Friday, 29 May 2009

Tell what conductors do


[This is a long article, over three thousand words from five authors, perhaps of interest chiefly to conductors and those who employ them. Scroll down now if you would rather read previous articles: three-week summer course for children and parents in Brazil, ‘disastrous women’, persistence and progress in the Mid-West…]

A week ago Conductive World published an article exhorting people in Conductive Education, conductors most especially, to greater public expression of what they actually do. Here is its gist:

…conductors as a group have created very little communicable knowledge about their actual practice and their understandings of what they do….

There are no books on the day-to-day minutiae of conductive pedagogy and conductive upbringing, no tradition of writing articles for journals, magazines or even newsletter, and as far as I can discern there is still only one conductor creating an on-line corpus of accounts of everyday practical minutiae…

This is all a most unhealthy situation. Dysfunctional, you might say.

There is only one way to resolve this disharmony. Others should take up the pen. It could be you.

Late that night a quite contrary opinion was expressed as a Comment on this article. Within the next forty-eight ten comments were posted here on Conductive World, along with separate postings on two other CE blogs.

It was a satisfying little discussion to be involved in, even if, the anonymous first respondent aside, the contributors did come from amongst usual suspects with respect to expressing themselves in this context.

The discussion in full

21 May 2009 23:11

This so stupid advice. Conductors, do not tell what you do. People copy and say this is Conductive Education. Then everybody does it. Do not tell the work so therapists and assistants can do everything.

Tünde Rózsahegyi
22 May 2009 08:25

Dear Anonymous!

I tend to think that you either did not understand the posting or you are rather narrow minded with your thinking about the future of CE.

CE therefore could not get a reasonable status so far because it lack of theoretical justification and dissemination of its experiences. In the 21st century I am afraid the only way to do this is via research and publications. Just like in any other disciplines his happens via professional and academic journals, literature, conference presentations and so on, without the fear of that the audience will 'copy' or 'pinch' the information.

Historically, so many other people have said their say about CE, so many commentaries are available but the conductors’ voice is really unheard.

Andrew is right, we cannot anticipate academic recognition and practical advancement before it is actually clarified what is CE from the practice point of view. We (conductors) cannot have it both ways, complaining about the lack of recognition without sharing what to do and standing up for it in a proper, professional and academic manner, engaging in dialogues with others who rightly do not take CE seriously without evidence from the practice.

This will not simply help to gain recognition by those who are cynical about CE at the moment but will also help conductors to reflect on their practice and encourage to develop it further to suit the ever-changing needs of families and fit with the context they work in.

Yes, the situation is unhealthy or perhaps dysfunctional as Andrew suggests, but it is not fatal. Conductors slowly contribute to the development of the discourse in very small steps. The question is will we have time to take small steps before we miss the boat?

Andrew Sutton
22 May 2009 13:23

I wish that I could have put it as well as has Tünde.

Just one small point, though.

Tünde writes: 'CE therefore could not get a reasonable status so far because it lacks theoretical justification and dissemination of its experiences. In the 21st century I am afraid the only way to do this is via research and publications.'

I do not agree here with the word 'only'. Ultimately, surely decisions, reputations, public status etc. derive from political, micro-political, even personal factors within 'the system'
Research etc. are all very well, but if services were provided only on this basis there would have been very little of the existing system established in the first place, never mind left standing now!

Ultimately, on this analysis, CE's future will depend upon winning 'hearts' as much as 'minds', i.e. it will be a political process. Achieve this, create the Holy Cow status currently enjoyed by, say, inclusion, physiotherapy and multi-agency services in the preschool, and then no one will take notice of what might be established as 'the facts'. That will have to wait for the historians to pick over when it all safely doesn't matter any more.

Do inclusion, physiotherapy, multi-agency working, merit their current esteem. Who knows? They don't have the same burden of proof upon them as does CE. Why not? Now there's a very interesting question for research, again probably most safely left to the historians.

Meanwhile, my position on the need to open the windows on to CE and let the world see what is really involved here on all sorts of levels, is also vital to generating the much-needed 'political' support for CE.

I have a sneaking feeling, though, that there is something else required here to achieve this, something above simply informed knowledge and awareness. I just can't think what that might be and, if and when it comes, then this might be as much by chance as the result of analysis and planning

.Joanna Lumley did it for the Ghurkas, against every likelihood. What unpredictable factor, what deus (or dea) ex machina, might crack this problem for us?

Tünde Rózsahegyi
22 May 2009 17:52


I appreciate your comment and I must agree with you. The point I tried to make was that raising the status of CE will not happen without the conductors making a more significant presence professionally and academically, or perhaps politically (for which we definitely will need another Joanna L...).

Maybe someone will come along to convince Gordon Brown and Co. but she will not be able to do it without the support of conductors who deliver practice and the only ones who can tell exactly what CE is. Parents and service-users will add their own perceptions to make a fuller picture. I wish it would happen in the UK and worldwide.

However I have a little problem. I am not fully sure what is our desire or what are we aiming for? In which way do we want CE to develop? The Gurkhas have a clear unambiguous objective to achieve. Do we have such common aims which are realistic and implementable?

OK, lets wait for the chance to come to improve the overall status of CE but are we using the waiting time effectively?

Gill Maguire
22 May 2009 18:06

I do agree with Tünde here as I have been trying for a long time to get conductors to write and contribute to library holdings.

I have elaborated on these concerns on my latest blog posting at:

Gill Maguire

To share or not to share, that is the question
22 May 2009 1752

Andrew Sutton’s blog postings referring to the lack of conductor participation in conferences,

and reluctance to write, evaluate, and ask questions about CE,

has prompted some strong reactions.

The point that financial considerations can limit participation at conferences is a valid one and probably goes a long way to explaining the lack of conductors at conferences

For example, a conductor working in the UK and wanting to attend the World Congress next December in Hong Kong would need to outlay 1500 pound sterling at least. And do it in advance, to book a place and a plane seat.

As to recording and sharing knowledge, it has been suggested that information should not be shared, as this encourages others to start their own practice when they are not qualified to do so. Surely other professions, such as doctors, dentists, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, do this without such fears or predicted results? Most people realise that you can’t learn how to do something like this from just reading a book, paper or seeing a film, realise that more in-depth knowledge is needed and that this is provided by training. Otherwise there would be no need for training in anything, we could all learn by reading.

It is important to build a literature, to record practice either in paper form, on the Internet or on film. Collecting such material is what librarians do, bringing it together to make it easily accessible for those who want to learn more. If everyone refused to tell their ‘secrets’, the world would be a poorer and less knowledgeable place. As Tünde says, that is what helps to build respect for CE from other professions, and encourage researchers to investigate. I have asked hundreds of times over the years for conductors to write about their profession, with little result.

In fact, my last blog was on this topic.

It took eighteen years to build the collection held in the National Library. This includes material at all levels, some well written, presenting CE ‘properly‘, and some not doing so well but still helping to build a comparative literature, a basis for further study.

I heard an item on the radio last week about the statistics for domestic violence. Apparently some figures were being quoted by respected sources about this, which had been obtained from an inaccurate report. No one had queried their accuracy, even though the figures were unexpectedly high, before going on to refer to them. It made me think of Conductive Education and how this happens in a similar way. Because the people who know what it is, how it works etc don’t write it down and provide basic accurate information for those who wish to know more and understand it, so others use papers and books containing inaccurate facts in their research and thus compound the initial mistake.

So come on conductors, give it a go and help your profession move forward to a better acceptance and higher regard. Sharing can only help CE, not hinder.

Andrew Sutton
22 May 18:06

1. Tünde, you write: 'raising the status of CE will not happen without the conductors making a more significant presence professionally and academically, or perhaps politically'. Well, actually it COULD be done without the conductors. After all, that is precisely what had to happen in the first phase of internationalising Conductive Education.

As you imply at the end of your earlier Comment, though, for people with more pressing priorities (perhaps relatively well-off parents particularly, isn't that de facto what is already happening anyway? They not be willing to hang around and wait.

If change is driven almost wholly by others, conductors might not like the direction that it takes: by then, however, it might be too late to do other than complain!

2. You also write: 'In which way do we want CE to develop? The Gurkhas have a clear unambiguous objective to achieve. Do we have such common aims which are realistic and implementable?'

Who's 'we'?

Uniting at least a significant body of the sectional interests within Conductive Education would be a considerable political achievement! Is this really do-able? I suspect that most people would rather direct the enormous effort that this would absorb into getting on with more pressing problems that resolving differences within the conductive movement (herding kittens!).

We may just have to accept that there is more than one competing agenda here, and these may well be fundamentally irreconcilable. Again, this has happened before, and the nascent conductive movement fragmented as a result.

One simple and hardly contestable example of such an internal contradiction: the agendas of conductors and of those who use (and often pay for) their services may often conflict in a variety of ways. Those who read these words will probably have experiences and/or otherwise know of examples galore of this, and be able to think of their own examples of other group conflicts of interest within the conductive movement.And what about 'the conductors' themselves: hardly a coherent group! I guess that you better that I can think of the divisions and sub-divisions that abrade against each other within the conductors’ ranks.

The Ghurkas have not only had a commonly agreed goal to fight for, they are also a disciplined force. A disciplined force of conductors? Now there's a oxymoron to rival ‘police intelligence’!

3. You write of '...conductors who deliver practice ... the only ones who can tell exactly what CE is'. In response, I would gently enquire where is the empirical base for asserting this ability. I think that you are confusing 'should' with 'is' here!

It was my own belief that they most certainly SHOULD act towards such an ability, that prompted me in the first place to pen the item that is the subject of this thread of Comments.

4. You have also, however, acknowledged: 'Parents and service-users will add their own perceptions to make a fuller picture.' To my taste this does make service-users sound a bit secondary, whereas I would accord them at least equivalent significance.

Were I a service-user, a parent, say, and particularly a parent-activist with my own centre, I might be keen to restate in this context the old adage: 'Conductive Education is too important a matter to be left to the conductors'. As a conductor, you might wish to put it otherwise, say: 'Conductive Education is too important a matter to be left to the parents'.

5. And finally (at least, until you come back to me!) just maybe neither of these two significant sectional interest within the present conductive movement will be decisive for the future development of CE, because the world of Conductive Education as it currently stands may not itself be decisive in this future. The fascinating question then arises of just what might be...

PS You're too good, Tunde, to waste yourself unseen in the Comments pages of Conductive World., where even Google will not find you.

Don't be a village-Hampden. Get yourself your own blog. If the likes of you are not going to make your voice heard, then what hope...?

Tünde Rózsahegyi
23 May 17:39

Andrew and others,

This is what we need, this sort of discussion, but let's hear the conductors' perceptions too. Let's hear about the practice. We had long years of debates on the political and social agendas of Conductive Education, what about the pedagogical debates?

Let's discuss the teaching and learning of Conductive Education, just as there are discussions about such issues in other pedagogical/educational approaches.

Andrew Sutton
23 May 0846

Tünde, I couldn't agree with you more on everything that you say here.

And just to remove one possibly imagined barrier in some people's minds: there is nothing sacred about discussing such matters in the English language.

Conductive Education is at such a primitive stage in this respect that the central point is not that such discussions should be widely understood in an 'international language' but that they should be undertaken at all.

It matters not one jot whether conductive practice is described, analysed, criticised etc in this language or that. What matters is that this process should get started. at all.

This might be in Hungarian, or German, or Spanish, or Russian, or Hebrew, or Chinese, whatever. If other people rally want to take note of what is being written, in any language, then they will find a way to work it out. Conversely, if people want what they have written in their own languages to be more widely available, then they will take steps for others to take notice.

Either way, distilled and formulated understandings ought to have a better change to emerge in languages in which writers feel confident and comfortable, and better formulated understandings are desperately needed to strengthen the wider world view.

Sounds ideal! But I am no idealist, and I shall believe it when it happens. In making this remark, by the way, I do take due note of something that you wrote earlier in this thread: 'Conductors slowly contribute to the development of the discourse in very small steps...' Maybe writing in their own languages might so free the tongues of those for whom English is not their ffirst language that these 'very small steps' might break all the more easily into strides.

'The question is', you continued, 'will we have time to take small steps before we miss the boat?'

Never mind short steps, even strides may not be enough here. Conductors (and others) ought to be breaking into a run!

Susie Mallett
23 May 23:02

I was going to comment here yesterday but work didn’t finish until late. Today, I got carried away with what I was writing so my Comment has ended up as a posting on my own blog.

The posting contains my thoughts from yesterday, including those that I had before I had seen the comments from other people that followed on from Anonymous’s initial remark.

You can find all this at:

Susie Mallett
When it comes to the crunch
21 May 04:56

I have been reading with interest Andrew Sutton’s recent postings encouraging people not only to attend conferences but also to present papers or poster boards, or simply to advertise themselves on a stand.

I too get very exasperated because people in Conductive Education just don’t go. Then I suddenly realised that I am one of those people who don’t go, but I have tried and I will keep doing so.

Only six days ago I described how I had submitted a proposal to a conference in Finland.

(You can also see there what I wanted to say. I believe that it is important.)

I was prepared to pay some of the costs myself but I certainly could not afford all of it. I thought that I had found some financial help but this fell through and now I am well past the closing date anyway.

I wonder how many other conductors are actually trying to put themselves about, to attend conferences and spread the word, but are just not managing to get there.

When it comes down to it, if anyone from the conductive world goes to these things then most of the people who are able to make it are not conductors.

So where does this leave us with the development of our work and our knowledge?

We are probably not going to be doing it by way of conferences.

PS Maybe this is especially a problem now because of the “credit crunch”. I can see that it must be very difficult for people to promise that they will be able to afford to fund me in a few months' time. But I can also see that people who are arranging conferences have to know well in advance whether enough participants will be able to pay to be there.

None of this of course is my problem, at least not directly, except that I am stuck in the middle and don’t get to go!

Comments and discussion

There the discussion ended, for the moment anyway, more on this being imminent on Conductive World, and possibly elsewhere too. Maybe the matter had been exhausted, maybe new items coming in simply pushed these Comments too far down the page to be noticed.

One suspects that many of those who read Conductive World do not find their ways on to the Comments pages at all. A pity, because that is where this publication to some degree fulfils one of its original intentions, to generate a little public discussion around Conductive Education.

This is all the more necessary since CE discussion forums worldwide persist in failing to establish any real discussion, of anything.

Correspondence on this matter remains open. Do feel free to join in, whatever your opinion.

Thank you, Anonymous for kicking off this pleasant discussion far better than did the original article! Come again and say more.


Maguire, G. (2009) To share or not to share, that is the question, Conductive Education Library, 22 May

Mallett, S. (2009) When it comes to the crunch, Conductor, 21 May

Sutton, A. (2009) C’mon everybody. You have a world to gain, Conductive World, 21 May


  1. It is a really good idea to present this discussion again as a blog.

    It is very different to read it as one article rather than as sepaerate items appearing over several days.

    Hopefully the discussion will now continue.

  2. I am having difficulties with "blogger comments" and only half of my original comment has appeared.

    I also wanted to point out that the posting of mine that you refer to in "Tell what conductors do, discuss" is not my response to "C'mon everybody" and to the comments that followed it.

    My response can be found at:

    "When it comes to the crunch" the posting you refer to here is the posting I wrote agreeing with your suggestion that conductors should be seen more often at conferences, but that very often it isn't for want of trying that we are not there.