip the Library as i should have been, she stayed (this verb I can properlwrite in the aorist!). She took up the task of extending and formalising access to the communicable knowledge base of Conductive Education, she simulated (nagged!) others to create new knowledge, and she took up her own publishing too. Although she hated the term, she was actively concerned in knowledge-management, this on a sector-defining scale.


Not every librarian would have been willing or able to do this, but many could. In recent years Gill has been increasingly concerned with the issue of succession and what would happen when her own turn would come to go on the shelf. She was determined that a new librarian taking over would from herself should inherit a going concern and could concentrate on acquiring the requisite subject knowledge.

The National Library developed into the technical library of choice for the whole Conductive Education world. All libraries complain about under-use but all technical fields have libraries, integral to their very being. Used or not, technical fields have to have such a facility without which their very status as a technical fields is called to question. Lack of funds over the years have limited what the National Library might have done in terms of getting out to users (and potential users) by way of super-duper, Gee-Whizz new informatic technologies, but the repository of knowledge has been accumulating, in umpteen different media and through umpty different languages (sorry, I can’t quantify these figures more specifically, as to do so I would have to check with the Librarian).

The Age of Transparency

So there are two issues here: the fate of Gill the person, and the question of a library suddenly cut off from life with no apparent succession in the offing. Both have been brought together rather publicly in Conductive Education’s first international public expression of common concern in the new Age of the Internet, an Internet petition.

This issue is still only a couple of days old. Once upon a time this would have taken ages to ‘leak out’ and probably most people would have heard about it, if at all, only when it was just history (usually in Conductive Education, undocumented and inaccessible history at that!). The humiliating public debacle over the dismissal of Ildikó Kozma as Director of the International Pető Institute, and the appointment of her successor, comprised a transitional phenomenon. Yes, it 'got on the Internet', but only through the online editions of newspapers plus three timorous little websites. Yes, all this was publicly accessible, but only if you knew to look, and only if you could read Hungarian.

Blogged

Now, in Conductive Education, as everywhere else, in politics and in commerce, in the military and in every corner of civil life, there is the blogosphere (and, still waiting in the wings as yet for CE to join it, social networking). The CE blogosphere is as yet small beans, but in a small word small beans stretch a long way.

In a couple of days, therefore, discussion threads have already begun on two CE blogs. Since this afternoon a posting on Gill‘s own blog (Maguire, 2008) may occasion a third. This item on Conductive World, may open a fourth. A fifth and a sixth have kicked off as I have been writing this item. A provocative aside on another might start a seventh. Emails are whizzing back and forth, airing people’s anger and sorrow, their own analyses and their calls for action (there are already two suggestions for public petitions).

We live in interesting times: nothing can happen in yesterday’s ways, even the redundancy of a librarian in a small, specialist collection somewhere in Middle England. This is all uncharted territory in the little world of Conductive Education, but cutbacks and Internet access will presumably mean that such situations are common in every sector.

All this in a couple of days. No time yet for contrary positions, though surely there is a case to be stated there too. There’s place enough:

Don’t just read the postings, follow on through the Comments and pitch in to have your own say.

If Gill were still in post, doubtless she would already be busy cataloguing these, documenting the international development of Conductive Education for posterity.

A personal effect already…

Already today I have spotted an important document new paper on the Internet, in Portuguese, that I would have wanted to discuss with Gill. I have also had to disappoint someone preparing a conference presentation, because it would be hard for me to find in the Library what he needs to inform his presentation (this would have taken Gill about three minutes and she might also have been able personally to connect the enquirer to the author).

I laboriously give references for almost everything that I write. If I do not, then serious people (‘scholars’) cannot check what I say and, never mind that, go search for their own sources. When I came into CE in the early eighties the field was crippled (sorry if the word offends) by its total lack of scholarship. I’m no scholar myself but I pragmatically recognised the limits that this deficiency imposed and would continue to impose upon the development of CE and its acceptability. Initiating the Library, with the explicit and unattainable goal of assembling ‘everything there is on CE, of any kind, in any language, published or unpublished', was one line that I considered an essential step in solving this problem,

If something has come out of l‘affaire Maguire over this last couple of days, it is that I am not alone in understanding the fundamental nature of this problem. Unfortunately, this also comes with contradictory demonstration that ‘not a lot of people know that‘.

References

Dayani, A. (2008) Charity for disabled in cash plea as it faces cutting services, Birmingham Post, 13 February
http://www.birminghampost.co.uk/news/local-news/charity-disabled-cash-plea-faces-3950348

Maguire, G. (2008) Now is the time to say goodbye to an era, Conductive Education Library, 27 February
http://ce-library.blogspot.com/2009/02/now-is-time-to-say-goodbye-to-era.html

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Searching for Conductive Education in the UK

Comprehensive listing is a start

This listing has been prepared following my brief contribution to Sky News' Online Replay Chate this lunchtime (see Sutton, 2008). It provides the name, location, email address and URL of all centres, services and consultancies that I currently know of in the United Kingdom where there are conductors working.

A few of these have a national or regional remit, some serve just their locality, and in some instances the conductors serve only those already enrolled at a given establishment (this is especially true of the schools included here). For specific details on this and other questions you will have to enquire personally, by way of the email addresses and the websites listed below.

Sources

In preparing this I have relied heavily upon a list provided for another project by Gill Maguire, who had taken up the task of monitoring the spread of CE from me some ten years or more ago. These data have been supplemented from another listing (adults only) that I worked on with her for publication on her blog about a week or so ago. (Maguire, 2008).

Since then I have dug out one more, still in the process of being put together.

Correcting this list

Such a list is never final. I am emailing a link to this posting to every place listed below, with an invitation to correct its own entry. It is people’s own interests to do thius as such lists get copied uncritically and reproduced undated on all sorts of websites, not just in the UK.

Other than asking people to correct their own entry I can only ask anyone who spots an error, knows of somewhere closing or moving, or knows of something new starting up, to get in touch so that I can amend the list. I have no facilities to offer any further service.

Future listings on Conductive World

I shall leave this list here on Conductive World for a while and then transfer it to Google Knol,
where the same plea for corrections, new information etc will continue to apply.

There are some listings for other countries up in Cyberspace. I cannot vouch for how up to date or accurate they are but I shall start a new listings section in the DIRECTORY in the left-hand toolbar of Conductive World, and include such lists as I come across them.

Better of course would be for people to send me the URLs for such listings… we live in hope!

Criteria

Please note that Gill has continued the criteria for admission to this list that I first established in the mid -nineties and then transferred on line on the old Conductive Education Website:

Included in this register are all the organisations in the United Kingdom known to be employing conductors.

The term ‘conductors’ covers a variety of trainings and professional orientations, and is also used here to include conductor-teachers and teacher-conductors.

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!

One thing has changed in the last few years is that conductors are not just ‘employed‘. Some of the services listed below are the personal initiatives of conductors themselves.

Individual conductors

Another is that there is now a population of conductors living in this UK without any institutional affiliation. They may be working privately with individual families or in some other arrangement, or perhaps they are temporarily out of the field. There is no way at the moment of contacting members of this diverse population. This seems largely a phenomenon of London and the Home Counties, but conductors do turn up in the most surprising places!

If you do want a conductor ‘of your own’. the only way to achieve this, other than through a grapevine if you could find one, has been the CE Job Centre. This seems temporarily in abeyance but watch out to see whether it comes back to life:


A vital distinction

Just because you find a conductor does not mean that you have found ‘Conductive Education’, as many conductors will be the first to assure you. You may still wish, however, to sample taste of conductive pedagogy or inject a little conductive upbringing into family life.

The following list may at least help you find a conductor with whom to discuss this further, and lead you on to your first step along the conductive path.

WHERE CONDUCTORS WORK IN THE UK

ACE Project at Great Barr Primary School, Great Barr, Birmingham
wendy@conductive-education.org.uk
http://www.leadingaspectaward.org.uk/casestudy/Great+Barr+Primary+School,+Birmingham/662

Bear Necessities, Bingham, Nottinghamshire,
tracielinehan@hotmail.com
[No website]

Blackfriars School, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire.
clilley@blackfriars.staffs.sch.uk
http://www.sln.org.uk/blackfriars

Buddy Bear School, Dungannon, Co. Tyrone
brendan.mcconville@gmail.com
http://www.buddybeartrust.com/

Conductive Education Support Services, Brockenhurst, Hampshire
info@conductive-educationsupport.com
http://www.conductive-educationsupport.com/

Dave Vera Lynn Centre, Billinghurst, West Sussex, West Sussex
trustoffice@dvltrust.org.uk
http://www.dvltrust.org.uk/school-for-parents.html

Greenhall Stafford, Staffordshire
headteacher@greenhall.staffs.sch.uk
[No website]

Hereward College, Tile Hill,, Coventry
enquiries@hereward.ac.uk
http://www.hereward.ac.uk/

Independent Conductive Education Centre, Wirrall, Cheshire
ices@fsmail.net
http://www.i-ce-s.com/

International Therapeutic Initiative, Haddenham, Buckinghamshire
info@iti-uk.org
http://www.i-ce-s.com/

Lighthouse Trust Summer School, Donaghadee, Co. Down

London CE Centre, Muswell Hill, London,
info@hornseytrust.org.uk
http://www.hornseytrust.org.uk/

Megan Baker House Leominster, Herefordshire
jo@meganbakerhouse.org.uk
http://www.meganbakerhouse.org.uk/

Milestone School, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire
admin@milestone.gloucs.sch.uk
http://www.themilestoneschool.ik.org/

Multiple Sclerosis Society, Wessex and West Branch, Cheltenham, Gloucester
[No email: call 01452 862 822]
http://www.mssociety.org.uk/regions/wessex_and_west/branches/cheltenham.html

National Institute of Conductive Education, Moseley, Birmingham, foundation@conductive-education.org.uk
http://www.nice.ac.uk/

PACE Centre, Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire
info@thepacecentre.org
http://www.thepacecentre.org/

PACES School, High Green, Sheffield
paces_school@mac.com
http://www.paces-school.org.uk/

Percy Hedley School, Forest Hall, Newcastle-upon-Tyne
foundation@percyhedley.org.uk
http://www.percyhedley.org.uk/

Rutland House School, Elm Bank, Nottingham
rutland.house@scope.org
http://scope.org.uk/education/schools/rutland/index.shtml

Scottish Centre for Motor Disorders, Cumbernauld
sccmi@craighalbert.org.uk
http://www.craighalbert.org.uk/

STEPS, Shepshed, Leicestershire
heacra@care4free.net
http://www.stepscentre.org/

Stick 'n' Step, Wirral, Cheshire
admin@sticknstep.org
http://www.sticknstep.org/

Villa Real School, Consett,
Co. Durham
villareal@durhamlea.org.uk
http://www.villareal.durham.sch.uk/index.htm

A benchmark

There are 39 centres, schools, consultancies, establishments of all sorts listed here, They are vastly different one from the other, in size, activities, funding, indeed in every respect other than there are conductors working there.

At the end of February 2008 the figure 39 offers a crude but convenient quantification, a benchmark, just one, against which future trends might be monitored

References

Maguire, G. (2008) Internet, adults and Conductive Education, Conductive Education Library, 12 February
http://ce-library.blogspot.com/2009/02/internet-adults-and-conductive.html

Sutton, A. (2008) Ivan Cameron: a short life with a big heritage? Conductive World, 25 February
http://www.conductive-world.info/2009/02/access-to-conductive-education-in-uk.html

Ivan Cameron

A short life with a big heritage?

This has been a very busy week or so for me many things being pushed aside to await the attention that they need. Apologies therefore to those who have been waiting . It’s a busy life, being retired. So busy, in fact, that I altogether missed this morning’s news that Ivan Cameron has died at the age of six.

Ivan was the son of David Cameron, Leader of the British Conservative party, and his wife Samantha. Ivan was born with Ohtahara syndrome.

The Great British Media are having their wonted feeding frenzy. It does no harm to mention a couple of things in a more measured way.

Ohtahara syndrome, not cerebral palsy, not CE either

Ohtahara syndrome is a metabolic disorder, manifesting in very severe, very frequent epileptic fits, accompanied by very severe mental retardation and by motor-disorder. See for example:

http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/ohtahara/ohtahara.htm

The condition is very rare. I have never met a child with Ohtahara, nor ever had the need to read about it, but I see no reason to expect other than it must have the most serious systemic effects upon all aspects of a child’s development and upon family life.

Children with this syndrome do not ‘have cerebral palsy’, though from the media coverage, you might be forgiven for thinking that Ivan Cameron’s primary developmental disorder was in control of movement and posture.

One cannot blame the hacks for this (though some medical correspondents really ought to be able to find better advice): there are plenty of vested interests using the opportunity to advance their profile and agenda. And just perhaps some cooler, more informed public discussion will emerge before the story is dropped… we shall see.

This morning I was called up by a couple of broadcasting stations (apparently because I ‘deal with cerebral palsy' – another area of misunderstanding, this time about Conductive Education) that refuses to do away). They both asked to contribute to on-air discussions. I managed to field one call, explaining that this was an epilepsy issue, not on of cerebral palsy, and the researcher went off happily to find somebody to talk on epilepsy. It was too late to divert the other one, Sky News, since an on-line discussion board has already been set up and announced. Sky already had an epilepsy charity and another with cerebral palsy fixed up and, making my position clear, I agreed to speak up for Conductive Education.

It would after all be nice to be putting the word about again for CE, after a several years’ gap. I am not sure how much it is possible to say anything terribly coherent in such a situation but it at least gets the cause a little exposure, and you never know! Judge for yourself at:

http://news.sky.com/skynews/Home/UK-News/Cerebral-Palsy-After-Death-Of-David-Camerons-Son-Ivan-Find-Out-More-About-Illness-In-Web-Chat/Article/200902415229485?lid=ARTICLE_15229485_CerebralPalsy:AfterDeathOfDavidCameronsSonIvanFindOutMoreAboutIllnessInWebChat&lpos=searchresults

And I promised to post a list of places where conductors work in the United Kingdom, here on Conductive World. I shall do it this evening.

Politics, philosophy and economics

David Cameron may well be the next Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. He and Samantha have faced the problems known around the world to the readers of Conductive World, writ all the larger perhaps because of the particularly devastating effects of Ohtahara syndrome. They even had, when he was still a back-bench Member of Parliament, their rite de passage brush with the local education authority and with an educational psychologist who felt that Ivan should be included. Ivan was six years old when he died, long enough for the Camerons to have become members, and this usually means life members, of a great invisible club.

It is being said that the experience of bringing up Ivan has done much to create David Cameron's liberal ideas on welfare reform. When he was elected Leader of the Conservatives his first act was to create a Commission to enquire into ‘special educational needs’ That this laboured mightily and produced but a mouse was not David Cameron’s fault but that of a committee that took evidence presented almost wholly within existing paradigms, shrouded in a smokescreen of vigorously advocated special interests, without itself having the tools or framework to cut through the smoke and identify fundamental issues.

We should not blame his committee for this. Mary Warnock, a professor of philosophy at Oxford, was similarly blinded by the smoke when she chaired her committee all those years ago and failed to see the underpinning philosophical problems. And the Government has had two committees report with a third on its way (I have to admit to losing count: they all chew over the same tired old gristle and come up with nothing new).

A Royal Commission on the state of services for children and adults with disabilities, their families/carers, now that might offer the structure and the tools to do the job.

Just remember, whatever happens, there is a cost. The human one will fill the British media for a few days, after which it will be the economic one that again becomes decisive.

There are so many competing and legitimate claims. One can but hope that Ivan’s life will remain with with David Cameron the man, when David Cameron the politician has to take the lead on the priority that society might grant to bringing up its disabled citizens and their lives as adults. Ivan's life has run its course. David Cameron will 'understand', and may one day be in a position to do something for all those families whose children live on.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

New business models

Part I of an essay

Over the last few months the topic of new business models has appeared with increasing frequency in Conductive World, gaining significance as the world of Conductive Education begins to move towards a new stage in its development and spurred on by the extraordinary scale and pace of economic crisis.

A quick historical analysis

It has been long clear that models of practice and organisation introduced by András Pető in Budapest from the late forties, and developed and elaborated by Mária Hári and her colleagues in the seventies and the eighties, cannot be transposed to new social contexts without considerable adaptation.

This had been obvious right from the beginning of Conductive Education’s internationalisation (Cottam and Sutton, 1986). Many of those involved, however, individuals and organisations, have either been loath to grasp the nettle of radical reappraisal, seeking instead to retain as much of the original structure as possible while making only such minimal changes absolutely essential to establishing footholds in new countries. In parallel, others have tried to implement simulacra, based upon superficial grasp of the conductive system (particularly through the so-called ‘principles’).

By the end of the twentieth century a ‘historical crisis’ was emerging, with contradictions in the internationalisation of Conductive Education became ever more glaring, particularly as attempts to implement this system extended into countries socially, economically and culturally ever more distant from the society within which Pető and Hári had first manifest this approach. On the positive side, it seemed likely that new ways of working already emerging, with others to follow, would result in developments in understanding and practice out of which Conductive Education’s international phase would be slowly superseded by a new, ‘globalised’ one (Sutton, 2008a).

The inertia of all institutional and profession practices also applies of course to international Conductive Education, already long enough established by now to have its own, out-of-Hungary histories. It was hardly anticipated that change would be anything but slow and patchy.

Why a ‘business’ model?

The term ‘business model’ has been used here in part because this isincreasingly bandied about in relation to all sorts of proposed organisational structures for establishing economic development once the world emerges from its immediate problems. Indeed new business models might be an important factor in emerging at all!

And anyway, no other term has seemed to cover the very diverse straws, new ways of going about things, that have been caught blowing in the wind of change, reported in Conductive World. Maybe you can think of a better term. If so, do please suggest it.

But, a business model? Surely this is hardly the way of conceiving of Conductive Education? Here surely the discourse should be all about conductive practice and theory, in effect the ‘work of conductors’, which for the most part refers to their pedagogy.

On the contrary, it is proposed here that this view is hopelessly reductionist. There has to be some sort of organisation, even for just a one-man band, to ensure that the benefits of Conductive Education are reliably delivered. This will inevitably involve consideration of how this work is to be funded, and its wider oganisational activities and concerns. This even applies if the service in question is to be delivered ‘free’ (of which more at a later date).

Construing Conductive Educaion as more than just a practice practice, but part of a total delivery-system, demonstrates something else. The term ‘Conductive Education’ emerged out of mistranslation of two Hungarian terms into English, which lost and confounded important distinctions in the original language and the understandings ogf those who spoke it. All the same, the new English term attracted a third, rather wider meaning, representing the whole range of activities clustered around implementation of this approach, in different ways in different places:

The English term ‘Conductive Education’ is therefore often used in a blurred generic sense, incorporating aspects of both conductive pedagogy and conductive upbringing. Moreover, in the contemporary international spread of the system to new social contexts, the English term ‘Conductive Education’ has suffered further meaning creep, to cover not only pedagogy and upbringing but also issues relating to the implementation of the conductive system as a whole (administrative, organisational, regulatory, financial, ethical etc). (Sutton, 2008b).

Reductionism and holism

Practice and theory are always wedded to the structure that support them, one level helps shape the other, and this has always been so in Conductive Education as in anything else. A quaint teleological view is widely expressed in Conductive Education, that in some Hungarian Eden before the Fall, that there was a ‘pure’ way of doing things. In that state of bliss (never properly described) certain things were done with children and adults (and, honoured largely in the breech, with their parents/carers) supposedly because this was how the system’s unarticulated philosophy demanded. The same went for organisation, training, management and funding. After the Fall, things were no longer ‘pure’.

This view is of course total nonsense. Pető, Hári and their colleagues did what they were able to, and had to do, in the circumstances of their time, a time altogether unimaginable to most people today. They did as everyone else has had to, they adapted to their circumstances and out of this a ‘classic’ form of Conductive Education emerged, 'classic', architypal – and historical.

Seeking to understand Conductive Education solely in terms of its practice (that has largely been through the pedagogic practice of conductors), is not simply reductionist but offends a principle avowedly central to the whole conductive endeavour, the principle of ‘holism’.

On the contrary, theory/practice, organisation, training, management and funding, and wider matters like the ethics and philosophy, the social purpose of those involved, political and cultural imperatives (etc., etc), are inextricably linked together wherever people try to implement what they consider to be Conductive Education. Try and manipulate or even understand one element without relation to the rest of the whole is reductionist, perhaps even anti-conductive. Either way, reductionist analysis and action are rarely good basis for successful initiation of change.

The ‘classic’ totality that was elaborated and institutionalised in Hungary under Socialism saw conductive practice/theory embedded within a systemic whole that included the following:
  • low-wage, low-cost economy
  • official funding for a state institution
  • strong social discipline
  • a state policy of over-employment
  • jobs for life
  • a high level of (apparent) personal conformity
  • hierarchical/authoritarian management structures
  • slow professional preferment, awaiting Buggins’s turn
  • unquestioned official financial support for a state institution
  • exclusion of parents from the process at either micro- or macro-level
  • unquestioned residential schooling as the provision of choice for disabled children
  • officially sanctioned collectivist pedagogy
  • unanalytic craft-style training for the workers within the system
  • apparent acceptance of lack of open articulation or debate around the system
  • etc., etc.

To state such background factors in the functioning of the institute that once almost alone nurtured Conductive Education, before its internationalisation, is not to assert that such factors and the practices that emerged from them within this nexus were in themselves either good or bad. Nor are they news. Nor indeed is the fact that the contexts in which Conductive Education is practised in most places outside Hungary manifest diametrically opposite chracteristics in almost every respect, however much some who work in them might try to have it otherwise.

Not surprising then that world-view and expectations of many practising Conductive Education nay at times have been out of joint with the institutions that provide for that practice. In that it remains even in 2009 possible to think of staff in some places as ‘non-conductors’ and ‘non-conductors’ s testifies to something. There is no need to allot responsibility to either ‘side’ of the relationship, what matters here is that such organisations are hardly ‘holistic’.

A change in paradigm

BANG! Last year the world economic order began to fall in, the process gathering speed at extraordinary pace. Conductive Education faces the need to eliminate its every weakness and vulnerability, summon its every resource – and change, adapt, develop, – if it is to survive into the as yet unknowable future.

It is proposed here that one way to achieve this, maybe the essential way to go about it, is to raise the focus from the simple (and often unanswerable) question of ‘How can we keep doing some resemblance of this or that practice inherited from some unknown past?’ Instead, one should construe the practice, how this is organised and paid for, its relationship to its ‘outside’ worlds, a priori as but one part of a total bundle, a weapons system, a non-reducible whole.

As Mária Hári was fond of saying about the work of her Institute: ‘It is a system: it is very complex’. Thinking about Conductive Education, in the English sense of the term proposed above, its continuing development around the world has to be understood and developed systemically.

What to call such a paradigm? Urie Bronfenbrenner might have called it an ecological approach to the creation and maintenance of conductive practice as an organic component of conductive services or programs. Maybe therefore ‘organic’. Or perhaps ‘organismic’ (to suggest an interconnected living whole) might better fit the bill. Again, do you have any suggestions?

Are there any guidelines?

No. But there are possible precedents emerging from within Conductive Education, new ways to answer some of the problems that have to be accommodated to in the modern world, ranging from inclusion to fundraising. These have arisen spontaneously to square local circles. Such innovation has probably been happening since CE first broke free from the narrow ambit of the Pető Institute (one thinks immediately of the non-institutional Conductive Education advocated, and on a small scale practised, by Károly and Magda Ákos some twenty-odd years ago). Apart from the work of the Ákoses these initiatives have in common that they have not been described. The difference now is that some at least of them now emerge blinking into public scrutiny.

Perhaps no institution can yet claim to have come up with a total new-paradigm package to embrace every aspect of its work, though Tsad Kadima in Israel might be justified in claining to be well on the way towrds achieving this. Maybe the work of Tsad Kadima and some smaller, unsung organisations might bear description and analysis along these lines of a total ‘business model’ rather than in the familiar tired terms usually used in Conductive Education.

And certainly a paradigm shift in thinking to such an organismic analysis may prove essential for conductivists, moulded in in old ways but trying to construe what is being done by SAHK in Hong Kong, where the basic, irreducible unit is not the pedagogy but the totality of the organisation. This total organisational approach is of a kind and on a scale altogether unknown in this sector, an all-embracing, corporatized model (Fong, 2008).

The left-hand tool bar of Conductive World includes a list headed SEARCH CONDUCTIVE WORlD BY TOPIC. One of these topics is Business models. Click on it to call up previous items that have appeared serendipitously on Conductive World over the last year or so, that you may consider to offer something towards your own developing ideas of how Conductive Education might be reconstructed.

Are there any guidelines? From within Conductive Education there are probably many more exemplars of new ways of working mentioned here, if only people would communicate what they do.

What about from outside the world of Conductive Education? What ideas are floating around out here? This will be examined further in the second part of this essay..

References

Bronk. R. (2003) The Romantic Economist, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press

Cottam, P., Sutton, A.(eds) (1986) Conductive Education, London, Croom Helm

Fong, C. F. (2008) The business model of SAHK: a new vista for NGO corporatization

Hopper, K., Hopper, W. (2009), The Puritan Gift: Triumph, Collapse and Revival of an American Dream, London and NY, Macmillan

Sutton, A (2008a) Notes towards a history of Conductive Education, 2nd edition, Google Knol
http://knol.google.com/k/andrew-sutton/notes-towards-a-history-of-conductive/2tv7fpph4s1dn/5#

Sutton, A. (2008b) Terminological exactitudes: can we begin to agree some basic terms? Conductive World, 19 August
http://www.conductive-world.info/2008/08/terminological-exactitudes.html

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Ironic problem buying a book

Bad business model loses out to low-cost competitor

I wanted to buy a book today.

So, I went into a bookshop, indeed a very big one, the New Street branch of Waterstone’s, the company’s ‘flagship store’ for this Midland part of the realm, located in the palatial former headquarters of the now defunct Midland Bank.

(Waterstone’s, I should explain, is a mega-chain, part of an even bigger conglomerate, that now runs most of the high-street bookshops in the United Kingdom. It was initially a personal foundation of bookseller Tim Waterstone but has grown and grown, absorbing other book chains along the way, including Otokars and Dillons. An idea of its ‘management style‘ may be gained by the references at the end of this article. It has in the past gained a well-earned reputation for refurbishing historic buildings to house its more important stores, albeit incorporating within them its rather brutal corporate shop-fitting style. The company is currently piloting a totally revamped house style, ‘to attract more footfall and provide a more compelling brand experience to [its] customers’.)

As I walked through the store looking for the appropriate department, I noticed that a whole room had been screened off, having nothing there but empty bookcases. ‘Oh dear,’ I though, ‘the crunch is all around us.’

Having found the right department I went to a lady behind the desk and asked for my book. She didn’t have one and checked her computer. ‘I’m sorry, Sir, there isn’t a copy in any Waterstones store round here. It’s only in our London stores.’

‘Oh dear,’ said I, ‘and it’s only just been published. Sold out already?’

Consults computer again. ‘No sir…’ awkward pause, ‘they’ve only been sent out to shops in London, nowhere else.’

Immediate response: ‘I suppose they know that we’re all morons outside London.’

She’d touched a raw nerve, and I’d sensed that she knew it even as she spoke. Brummies are very sensitive on such a matter. So too, I am sure, are the denizens of Manchester, and Sheffield and everywhere else in the United Kingdom. How dare they (whoever ‘they’ are), do they think that we're sub-literate, don’t we have colleges and universities, are we not capable of participating in the level of cultural discourse that we have to assume Metropolitans are…?

The lady wanted to help... ‘We could order one, it’d only take a couple of weeks.’

‘A couple of weeks? To come up from London?' (London is only a little over a hundred miles away.)

'Oh, no, it would't come up from London. It'd have to be ordered specially and sent from the publishers.’

I thanked her for taking the trouble (I meant it, she had done what she could and done so openly and with charm, and none of this was of her making) but I declined and left the shop.

As I did, I again passed the emptied room. Although I hoped that the nice lady would get by, I realised that I didn’t care a fig about what happened to Waterstone’s. And although it was only later, when I had spent a few minutes on Google prior to writing these lines, that I read about the proposed ‘a more compelling brand experience’, I had already realised that I might well never go into a Waterstone's to buy a book again.

The company (ultimately HMV) has no love for me. Like its books I am just a commodity. So I reciprocally have no loyalty, no feeling for HMV and Waterstone’s.

Old habits die hard

I wanted a book, so unthinkingly I went into a bookshop.

Old habits die hard, but die they still may. You want a book, so you go into a bookshop. That’s what people of my generation grew up to do. Young people want a book (and a lot of things besides) and they turn to Amazon.

I came back home and checked on http://www.amazon.com/. Yes, there’s my book, reduced from the recommended retail price of £17.99, that Waterstone’s would ask of me, to £13.90 , with free delivery. That’s 23% off. It’s hardly a match.

Regular readers of Conductive World will know that at this point in an article there is often a subheading along the lines of ‘What’s this to do with Conductive Education?’

A clue. The irony of this little experience is that the book at the centre of my little adventure is The Romantic Economist by Richard Bronk, flagged in my previous post and to be returned to…

References

Bronk. R. (2003) The Romantic Economist, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Romantic-Economist-Imagination-Economics/dp/0521735157

--- (2008) Watersone’s: creating an exciting in-store experience for the UK’s largest and most successful bookseller (website)http://www.thebrewerydesign.com/client/waterstones

--- (2009) Waterstone’s, Wikipedia
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waterstone

Finch, J, (2009) Waterstone's joins the ranks of high street retailers shedding jobs, The Guardian, 12 January
http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2009/jan/12/waterstones-retail-employment


Monday, 16 February 2009

Economics getting worse

New business models needed

It is nearly a year now since Conductive World first rang a warning bell about the implications for our common interest of what, at last, nobody denies is a major, world-wide economic recession (and may yet prove even worse).

After a long dismal winter here in the UK, today has felt like the first day of spring. There might even be a certain national lightening of the heart, and maybe for many there is, in a grin-and-bear-it sort of way, but the world economy grinds inexorably downwards around us and under us, and everybody knows it.

And in this country at least, nobody has the slightest confidence that there is anyone in charge on whom one could place the slightest trust (yes, I am aware that two senses of the word ‘trust’ are possible here: I mean both).

A quick world round up

Every days' news is another episode in the great world economics soap-opera. These are some of the things that have been in the news today.
  • In the UK, production of the Mini has been cut back (that’s the motorcar not the dress), this being done through a clumsy, brutal coup de management of a kind that denies the very notion of all pulling together in the same boat. Cheap food is doing well, so is junk food. 'Business leaders' think that the Government will have to borrow yet a further £100bn to stave of deep and profound recession.
  • In Australia, exports of wine and mining products have tumbled along with their markets, and the Government is struggling towards a financial rescue package.
  • In Japan, latest figures show that the world’s second largest economy is slipping down the tubes even faster than that of the United Kingdom. The Japanese Government is struggling towards a financial rescue package.
  • And what about Hungary? Back in October its then financial problems caused quite a stir worldwide, till everyone else realised that we all have colossal economic difficulties of our own to worry about. So Hungarians just get on with the awful problems of living. This last week has seen announcement of a fall of nearly twenty percent in industrial outcome, the exchange rate is swinging all over the place and the government is struggling over pensions and (again) reform of the tax system.

Like it or not we are all in the same boat. Whatever virtues that will be displayed by some, we should expect some pretty ugly and unworthy behaviour from others as our craft settles in the water.

And Conductive Education?

Today’s news in the United Kingdom included announcement that Leeds City Council (a big one, that) is going to cut back on its services because it just does not have the money to maintain them at present levels. It will do its best, of course, to maintain front-line services, concentrating its cut-backs on ‘back-office’ activities. The wall breached, it will not be long before other cities and counties follow through behind.

Along the way, even though the bulk of Conductive Education in the United Kingdom is charitably or privately provided, somehow or other this pinch in the public sector will still be felt, how precisely remains to be seen.

Last week the Foundation for Conductive Education boldly put up its hand and announced financial difficulties. Who next? Where?

From economics to financing and funding CE, and to new structures

I seems hardly contentious to suggest that Conductive Education cannot continue as it is. It is not just practices that will have to change, it it the business models required to fund them in the future world.

Economics are out of our hands. Ways of financing and funding specific CE programs, and the ways to to organise the 'businesses' of which these activities are apart, are not. Shaped by our environment yes, but we are human and therefore can shape our environment in return. Creating new kinds of CE organisms is one way towards achieving this.

Over the last year Conductive World has drawn attention to a number of innovative schemes and projects that have stepped a little aside from what are already ‘traditional’ CE business models. Attention will be drawn to others as they continue to turn up (as they surely will) so that everyone does not have to reinvent the wheel.

We used to think that there were only one or two ways of doing things, when there are many. There is nothing facing the conductive world, in terms of readjustment, that is not being faced by the whole economy, where there are so many new ways being advocated or tried. In so far as some of these seem sympatique and relevant, then they too will be aired here.

Romantics

Here’s one for a start. Starting a new CE venture? Then look seriously at the model of the ‘romantic economy’.

Intuitively, many people running CE programs have tried to adopt something like this right since CE first started to be established outside Hungary. And many have not, having been drawn by necessity or inclination into the dominant twentieth-century model of business organisation, its very antithesis. Maybe in 'romantic economics' we have something to help articulate the sort of workplace where conductors and non-conductors might no longer exist in a state of frozen anomie, and the conceptual tools to examine places where this is happening and to articulate alternatives.

There is no need for economic determinism. There is need to harness the very considerable personal strength and powers that exist within the conductive movement, and test out business models that implement these in ways to make the very best of what we have.

What sort of organisations and what quality their operations are required to achieve this?

References

Bronk, R. (2009) The Romantic Economist, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press

Sutton, A. (2008) Economic recession, or even depression: a tipping point for Conductive Education?, Conductive World, 18 March
http://www.conductive-world.info/2008/03/economic-recession-or-even-depression.html

Sutton, A. (2008) Hungarian economy: IMF steps in to avoid collapse, Conductive World, 27 October
http://www.conductive-world.info/2008/10/hungarian-economy.html







Sunday, 15 February 2009

Law firm chooses CECO video to explain CE

Accolade should draw attention to useful tool for presentation and orientation

Law Firm Robert A. D'Iorio and Associates of Washington DC publishes a smart blog-based website called Cerebral Palsy Birth Injury Lawyer Blog.

Just posted last week is a video, flagged as follows:

The following video discusses the benefits of conductive education for children with cerebral palsy.

Excellent choice

One approaches this with some trepidation. What might they have done?

In fact they have chosen very wisely, the promotional video produced by the Conductive Education Centre of Orlando (CECO), already on YouTube and possibly the best-yet centre-promotion video on line.

This high-production-value video is introduced by Joe Raymond, Founder of CECO. It includes powerful parental testimonies, two neurologists saying just the right things, and sensible words from conductors Judit Muncz and Alexandra Gaudi.

CECO’s web presence was favourably reviewed on Conductive World just over a year ago. Minor carp: please lose the word ‘therapy’.

This video was presumably made with the domestic market in mind but could be usefully brought to the attention of lawyers and others seeking a quick fix or initial orientation on Conductive Education anywhere in the English-speaking world, and possibly elsewhere also.

References

D'Iorio, R. A. (2009) Cerebral palsy and Conductive Education, Cerebral Palsy Birth Injury Lawyer Blog, 11 February
Sutton, A (2008) Parent to parent in Florida: powerful new website on line, Conductive World, 2 January
http://www.conductive-world.info/2008/01/parent-to-parent-in-florida.html

Friday, 13 February 2009

Foundation for Conductive Education announces financial problems

First CE charity makes emegency public appeal

The Foundation for Conductive Education has announced an urgent shortfall of £120,000. If this is not met the Fondation will be forced to cut back services.

The Foundation provides the National Institute of Conductive Education in Birmingham, including conductive services for children and adults, and degree-level conductor-training , along with the National Library of Conductive Education.

The Foundation was constituted in 1986, its charitable purpose being:

...for the development and advancement of the science and skill of Conductive Education, especially the teaching thereof...

It remains the only CE body with extending knowledge, rather than delivering services, as its primary mandated purpose.

Reference

Dayani, A. (2009) Charity for disabled in cash plea as it faces cutting services, Birmingham Post, 13 February
http://www.birminghampost.net/news/west-midlands-news/2009/02/13/charity-for-disabled-in-cash-plea-as-it-faces-cutting-services-65233-22918955/

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Day conference in Finland

10 October 2010


There will be a day conference organised and hosted by Ruskeasuo School on the theme of 'Innovation in Conductive Education – educational equality'. The conference will run from 0900 to 1600 on Saturday 10 October, with a reception/buffet the previous evening.

Plenary presentations will be by Franz Schaffhausen (Pető Institute) and Mel Brown (National Institute of Conductive Education) and the school invites submissions for other presentations (papers, posters or videos).

Submitted abstracts, between 100 and 200 words in length, should arrive before 31 March. Published abstracts are promised.

Registration fee is 70 euros (reductions for groups). Accommodation is available at the school or in hotels

Further information: http://www.ruskis.fi/english
All correspondence: ruskeasuoschool@ruskis.fi

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Grounds for apology…

Or perhaps an opportunity?

Last Saturday I received an email to tell me that a Russian lady would like to be my friend. Oh ho!

This was not, however, the usual spam item, it came from someone whom I know from the 'Russian' part of my life, a preschool educator for whose practical work and theoretical position I have considerable respect. Yes, the format of the email looked a bit ‘young’ but then, in the nicest possible way, so does she. So out of curiosity and respect, I filled in the form, and promptly forgot it.

Within a few hours I was multiply reminded. Apparently I had triggered Gmail to send a similar be-my-friend email to everyone I have corresponded with since last time my computer got wiped out.

Responses

Responses have varied. In some cases mild annoyance, enquiries whether I have gone mad, or concern that I might have been hacked. No doubt there have been others who felt similarly, and just binned my email. But there have been others too who have signed up and are now my email ‘friends’.

My new-found friends (though of course I already know all of them to varying degrees) cover a very wide spectrum, from a highly respected Russian academic, through some long-established figures in Conductive Education around the world, to a lot of just ‘ordinary’ CE folk (as if anyone in CE is ordinary!).

What has been very interesting is that most of these respondents have been what I categorise as ’young people’, in particular young conductors of a number of nationalities. As a general rule, I suspect, young people are a lot more Internet-savvy than their elders. They know the uses and advantages of social networking, and take such matters for granted. So they already know far better than I do what it means to be my ‘friend’ in this context.

Connecting Conductive Education

Conductive World is one product of a long-standing hope to get Conductive Education to link and communicate, both within itself and without. Over the years I have tried most sorts of print media, and broadcast media too. I have made forays into producing serial publications (newsletters, magazines, even a journal), both on paper and latterly on the new-fangled Internet. In the past I have run a website and a fairly successful discussion forum. Now I do Conductive World.

Supervising Ben Foulger’s dissertation a couple of years ago, on Internet use by conductors, made me realise just how little I have explored the fast-evolving world of Internet communication. Since I am far from computer savvy myself, I have fought shy of wading in and trying things out. Iinsted I have rather left this to emerge spontaneously, hoping that the young feople to take this up spontaneously, and use the newest technologies fot the CE part of their lives as they do for other parts.

Social networking

In the most general possible way, I have been aware that social networking might bring enormous advantages to the scattered and disunited conductive movement.

Now, it seems, I have been fallen into a social network, almost by chance. Many of those to whom I sent that unexpected invitation to be my friend, (mostly but not exclusively younger people) have presumably seen advantages in replying in the affirmative. Again presumably, they are doing this in most cases out of their experience of this medium.

So, now that I have it, how might we ‘friends’ exploit this, for our own benefits and for the benefit of Conductive Education? The first and defining test must be whether folk come up with answers to this question.

Answers please, through the Comments at the foot of this posting, elsewhere on the CE blogosphere, via email to conductive,world@gmail.com, or through the social networking site that I have tumbled you into (if that is something that it does):
http://www.tagged.com/home.html

An apology and a suggestion

My apologies to those who were irritated by my unexpected plea for friendship. I hope that the above explanation is enough to show that I have not gone bonkers.

For the rest, please stick around long enough to see whether there are advantages here… and, if you know about such things, to help the rest of us towards ways in which we might explore them.

Notes

Now is the winter of our discontent

Can reality be far behind?

It has been a cold, miserable winter in the Northern Hemisphere, enough to make one think of SAD (seasonal affective disorder) at both individual and communal levels. And turning the world upside down, it has hardly been a glorious summer in Victoria.

Immediate considerations, be they disasters or mere personal inconveniences, do tend to divert the mind from longer-term matters. They divert the media too. The last couple of weeks, therefore, in those countries most directly meteorologically challenged, must have given the politicians a longed for break from the effects of public recognition of economic meltdown.

In Conductive Education, even at the economic micro-level, struggling through the snow to get to work may divert attention for a while from the nagging question of whether that work will be there for long.

Can spring be far behind?

Yes, it is on its way (and in Australia it looks like the new school term is back, always a potential reality check, see Lightnur’s recent blog).

From which predict a rash of new economic gloom in counterpoint, such as today's ‘Britain in worse recession for a hundred years'.

At least we shall have better weather to worry about it in.

Reference

Lightnur (2009) Muja first day in Conductive Education pre-primary, without conductor-teacher, Life’s Light Journey, 9 February
http://lightnur.blogspot.com/2009/02/muja-first-day-at-conductivve-education.html

Personal footnote

The title of this piece is the opening line of Shakespeare's Richard III.

Somewhere around 1955 or 1956 I had my first and only Thespian experience, with a walk-on part in a school production of Richard III, as the self-seeking, treacherous, self-preserving cleric (bureaucrat) Cardinal Bourchier, Archbishop of Canterbury (King Richard III, Act III, Scene I. London. A street.)

I was awful. I hated it. I have never trodden the boards again.

Monday, 9 February 2009

What on Earth is this about?

It might be terribly interesting

This popped up today on the Internet:

Conductive Learning Center campaign strategy
Our group is creting a campaign for The Conductive Learning Center. The Conductive Learning Center provides education for preschool and school age children with motor challenges. Based off this information we have developed a campaign strategy that identifies the three diseases in which the center provides education for which are; cerebral palsy, spina bifida, traumatice brain injuries as well as motor skills and children conductive learning. The overall campaign organizes each of these diseases into individual adwords and uses common keywords to help differentiate between them. So far, our most productive adwords campaign is titled Motor Skills. It has accumulated the most clicks and impressions. We plan to continue paying close attention to detail with all campaigns but especially with this one and make sure we eliminate unsuccesful keywords.

It’s about Conductive Education so some readers of Conductive World might find it very interesting, ‘challenging’ even. Others might wonder whether they are losing their grip on the language.

Perhaps the former might elucidate, for the benefit of the latter.

Reference

Carlbom, J. A. (2009) Conductive Learning Center campaign strategy, Learning Remix: a learning community for Google AdWords and Landing Page design, 9 February
http://learningremix.emich.edu/winter2009/2009/02/conductive-learning-center-campaign-strategy.html

Brazil is stirring

Latest indication

Look at the cumulative map building up at the top of the left-hand side-bar of Conductive World. Those dots accumulating in South America are not from Spanish-speaking countries. They come from Brazil.

Gill Maguire searches the world indefatigably for academic articles and other materials on Conductive Education. Today she passed me the following link to a recent docent dissertation from the southern city of Itajaí :

Nacimento Corrêa, G. M. (2007)
A educação condutiva como possibilidade do desenvolvimento e inserção social
Unpublished docent dissertation
Universidade do Vale do Itajaí


The title means ‘Conductive Education as a possibility for development and social inclusion’. The dissertation is of course written in Portuguese but there is a helpful English-language summary:


The central theme of this study is to investigate the theoretical and methodological principles that guide Conductive Education, and to organize some material in Portuguese that can support the work of parents, teachers and educational professionals who work with children with cerebral palsy. We believe the main significance of this study will be in terms of helping to widen discussions and the intervention practices with people with cerebral palsy. This is a documentary and bibliographic study. The documents found were organised and analyzed, seeking to understand the concept behind this approach, since the focus of this work is to understand the principles behind the educational proposal. The materials were gathered from different Institutes of Conductive Education around the world, including the ConNostr@s Center for the development of Conductive Education (Mexico), the Peto Institute (Hungary( and the National Institute of \Conductive Education (England). We consider that the spread of the theoretical and methodological basis of conductive Education could mobilize both especial schools and the teachers in regular schools, and inform families about the possibilities of development and intervention with children with cerebral palsy.

A quick skim through this dissertation on screen suggests a refreshingly humane understanding of Conductive Education, family-oriented and social-psychological, of considerable potential uility to the growing movement for Conductive Education, both popular and professional, in Brazil.

A serious complaint

Unfortunately, ‘on screen’ is what this had to be, as the document comes with the requirement for a security password for such elementary matters as cutting-and-pasting and printing., and even to permit search engines to take account of its contents.

Maybe Gill will be able to sort something here, but why should she or anyone else have to?

Why do people orinstitutions subscribe to this sort of 'security'? Because it is possible? Who can possibly gain by restricting information, particularly academic information that has been collected specifically to be disseminated for the public good? No answer. Who loses? Everybody.

What a shame.

Reference and note

Nacimento Corrêa, G. M. (2007) A educação condutiva como possibilidade do desenvolvimento e inserção social, unpublished docent dissertation, Universidade do Vale do Itajaí
You can find Gill’s Conductive Education Library blog at:
http://www.ce-library.blogspot.com/

UK Government to inject £42M into charities

Just maybe something there for CE, if it changes

Yesterday’s announcement of how the UK Government is to respond to pestering from ‘the charities’ for subsidy/bail-out in these hard times reveals, as predicted earlier these pages, money for furthering government agendas rather than for most organisations to pursue exiting ways of doing things.

What’s on offer?

There can be few things more pathetic or embarrassingly cringe-worthy than present-day British ministers trying to sound Churchillian:

Cut through the guff and puff, however, to find the beef behind this announcement, how this relatively modest sum is to be allocated through the following programmes:
  • Real help for Communities: Volunteers, Charities and Social Enterprises will invest up to £10 million in a scheme to help create more than 40,000 opportunities for people to learn new skills and give back to communities through volunteering.
  • The Community Resilience Fund will have £15.5 million to provide grants to small and medium-sized organisations in deprived communities, plus £16.5-million modernisation fund to help with the cost of mergers, partnerships and moves to more efficient sharing of back-office functions, for at least 3,000 voluntary organisations.
  • The School for Social Entrepreneurs will get £500,000 to double the number of people that it trains to become social entrepreneurs, particularly those working in deprived communities.

What’s in it for CE?

  • It will take some nifty footwork for existing CE organisations to redefine/ adjust/straightjacket/redirect what they do or what they plan to do to meet the criteria of these government programmes. This will require fast, hard thinking and interchange between those directly concerned with conductive services (conductors/service-users) and those who have to find the money (trustees, fund-seekers).
  • This could result in concrete proposals for some genuinely new focuses, practices and structures, combined with diminishing or ceasing some established ones.
  • That’s for existing CE organisations, but for Conductive Education as a whole and its future development the Government's £42m could fund creation of altogether new conductive initiatives, with practical posibilities under all three catagories, or individuals wanting to start something new or for attracting into the sector organisations with no previous involvement in CE.

Effects?

  • Certainly not perpetuation of ways of delivery of CE as we know it.
  • Certainly, if CE is to access any of this new money, change.

Implications, plus/minus?

  • Perhaps further dilution/distortion of what constitutes CE.
  • Perhaps some refreshing new initiatives.

Very possibly, though, this opportunity may simply be missed altogether. Please don’t let this happen.

Reference

Press Association (2009) £42m boost for struggling charities (release), 8 February
http://www.google.com/hostednews/ukpress/article/ALeqM5gR7RhSU9WesEoR3rQCT97x37ap-w

Sunday, 8 February 2009

The same sad song...

‘Social pedagogy’, a new UK craze

The established discipline/craft of ‘social pedagogy', long commonplace in Norway, Germany and other European countries, has been spotted by English social-work academics and is now spreading down (over?) to fieldwork practitioners and their agencies. A local newspapaer in Essex has reported a recent practical development:

Over the next three years, 200 staff in the county council children’s homes will be retrained in a theory known as social pedagogy.

The practice is widely and successfully used in Denmark and Germany, where it has reduced teenage pregnancy, drug use and crime among young people leaving care. It has also improved levels of school achievement.

The Government is still running trial schemes elsewhere in the country, but Essex County Council has now decided to go ahead and adopt the scheme – the first county in the UK to do so.

The aim is to fundamentally change the culture in children’s homes, so young people get more choice and support to follow individual interests…. [continues]

Granting that this is just an extract from a good-faith local-newspaper report (see the link below for the full text) there is nothing here to suggest anything radical that might generate fundamental change.

Familiar?

An established European pedagogic tradition (in theory and in practice) is spotted by the English-speaking world. Depending upon where one is thinking of in Europe, it might take three to five years to train as a practitioner in this pedagogy. In Essex, existing staff in existing institutions, steeped in good old British ideologies and British ways, are expected to have no problem in absorbing this approach, transforming themselves, their practices, their institutions and, most vitally their outcomes, from a bit of in-service training.

No sweat. And no doubt it will all be evaluated. And, when the carnival is over, if social pedagogy ‘doesn’t work’, then Johnny Foreigner must have got it all wrong in the first place, Time to move on to the next fad, with fundamental tenets, structures, practices and ideas unaffected.

Foreign labour

In the meantime, one might wish to cut corners, by employing properly trained European pedagogues to do the work that they are trained to do, albeit within different organisational structures. The following is extracted from a current advertisement by a recruitment agency (Jacaranda Reruitment, 2009):

SOCIAL PEDAGOGUES in London

£29,958 to £37,368 Location: Central London Interviews: March 2009 Start: Spring 2009 Qualification: Social Pedagogy Do you want to work with young people in public care involved in gang culture? This employer is at the front of growing interest in Social Pedagogy in the UK. This is a state employer providing a challenging and interesting work environment and good benefits. The local population is culturally and ethnically diverse. Requirements • Good level of written and spoken English • ENTHUSIASM • Qualification in Social Pedagogy • Experience working with young people • A driving license and the willingness to drive in the UK • Minimum 2 year commitment • GSCC registration required The job • Working in the “Looked After Children” team • Mediating between young people and their families • Social pedagogical family support, counseling, mediation, conflict-management…

This advert (in English, as quoted) has been placed in a weekly Polish-language magazine Goniec Polski - The Polish Times, published in London, One should not ask why advertise specifically to Poles, but that is not what is happening here, since specifying the nationality of the social pedagogues whom you seek can hardly be legal. Any German or Norwegian, Danish or Russian social pedagogue reading the job ads in Goniec Polski should stand an equal chance of employment. Maybe indeed there are already similar adverts appearing in other British ethnic outlets, or across Europe itself.

One hopes that no one forgets to tell the Hungarian szociálpedagógusok.

As the world of Conductive Education well knows, trained Hungarian pedagogues of another kind have been shown to do rather well working in foreign countries, including the United Kingdom (for an example of a Hungarian seven-semester BA training in social pedagogy, see Debrecen University, 2008)

Good luck to the childcare workers in Essex in acquiring the skills, the theory and the philosophy of whichever social pedagogy they are to be introduced to. And best wishes particularly to any European social pedagogues who decide to try their luck in ’child care’ in the United Kingdom.

People in Conductive Education should look to the future success of this new tendency to see what might be learned for how to do things differently themselves. Maybe some people outside might even look to CE for a similar reason…

A long, ignoble tradition

The English-speaking peoples have a long tradition (maybe others have too, konduktive Förderung anyone?) of grabbing roughly at foreign pedagogies and other psychosocial interventions, misunderstanding, then crushing their life out before dropping them still misunderstood and moving on to something else. The following list is unlikely to be exhaustive:
  • the younger Montessori, from transforming the mental development of young children from the mist dire social circumstances into something rather twee
  • [Sigmund Freud, perhaps not propely included here but it seems a shame to miss out the reification of Ich, Uber-Ich and Das, into the Ego, the Super-Ego and the Id]
  • Jean Piaget, structuralist philosopher of the mind, adopted as the supposed intellectual base of Anglo-Saxon ‘progressive’ pre-school education, and his associate Bärbel Inhelder, documenter of the qualitative distinctions with and between human thinking in different levels of mental retardation, transformed into… who can tell?
  • Vygotskii, Luriya and Lenont’ev, at the forefront of developing a revolutionary Marxist theory of mind, intimately linked with Socialist pedagogic practice, transformed over the last thirty or so years into fodder for post-modernist liberal ‘academics’.
  • Reggio Emilio, the original essence of which is now hard to determine beneath the overlay of a very successful tourist industry.

And of course, András Pető and Conductive Education, of which enough said.

References

Calkin, S. (2009) Social pedagogy system will give kids in care a brighter future, Basildon and Wickford Recorder, 4 February
http://www.basildonrecorder.co.uk/news/echo/4098533.Changes_offer_kids_in_care_a_better_future/

Debrecen University (2008) Szociálpedagógia (BA) szak
http://www.hwpf.hu/index.php?Itemid=91&id=47&option=com_content&view=article

Jacaranda Recruitment (2009) Social pedagogues in London (advertisement). Goniec Polski - The Polish Times
http://www.ogloszenia.goniec.com/pokaz/50356.html

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