Sunday, 10 May 2009

A Latin tag

And a crazy line of thought

Yesterday Judit Szatmary sent me a brief email. Here it is in full:

Look what I came across…

Quem dii odere, paedagogum fecere

…also …

Quem dii oderunt, paedagogum fecerunt

Translation: ‘Whom the gods hated, they made them pedagogues’.

I cannot find the origin of the saying, it was under Latin proverbs.

I tried too but couldn’t find out either. Lost in the mists.

Along the way, though, I found translations into European languages running from French in the west to Russian in the East

Akit az istenek gyűlölnek, abból pedagógust csinálnak
Akit az istenek meggyűlöltek, abból nevelőt csináltak

Von den Göttern gehasst, zum Lehrer gemacht
Wen die Götter haßten, den machten sie zum Schulmann

Tех кого боги возненавидели, боги стелали учителями

Celui que les dieux détestent, ils en font un pédagogue

I do not, however, recall ever having heard this sentiment expressed in English, either in the original Latin or in translation. A pity, though it hardly serves as an explanation, it’s a comforting quip nonetheless.


Common in my own experience, however, is another Latin tag:

Quem vult perdere, dementant

This is usually translated into English as ‘whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad’ I don’t know where that one comes from, either. It seems unlikely that it was from the same author but the two sayings are linked by that wonderful, unbenign Classical view of vinducativeness of the gods.

And by the sardonic light that they sheds upon Conductive Education.

It also made me think of a more recent sentiment, probably originally from America

You don’t have to be mad to work here
But it helps

I have seen this one a couple of times pinned up in CE centres. Maybe Judit’s offering, or mine, should be similarly displayed.

A serious point?

Perhaps the Romans knew something. Over nearly thirty years of Conductive Education I have met an awful lot of crazies. And not just amongst the pedagogues.

First and foremost there are the parents. Before anyone takes umbrage I have to cite Jo Lebeer’s powerful and positive concept of ‘crazy parents’ whose derangement takes the form of refusal to accept the judgement of doctors and other knowledgeable professionals, not to mention everyone else’s, that their brain-damaged child cannot, will not learn and develop, and then set out determinably to demonstrate otherwise through the power of their upbringing. In case you don’t already know this, Jo is himself a doctor, and a parent, a' crazy parent' at that. If it were not for crazy parents, rest assured, there would be no conductive movement around the world.

And delving back into the earlier history of Conductive Education, in Hungary, one finds András Peto and Mária Hári. As we put it kindly and colloquially in English, they were ‘hardly rational’.


I have heard all sorts of words from the pseudo-science of psychiatry used over the years to describe people and circumstances in Conductive Education. Obsessed, neurotic, paranoid, psychotic, psychopathic…

Ever since be coming a psychologist I have stood firmly in the anti-psychiatry camp. I prefer lay words, ’folk’ expressions, like sad, mad and bad. In the world of Conductive Education, though, people tend to express this rather more informally: crazy, lunatic, mental, insane round-the bend, barking, barmy, bonkers etc.

I have to admit to having used all these words myself over the years, and more besides.

My experience of such informal talk does not extend beyond English. Do they speak thus in, say, konduktiv pedagógia or konduktív Förderung?

A Hári-ism

One example in Hungarian, though, sticks very firmly in my mind, since Mária Hári said it to me back in 1984. I was just getting to know her, and Hungary, and my circumstances at the time were that my first understanding of the former had to come very much through the eyes of the latter. I had enquired about somebody whom I knew of by name, and found him immediately dismissed from further conversation (most unjustifiably, I soon learned for myself).

‘He knows nothing. He is fool’, she said.

As was often the way with her, that was that.

I was still at that time in the process of discovering that Mária Hári’s extraordinary English was in part made up (in the sense of 'invented!) out of her excellent French and German, so that my immediate assumption was that she meant what she had said, that is that he was foolish, simple-minded, stupid. Later, as I learned first-hand for myself how wrong she was over this judgement, I began to suspect that she had been saying ‘Il est fou’. That was, after all, one of the things that he thought of her!

I leave it to readers to work out who this was for themselves.

As for me, I am as sane as anyone. Mock not the afflicted:

Sum quod eris; fui quod es.


Crazy parents

I cannot immediately lay my hands on a reference for this but will add one when I do.


Maguire, G., Sutton, A. (2004) Mária Hári and conductive pedagogy, Birmingham, Foundation for Conductive Education


  1. Years ago when working in the United States and battling the local school districts for funding I wanted to put a sign up in our school - or at least in the staff room

    "If our school district had its way we'd all be riding the short bus"

    Apparently others found this to be insensitive and not politically correct ... but it made us laugh and got us through the IEP's etc

    1. Andrew,

      When I was at Art School we were always told those who can (paint) paint,
      those who cannot paint teach the budding artists, and those who cannot teach the artists teach the teachers!!

      Not sure exactly what I ended up doing. Like many of my peers, I think I ended up doing a bit of everything!