Thursday, 21 May 2009

Substantive, moral, legal

A response to a recent thread of Comments

An interesting discussion has been building up in the Comments to the recent item '®'. If you have not noticed, you can find it by going to:

Scroll down to the foot of the article and click there on COMMENTS

Three issues seem to be emerging here, substantive, moral and legal, all important ones.


Mhari Watson describes a most attractive-sounding service-model, not just a one-stop shop but a one-stop shop in which co-exist various services from outside the golden circle (or closed shop, if you prefer) of the existing system. You can see the centre that she refers to at:

There are shared overhead costs, and the chance of increasing public awareness of CE, simply through osmosis. Then there are the intellectual advantages, for those who want them, of working in close proximity with people with very different practical approaches to familiar problems, from the standpoint of sometimes very theoretical positions.

(All this without what seems the burden of practising within a ‘multi-disciplinary team’, a way of providing services that still await proper basic description with respect to how conductors might operate in this context, never mind critical justification.)

OK, one might find oneself amongst strange bedfellows in terms of some of the things being done in such an informal context, but then you might find plenty of equally strange practices manifest within the multi-disciplinary team.

It sounds like a context almost tailor-made for conductors looking to test out new theatres for conductive practice. I am sure that there must be all sorts of similar or analogous experiences around the world. We ought to hear more of such experiences and of what people think of them.


The use of the little ®-symbol raises the immediate question of who ‘owns’ the phrase ‘Conductive Education’, in Canada or anywhere else. Put aside for the moment any legal questions on this (legal and moral are not the same things), who owns the ‘right’ to use the term ’Conductive Education? Who does it belong to?

Morally, the answer is quite simple. The term ‘Conductive Education’ belongs to no one, as it belongs equally to everyone who wishes to use it.

I have no idea what Andras Peto would have thought about all this, though I am pretty sure that Maria Hari would have had contradictory thoughts. It doesn’t matter, however, what they would have thought, as they lived and thought in worlds so very different from our own, inconceivable to them in their time. Not least inconceivable to them would have been the present situations around the world of the inheritors of the traditions that they founded.

These traditions have manifested ideas (ideals, if you like), differently in different places at different times. It it these manifestations that we lump together within the probably overgenerous category of ‘Conductive Education’.

Morally, who ‘owns’ this category, and the name that it generally goes under? The question has meaning only to those who have little or no idea of the field under consideration.

And the same applies to expressions like konduktive Forderung and equivalent terms in every language under the sun that generates its own equivalent.


Legally, the situation is horrendously complicated, not least by being different within every legal jurisdiction.

In the United Kingdom I once had very expensive legal advice to tell me that the situation that has subsequently arisen in Canada could never happen under English law.

What precisly is the situation in Canada? I do not know, other than that a few years back now OMOD (Ontario March of Dimes) registered the term ‘Conductive Education’, with effect for the whole of Canada.

The intention, I believe, was to stop the use of the term by non-conductors (mainly therapists) claiming to offer Conductive Education on the basis of the so-called ’principles’ . Certainly Canada now seems free of such practices, and maybe OMOD’s action in registering the name has played a part in this (on the other hand, the principles have so far taken little root in the Americas).

I do not know what part OMOD's ®-symbol has played in the spread of Conductive Education through the employment of conductors. Jerzy Maslanka reports that it was directly instrumental in the demise of the Alberta Association for Conductive Education. Maybe that is why the CE centre in Manitoba is called the Manitoba Movement Centre. Maybe that is why an earlier association in British Columbia styled itself in the name of Conductive Pedagogy, though there are also excellent and more substantive reasons for doing this, quite apart from ®. And maybe the present BC Association for Conductive Education had better watch out!

Either way, nobody who came into Conductive Education for the ‘right reasons’ did so with the slightest intention of being involved in such matters.

At one, level, of course, this is all the legitimate commercial business of OMOD (now March of Dimes Canada). On the other hand, it is the legitimate interest of anyone wishing to establish a CE service within the Canadian jurisdiction (though the simple legal response might be simply to call it your organisation something else).
More widely afield, though, there is are also legitimate questions to be raised, for example:
  • What is the law in my own country? Could it happen here that one organisation appropriates the right to ‘protect the name’? How would it effect me if it did?
  • Conversely, might this be something that I would like to do myself, maybe to help stamp out Mickey Mouse practices masquerading under the same name as what I provide?
  • From either point of view, does it work?. What have been the actual experiences both of OMOD and of other organisations in Canada of the implementation of this ®?
  • And where do you draw the line? What might one ‘permit’ to style itself ‘Conductive Education‘, what are the criteria? After all. Well-intentioned conductors might be employed to provide services that are as structurally Mickey Mouse as so-called Conductive Education provided by well-intentioned non-conductors.
  • In Conductive Education as in most other field cui bonum (who benefits in lawyer-speak) from bringing in the lawyers in the first place? There may be different answers to this question in different circumstances, but one constant in all of them is that it is the lawyers who always win. Is that what you came into CE to fund?

What now?

I personally do not like use of intellectual-property law in a field like Conductive Education. This is in part a principled position, though it also in part reflects bitter personal experience of futile and footling attempts to use such law against the Foundation for Conductive Education a long time ago now.

The OMOD’s ®, like it or not, is an experiential fact with potential wider implications for Conductive Education elsewhere in the world. It also forces into explicit consideration the usually fudged question of what precisely one means by the term ‘Conductive Education’, also very rightly raised in the Comments that sparked this article, and very relevant to consideration of the attractive service-model that that raised the whole matter on Conductive World in the first place.

Experiences, criticisms, corrections are as ever very welcome here.

Even more welcome, however, would be publication by OMOD of the terms of its ®, its rules of engagement and most especially its evaluation of the benefits of taking this registration.

The VII. World Congress is coming next year and, whatever happens with CE (however defined) here in the West, out East here is major expansion under way and there will be even more in train by the time of the Congress. All the issues raised in this article will appear doubly relevant in that context. It would be nice to hope that OMOD could submit a presentation to that Congrss on its unique experience in Conductive Education ®.

Please don't do it to me

I do wish that OMOD could be a little restrained with its use of the its ®. It seems unable to state the words ‘Conductive Education’ anywhere without suffixing this bauble. For a recent example, click on the URL at the head of this item, to read of the ‘National Institute of Conductive Education® England’.

Sorry, there is no such place, either in reality or even under the law of Canada.

It is mildly amusing the first time that one reads such a thing. It can become irritating.

I do hope that nobody tries it on me.

1 comment:

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