Wednesday, 24 June 2009

The good news...

And the same old dreary mixture as before

The good news...

The good news is that parental recognition and enthusiasm continues to burn around the world. Whatever else happens, as long as such enthusiasm continues to burn so brightly, the flame of Conductive Education will be kept alive.

Latest public manifestation is an article by Katy Buchanan in this morning's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. It could have been written anywhere in the world over the last twenty years or so.

This report concerns the long-established Conductive Education of Pittsburgh (est. 1998), which is passing to a new generation of families and changing its name to Steps to Independence.

Never mind the name change. Never mind the perpetuation of myth ('It's based on the idea that the brain can create alternate neural pathways to replace damaged ones'. OUCH!)

Just read Katy Buchanon's article to experience yet again the spirit of a worldwide, spontaneous parents' movement:

And rejoice that a more fundamental message of principle being handed on intact:

It teaches [children] to do things for themselves... So it becomes a lifestyle for them and their families.

What is there not to like?

The Post-Gazette also got a quote from United Cerebral Palsy.

Dori Ortman, program coordinator for UCP Kids, which serves children with all kinds of developmental disabilities, explained that with so many challenges facing parents of these children, it's important to key on what's best for the child, rather than trying to determine whether one therapy or approach might be better than another.

'We've heard some wonderful things about it [CE], but we're not out there recommending therapies for anyone," she said. "You have to make the best decision for your family and your child.

'"What we [at UCP Kids] try to focus on is what we believe: That the best outcomes come from kids' involvement in the community. How can we change the community to accept that child for who they are?"

What on Earth is this dampener meant to mean? Doesn't she get it, this is not a 'therapy'? If she doesn't why not? Why after all these years of 'wonderful things' is UCP still not on the ball? What is it trying to protect?

And what on Earth is the attraction of the pedagogic nihilism (therapeutic nihilism, to use UCP's language)?

...the best outcomes come from kids' involvement in the community. How can we change the community to accept that child for who they are.

A lovely warm fuzzy if ever there was one, but what does it mean in practice, and where does it leave parents who chose to do what all proper families do for their children, disabled or otherwise, teach them to do things for themselves, so it becomes a lifestyle for them and their families.

UCP, like so many similar bodies around the world, has ceased to be part of the solution for disabled children and their families. It is crossing to the other side, to be part of the problem.


Buchanan, K. (20o9) Conductive Education gives kids with disabilities an extra push, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 24


  1. "Pedagogic nihilism"
    Wow! I just love that phrase, Andrew.
    "Pedagogic nihilism"
    Says it all in just two words.
    The answer?
    Two more words.
    "Conductive education".

  2. Yes, it's nice phrase and it points the way to a multitude of evils.

    I lay no claim myself for coining the phrase, though I suspect that I might have, as Google's only hit on it is the present posting on Conductive World, and an earlier one, called 'It's the same the whole world over', posted in May 2008.

    Inter alia this mentioned:

    '...the problems that Conductive Education shares with any other humane, rational educational approach. Together they face not just pedagogic nihilism but its close, wedded associate, overweening and mindless bureaucracy that appropriates to itself control over the nature and even the purpose of pedagogic activity.'

    Just for luck, I also searched for "pedagogical nihilism". I got 37 hits, some of which looked very interesting, but life's too short.

    I also tried "educational nihilism" and got 89 hits, again some fascinating-looking items.

    I don't think that I was aware of any of this critical literature. A pity.

    What I was generlly aware of was "therapeutic nihilism". This trawled 15,700 hits, including its own Wikipedia entry. Now there's a venerable critical concept and, though I do not know the specific literature, I have been long aware of it as part of the Zeitgeist.

    Thanks for prompting this quick look-round, as a result of which I feel ressured that there is a place for what I call 'pedagogic nihilism'.

    I shall stick to my spelling, 'pedagogic' (no '-al')since that is part the Eastern/Central European roots of my pedagogic understandings. That's how I think of it, and that's how I say it!

    I do hope that others in Condutive Education pick it up to apply in dissecting the defeatist and down-dragging activities of so much of our present system.