Saturday, 31 October 2009

MÁRIA HÁRI AT THE PALACE OF WESTMINSTER

Some of what she said

Time marches on and the recent past can all too soon be lost in its mists. The Glory Years when Conductive Education had such a powerful impact upon the public consciousness, in certain countries anyway, were lived twenty-plus years ago. There are conductors and parents now who were not even born then, and the very degree of the furore over Conductive Education must be unimaginable in its present state of general forgottenness.

The furore just kept running, Certainly there was opposition, vicious some of it. Compared with nowadays, those were still rather hopeful, optimistic times, not least for the improvability of human nature. Looking back now it does rather look like a lot of people really wanted to believe that there could be new ways of thinking, manifest specifically here in what they understood to be the message of Conductive Education.

Everyone wanted to see and hear Mária Hári. In the Summer of 1988, already more that two years after the BBC’s first screening of Standing up for Joe but with interest (and controversy) still running high, she was invited to address the Lords and Members of Parliament of the All-Party Disablement Group.

Catching her words

I took her there and rode shotgun but there was little need for someone to look after her once she had been delivered to the Mother of Parliaments.. She was beginning to get a taste for such things and to show a canny aptitude for projecting an image and an aura of Protean plausibility (Reuven Feuerstein also has it, in spades). I do not know what their Lordships and the Honourable Members made of it all in that large Committee Room that day, but she was in fine fettle and they certainly loved the show.

She was extemporising but not so fast that I could not note down what she said. Her presentation was of course delivered in her own extra-ordinary English, which my notes could barely capture. Inevitably the processes of hearing, perceiving, comprehending and transcribing create plenty room to ‘improve’ upon what was said, however unwittingly. Granting that, here are some extracts from what I have on paper –
Pető worked during the twenties and thirties with chronically disabled adults. He developed a whole-life guiding system that was indifferent to the particular chronic illness and the first step of which was to stop being passive, lying about, and begin to lead an active life. What is new in Conductive Education is that we work this way with central nervous system dysfunction

Previously one treated such people as someone who is ill but a treatment is a passive thing. It is always essential to see the person behind the symptoms, most especially so with central nervous system disturbance as the central nervous system itself needs integrating. If one treats the separate parts separately, then where is the coordination?

We teach and educate the integrating mind that has to lead every action. It is not a treatment – we teach. The person learns how to live, not just move or function or perform but to solve problems… Our aim is not to teach functions, muscle movements, but to educate how to live, to solve problems.

The person is active and wants to solve problems and structure his own method. The teacher leads, catalyses, helps the activity, ensures success and a good direction.

What is learned from eight o'clock to nine o'clock is used throughout the day. Education extends throughout the whole day. The goal of Occupation A then becomes the means of Occupation B.

It is like in Alice in Wonderland. If one asks ‘Which way should I go?’ Then one answers: ‘Where do you want to go? Then you know which way.’

The goal is not to teach functions or movements. It is the person and the personality that is the most essential and everything else is included in this.

When one learns a function or activity the question is not what but how to do it. One does not learn a mechanical, physical function – it is also a cognitive function, in which emotional and moral factors are very important.

Therefore it is active learning, education. Children only learn if they want to. The role of the conductor is to make joy, harmony, interest, everything that is a precondition of active learning.

These [task series] are not exercises but models of how to solve problems. One gets feedback only from the outcome of an action. If one cannot achieve the whole action then, to learn coordination, one must provide little goals and make them interesting.


Some ‘therapy’!

Older readers may find these extracts familiar and evocative. Younger readers may have had little exposure to the ‘voice’ of Mária Hári. It is a terrible shame that this is heard so little nowadays: perhaps I should dig out some more...

What she says here comprises higher-order general statements. Please read them for their meaning, not for the purposes of exegesis and, if you wish to say ‘We do that’, then do consider the wider picture that she was trying to convey.

Terminology


Integrating. This is used here in the original sense of combining parts to make a unified whole.

Co-ordination.
She did also use this in the sense of motor co-ordination but more usually with respect to creation of a harmonious developmental process.

These two senses, and how they relate to each other, should be clear from the above text.

Reference


Hári, M. (1988) What is Conductive Education? Address to the All-Party Disablement Group, Palace of Westminster, 5 July (as noted by Andrew Sutton)

Friday, 30 October 2009

Bugged…

But normal services are now being resumed

Conductive World has been down with a virus.

Catalogue of disasters

One symptom of the virus was to bar all access to the Internet, including of course emails.

Along the way it also got into my Facebook account and sent out daft messages and dud video links to all my contacts there, till this was spotted and the account suspended.

It may be wholly coincidental, but amidst all this my dongle also died the death or, even if not actually dead, it has entered into an inconsolable, presumed terminal sulk in which it actively refuses to accept that it has a SIM card inserted.

I have to haunt Internet cafes till everything is operating properly again.

Nothing of course that a painful injection of US$$ could not cure. Things are almost working again, Facebook has reopened its doors. The only remaining damage is a backlog of things to do.
Now I await only a currier bearing a new dongle.

Back to normal

Apologies to correspondents awaiting a response. Your email might have ‘vanished’. If I don’t get back to you, then I expect that you will nag. If you do, please also include a copy of the email that was not replied to.

Publication of Conductive World itself has been suspended for a couple of days but is getting back under way. The blanks will be filled in as a soon as possible.

Look out for features on the recent twentieth anniversaries of events in Central Europe and a report on Cerebra’s most illuminating conference in Cardiff this last week.

A warning to us all. Don’t leave your anti-virus subscription unrenewed. And I had better go have one of those flu-jabs that I keep being offered.

Meanwhile, thanks to everyone who wrote in to be helpful and express concern. And as for the couple who took umbrage, then went to the trouble of expressing it… Well, that’s Conductive Education: all human life is there!

Thursday, 29 October 2009

To Cardiff

To sniff the air…

Reflections from a conference

To Cardiff, to sniff the air. Not the fragrant breezes of the South Wales Rivera, but a whiff of the air that parents of children with neurological conditions breathe here in the United Kingdom, in 2009.

The opportunity for this was by the Annual Conference of the charity Cerebra:

www.cerebra.org.uk

Croeso y Gaerdydd

Cerebra is a young. medium-sized charity, its four-million pounds’ annual turnover dwarfed by the hundred-million of so that Scope turns over each year. Cerebra is there for ‘brain damaged children’, whilst Scope regards itself as standing up for the rights of all disabled people, so neither deals exclusively with motor disorders. None the less, they operate across overlapping fields and one cannot help wondering whether this vigorous and cheery newcomer is the potential successor organisation to meet the needs of Scope’s one-time popular constituency.

The meeting was in Cardiff, ‘the city of arcades’ as it currently styles itself. In the late sixties for a couple of years I lived and worked a few miles down the road in its poor sister, Newport (Mon). Taking the train to Cardiff for the day really was going up to the big city, albeit in those days a rather seedy, pretentious place with the airs and graces of the capital of a Celtic Ruritania.

Now it really is a capital of sorts and has visibly upgraded itself. On a warm Indian Summer’s weekday the Victorian city centre had a real urbanity about it, and the rescued and restored arcades were a real delight.

Cerebra’s headquarters are situated in Carmarthen. This conference was held in what is the very heart of Wales itself, in an executive suite at the Millennium Stadium.

What does Cerebra do? Lots. Free to families. Its publications are very conscious of the concerns of families and young people themselves. They include a quarterly Bulletin. The charity also runs e-learning courses (free for parents, a charge payable by professionals), it has a multi-media helpline, provides speakers and a postal lending library, offers legal advice and even makes bespoke furniture and toys. The emphasis is very much on real, practical communication and assistance. There are personal, practical help services for children’s sleeping problems, parental ‘stress’ and form-filling, and a postal club for childre There is the start of a regional structure within England.

It also funds research.

I am impressed. All that said, however, the conference itself did suggest, against all this background of social, human activity, a gnawing contradiction beneath, peculiar neither to this disability charity but apparent pervasive in society as a whole.

The event

Not being a cerebral-palsy person there was probably no way in which I would had know of this conference had I not had been alerted to it by the International Cerebral Palsy Association.

This was an odd mixture of an event. Its first day comprised two very different occasions rolled together into one: formal academic presentations before lunch and very human, family business afterwards. It was specifically for the before-lunch session that I had attended, but I could hardly help be aware of the other half too. The small number of stalls on the first day ware directed to parents and there were no ‘academic’ stalls. I could not stay for the second day, judge for yourself who that was directed towards, from the online program:

http://www.cerebra.org.uk/OneStopCMS/Core/CrawlerResourceServer.aspx?resource=B453FF58-E4ED-41D2-BEC7-A581FCA27039&mode=link&guid=6f7f6bfacb064ff995ee700826e04e6e

I should not perhaps been surprised by the very ‘different’ atmosphere of this event:

  • the event was fundamentally for families of children with neurological conditions, and it did have a real family atmosphere about it
  • at the same time, Cerebra is much taken by ‘research’ and the event permitted the charity to air the results of its research investment.

Strange bedfellows together in the same room but it set me wondering about something wider, that I have seen in other disability charities predicating upon a given condition, adults’ as well as children’s charities, motor and non-motor conditions alike:

  • the real pressing, human needs of people whose lives are caught up in the condition and
  • the different-order phenomenon of trying to do something about the condition, usually prioritised in terms of prevention and ‘treatment’.

It is also hardly surprising that these two functions may enter into contradiction.

I attended Cerebra’s conference with the self-set task of trying to form a clearer notion of the world of cerebral palsy as it might be presented to parents in the new century, and perhaps try and glimpse this world as it might be seen by professionals and charity-wallahs in the field. Cerebra’s event might not be the ideal way of doing this (but what would be?), but it would be one way.

Anyway, it came with a very important attraction: attendance was FREE.

A morning of research. Cerebra funds five university chairs. I am not really sure what this means but Cerebra does seem to be paying for five university research programmes, in Barcelona, Birmingham, Leeds and Swansea… There were members of the teams of all these programmes there; My impression was that these were the major part of the ‘professional’ part of the audience, they and people from Cerebra itself. The rest of the audience, growing over the course of the morning, comprised families, including their children ready for the afternoon’s Award Ceremony.

Think about it. For academics it would present and interesting challenge in the presentation of their work. For the families, it would be a challenge too. I must say that in the event, every one behaved very well. As for communication… For the most part the researchers seemed to have brought their standard conference-presentation overheads and given their standard conference-style presentations of their work. I doubt there was a single specialist there who would have really understood the presentations of all the others, though they would have at least been familiar with the genre in which these were formulated.

A morning of research

The conference’s morning presentations appeared very much a stand-by-your-beds exercise for five big research programmes that Cerebra currently funds. Those who pay the piper hearing what was being done with their money, in the presence of some the presumed beneficiaries. A worthy aim, but it would be fascinating to learn what the punters made of it all at the explicit level, even just a couple of days later.

From what I experienced on Day 1 this was a happy occasion, visibly and audible enjoyed and appreciated by the great bulk of those who participated, meeting old acquaintances and making new ones. My understanding of Conductive Education conferences is that, over the years and around the world, this dimension of conference-going has constituted the major source of satisfaction from everyone involved in that context too, as I suspect is also the case in many or most other fields. In that respect, then I was attending a successful conference.

I was not there however, to enjoy myself but to participate in and benefit from formal conference proceedings, formal transmission of knowledge (and better, some interaction over this). In this respect, as perhaps in their ‘fun’ aspects too, conferences are systems, involving dynamics between such factors as physical environment, spoken and written information, presentation-audience relevance, ‘feed-back’ and interaction… I did not feel the system in Cardiff had altogether got this aspect right.

For example, the presentations were made from the end of a long, narrow room, there was no time/opportunity for questions/discussion, though this would have been hard in physical contexts, the nature of the presentations (formal and academic) and the requirements of many of the audience could have been on the whole better matched, the conference folder provided incomplete information either to help bridge this gap of to meet my more ‘academic‘ needs.

Carping? No, I have been involved in the arrangement of conferences enough to know some of the difficulties, enough to to know when thinks could have been better sorted.

Here is the programme of presentations as I experienced it, along with some of the notes of what was said, that I made at the time, and (in round brackets) my thoughts on this..

Equip de Recerca en Medicina, Barcelona

Research into neurological disorders resulting from complications during foetal development.

(Perhaps unjustifiably I tend to see the opening presentation of a conference as a bit of a scene-setter. Certainly that is how things work for me. There was the usual late start and the usual problem in getting the presenter’s overheads to work. When the local geekery got this one solved it was immediately clear that a small projection screen at the end of a long room hardly comprise an effective means of visual communication, not least if the little image is shown upside-down. All par for the conference course in my experience and I must say that the speaker dealt with these opening with remarkable aplomb and kept his audience well on side till all was ready and running.)

Once he was away I learned that 75% of neuro-developmental problems are of prenatal origin, I heard of postnatal neuro-development, and I was told about neuro-behaviour.

(I could not but think of the scene in that early film by Afred Hitchcock, in which the word knife is heard again and again, to the point of madness.)

Just to get the message home I was treated to another, different word-wave, lots of brain, brain perfusion, brain connectonomics… ‘Perfusion’ and ‘connectonomics’…? Don’t ask. They were not explained and there were no opportunities to enquire or discuss, in any of the presentations.

(The overheads included pretty scans to illustrate such matters. I was let in no doubt that I was in the presence of science, well, at least technology, which, as the kerfuffle that opened the presentation so neatly illustrated can be so very client to its human adjuncts.)

I gained the understanding that Cerabra’s research project in Barcelona involves:

1. ‘Understanding the problem’
2. ‘Diagnosis and prediction’
3. ‘Treatment’

I understood that the problem iss a medical one. I couldn’t really grasp the point on diagnosis and treatment, and a complicated diagram suggested that treatment might involve, inter alia, hospital/biomedicine/technology, biotechnology and society, but it all passed me by faster that I could take sensible note.

(I did, however, make specific note that not once did I hear mention of learning, education or any related factor. I am sure that everything being considered in Barcelona is important and to the good. I just had to wonder how people even more lay than myself with respect to the particular knowledge being aired could come to an informed critical judgment about its value to those who bring up children with neurological disabilities. Referring back to my headline purpose in attending, to gain a ‘whiff of the air that parents of children with neurological conditions breathe here in the United Kingdom, in 2009’, the conference had kicked off with a strong tang of the medical.)

Cerebra Centre for Neurodevelopmental Disorders, University of Birmingham

Interventions for behavioural, intellectual, cognitive and emotional problems in children with genetic disorders.

(This second presentation would surely offer more firmly relevant ground. It came from a psychologist from, I think, the department of psychology (in my days it was being called a school, I don’t know the current word) in which I was lodged as a research fellow when we were working to get the proposed collaboration with Mári Hári off the ground in the mid-eighties. I cannot pretend that my relationship with that department was not without a couple of very unpleasant downs but, notwithstanding, here would be a presentation in which at least I would understand the language and perhaps recognise the models.)

We were instantly in familiar mainstream psychology country:

‘In-child characteristics interact with the environment and come together to maximise development’.

And there was to be no mention of ‘brain’.

Here the focus was on intellectually disabled children with rare genetic disorders and displaying certain disordered behaviours. Behaviours involved included autistic behaviours, problems of affect, hyperactivity, physical aggression and self-injurious behaviours.

Three good questions arise from this natural experiment:

1. Are certain genetic disorders really associated with particular patterns of behaviours?
2. If so what are the pathways leading from the biological to the psychological?
3. What are the implications for research?

Yes indeed, empirical investigation indicated that certain genetic conditions are associated with certain behaviour clusters. And the pathways from A to B? Here is one example of a ‘pathway’: a certain genetic condition includes a propensity ton stomach reflux and all the distress and anxiety that this may involve. It also results in rotten teeth, which in turn bring proneness to middle-ear infection… and so may lead to middle-ear hearing loss, which in its own turn may lead to further physical distress, never mind its likely effect upon language development and all the social miscommunication that may result.. No wonder a constellation of behavioural effects emerges.

(I was on familiar ground here, human dysontogenesis described as systemic, psychosocial effects a little behavioural in its expression for my personal taste and perhaps a little lacking in its transactional nature but still systemic.)

So what about the implications of this for research? In the specific area of rare genetic disorders more are being identifies all the time (present d prevalence of 309,000 in UK, ten million worldwide). The medical textbooks often describe the frequently experienced behaviours within these rare groups as an inevitable symptom of the condition. Thinking in terms of pathways (or as I would say it, thinking developmentally), taking into account the child’s wider well-being there was no need to consider that such behaviours were indeed insoluble.

And then a most familiar cri-de-coeur:

It is relatively easy to get money for evaluating interventions but it is so hard to get funding to develop interventions, funders do not want to put money into something that might not work…

(And my own especial cri-de-coeur for research, not least for psychological research: what are the mechanisms within science that so compartmentalise it in sub-sector, culture and time that the wheel has to be so continually reinvented?)

Inst. of Health Service Research, Peninsular Medical School, University of Plymouth & Exeter.

Measuring the participation & Social Inclusion of Brain Injured Children: What? Why? How?

(Now surely we were back on track towards the human problems of ‘neuro-developmental disorder’. Er…perhaps not.)

The Exeter Unit exists to provide parents of children with cerebral palsy informed evidence-based answers to their question about what might be available to help their children. Evidence comes from clinical trials. The Unit is concerned with the health service and social interventions (no mention throughout of any interventions that might be construed as educational, in any sense of the word).

The Unit has already produced fact sheets on three interventions raised by parents at two inaugural meetings, in Plymouth and Exeter. These are not on line yet but are available on request in paper form. An investigation into osteopathy for children with cerebral palsy is just about to be reported. Another on anti-epilepsy drugs for children with cerebral palsy is under way. An online forum will be an important source of future questions.

(Presumably, if you are a parent and you would like to know about the efficacy of Conductive Education, you should write in via its website

http://sites.pcmd.ac.uk/cerebra/main.php?g=adult&s=contact&c=contact

and trigger an investigation)

The rest of the presentation concerned the ICF, the International Classification of Functioning. Sort of low diagram modelled health conditions in terms of:

  • Body functions and mechanisms
  • Activities
  • Participating environmental factors
  • Personal factors

Associated with this (I think) I was also told of a model for construing different levels of functioning present in any given individual:

  • Capacity
  • Capability
  • Performance

(I think that I would understand the flow diagram as groping towards a developmental statement, without the connecting issues of learning give material substance to the arrows with which it joins its boxes. As for those different levels of functioning, where do you begin? Probably with so more than a shaft of learning! No wonder people in Conductive Education, and others, regard the ICF as such a primitive pre-paradigmatic diversion. And returning to my concluding sentiment to the previous presentation, why oh how can ‘science’ be so uninformed!)

Academic Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Leeds Infirmary

Identifying predictive indicators for adverse outcomes in pregnancy.

(It was therefore a great relief to turn to a medical doctor talking medically about medical matters. Granting my total ignorance of what he was talking about I am sure that he did a most competent job. Maybe the rest of the audience was better informed. I can just about cope muself ‘also rhythms’, but what do ‘metabolomic’ and ‘protononic’ when they are at home? I suspect that they were not at all at home in Millennium Stadium that morning.)

Centre for Psychology and Counselling at Swansea Metropolitan University.

Stress in Parents and Carers with Brain injured children.Outline proposal by Prof. Ann Edworthy

This project, down the road in Swansea only began in September so is still finding its way. The presenter has already produced a book on the topic for parents. A small team has been recruited and will grow. The focus will be on managing stress and seems to be taking a broad, humane and social position:

In my view parents are let down by the very systems that were put there to help them.

(‘Stress’ is such a psychiatric concept, to do with ’mental health’ and ultimately medical A shame to pre-state the issue in this way.)

On conferencing

If the aim of this conference was that the charity, the researchers that it funds and a sample of its beneficiaries might have done some mutual informing and all come away a little the wiser, then I am in no position to judge how successful this was at the end of the two-day conference.

A three-way coming together, charity, researchers and beneficiaries is an interesting model. No doubt it is not unique and certainly it could do with some working on to make it more communicative, in every direction. One might start by questioning utility of the ’conference’ format.

Shaped up, this model might produce some long overdue and salutary learning for the world of Conductive Education, at each corner of the users-providers-researchers triangle.

I asked above, what in retrospect might the families who attended this morning event make of it explicitly. Even if, like myself, they took copious notes it is unlikely that they will have retained much. This is no particular criticism of them, the presenters or even myself. It reflects no more that the general unsatisfactoriness of conference presentations as a means of conveying durable information, even to fellow specialists in one’s own specialist field.

But what about the implicit message? That brings me much closer to the reason for my going. I smelled the air, and I did not like what I think that I sensed there: with exceptions, the pervasive background that things human are best understood along medical lines, alive and very well still in 2009. New millennium, new biolologism…

So where was education?

In the world of Cerebra it seemed barely to exist. Why ever not?

And where was Conductive Education?

Nowhere.

To be fair, subsequent enquiry found a parent who had been turned down by Cerebra for a grant to fund a CE placement, apparently ‘because this is educational’. She appealed to Cerebra’s Chief Executive and the decision was reversed.

Previous item onCerebra's Exeter Project

Sutton, A. (2009) Another chance to get CE on the UK map, Conductive World, 8 October.
http://www.conductive-world.info/2009/10/another-chance-to-get-ce-on-uk-map.html




Tuesday, 27 October 2009

CONDUCTIVE WORLD ON FACE BOOK

VIRUS ALERT


Ben Foulger writes about Conductive World's Facebook account:

I believe Andrew's account may have been hacked, please do not open any links he sends as they will be most likely at minimum unpleasant and at worse infect your computer with viruses/spyware.

Hopefully he will regain control soon and post a message to let everyone know.

Hopefully, he will.

Are you angry?

It might be better if you say so, publicly


A recent report in the UK charities magazine Third Sector bore a message worth considering not just by charities but by anyone concerned with services for disabled children and adults, and their families, everywhere.

‘Charities should get angry a bit more', ran the headline. They should even consider bad language.

Charities should consider being more angry and more outspoken in their communications, said Tony Elischer at the International Fundraising Conference in the Netherlands. In the future, he said, charities would need to engage with how people communicate in the real world.

'Real people are gritty, direct, outspoken and rebellious,' he said. 'It wouldn't be a bad thing for us to get angry a bit more.'

He offered the Bollocks To Poverty campaign by the international development charity ActionAid, as example of a charity’s effective use of bad language.

SOFII’s view

The Showcase of Fundraising Innovation and Inspiration also approves:

This is a very brave campaign. It talks directly to young people in the language they use everyday and fearlessly makes the issues of poverty relevant and personal for young people, with no punches pulled. It’s a delight to see a charity with such an urgent cause taking this line – full marks to those who created the campaign and a smidge of credit too to their managers and trustees for allowing it to go ahead, undiluted.

How it happened

In 2002 ActionAid won the opportunity to be the main charity presence at Reading Music Festival and were looking for a slogan to sum up ActionAid’s mission and purpose in a way that would appeal to young festival-goers. A young ActionAid volunteer piped up and said “Why don’t you just say Bollocks to Poverty?” and the ‘Bollocks to Poverty’ campaign was born.

No suits, no ‘creatives’, no po-faced, expensive, specious, unfelt slogan. One can think of some countries in which such in-your-face campaigning might not work, but there are others in which it surely would.

Revitalising the message

Advertising and public relations for Conductive Education are worthy enough but is worthiness all that is required to get the message out. Disability, the plight of parents the fight for services, are not all fun and frollicks.

There is a hard edge to the whole Conductive Education enterprise. It is not just the energy the hard work and the personal sacrifice involved, the hope and the inspiration and endeavour. There is also the ‘other side’: the obduracy of the opposition, and yes, even the stupidity and insensitivity and the sheer bloody nastiness sometimes met from those paid to help. Should all this really be glossed over? Might not bringing it up front actually win the interest and admiration, and even their anger and indignation.

Fundraising and PR are of course only part of the story. There is so much to be done to heave Conductive Education and the issues that it represent into the public consciousness.
But do look at some of the other campaigns featured by SOFFI, and wonder what list most CE image-making might feature.

Bollocks to Poverty

It seems unlikely that something like ‘Young People’s Campaign against Global Poverty’ would have generated quite the same excitement.

References

SOFII (2009) ActionAid ‘Bollocks to poverty’ campaign
http://www.sofii.org/active%20site/Members%20area/MM57ActionAidBollox.html


Monday, 26 October 2009

FROM THE ANNALS OF NEUROLOGY

From a very Anglo-American neurology?

A fascinating-looking article from the forthcoming issue of the prestigious journal
Annals of Neurology is flagged up by its Abstract, as follows:

Lanska, D.J. (2009) Historical perspective: Neurological advances from studies of war injuries and illnesses, Annals of Neurology, vol. 66, no 4, pp.:444-459

Early in the 20th century during the Russo-Japanese War and World War I (WWI), some of the most important, lasting contributions to clinical neurology were descriptive clinical studies, especially those concerning war-related peripheral nerve disorders (eg, Hoffmann-Tinel sign, Guillain-Barré-Strohl syndrome [GBS]) and occipital bullet wounds (eg, the retinal projection on the cortex by Inouye and later by Holmes and Lister, and the functional partitioning of visual processes in the occipital cortex by Riddoch), but there were also other important descriptive studies concerning war-related aphasia, cerebellar injuries, and spinal cord injuries (eg, cerebellar injuries by Holmes, and autonomic dysreflexia by Head and Riddoch). Later progress, during and shortly after World War II (WWII), included major progress in understanding the pathophysiology of traumatic brain injuries by Denny-Brown, Russell, and Holbourn, pioneering accident injury studies by Cairns and Holbourn, promulgation of helmets to prevent motorcycle injuries by Cairns, development of comprehensive multidisciplinary neurorehabilitation by Rusk, and development of spinal cord injury care by Munro, Guttman, and Bors. These studies and developments were possible only because of the large number of cases that allowed individual physicians the opportunity to collect, collate, and synthesize observations of numerous cases in a short span of time. Such studies also required dedicated, disciplined, and knowledgeable investigators who made the most out of their opportunities to systematically assess large numbers of seriously ill and injured soldiers under stressful and often overtly dangerous situations.


Towards a comprehensive history?


Of course this is only an Abstract and can hardly mention everyone and everything of significance that has come up in a fifteen-page article. Granting that, do you notice any omission(s)?

Where is Luriya (Luria, Lurija)? Come to that, where are Leont’ev and Zaporozhets? And didn’t the Central Powers/Axis come up with anything from two world wars in which they too had a ‘large number of cases’, ‘dedicated, disciplined, and knowledgeable investigators’ etc?

And it was not only European powers involved in the industrialised killing of the terrible wars of the twentieth century. Didn’t the Japanese, the Chinese, anybody, come up with a single thing to mitigate some of the hurt?

Is the Anglocentrism that has so often characterised the ‘scientific’ response to Conductive Education’s spread out into the Anglosphere really so general. There was I thinking that ‘real science’ would be above such parochialism.

And there was I advising that those advocating Conductive Education to its medical sceptics might advantageously include something beginning with ‘Well, you know Luriya…’. Are foreign-speaking types really so beyond the pale? Or are they just not coming up with the right kind of science? Not much benefit cleaving to the reputation of Luriya if he has dropped out of medical history* in your part of the world.

Maybe I just don’t get out enough nowadays.

Scrounging again


Of course, this is only an Abstract. Unfortunately, the full article is beyond my means.

Can anyone oblige?

And another thing

In the same issue of the Annals as the Abstract a further, briefer article (seemingly published anonymously) looks like it might shed some interesting light into another corner of the world of neurology and its Zeitgeist:

-- (2009) Media focus on 'miracle cure' for cerebral palsy pits science vs. hype. Annals of Neurology, vol. 66, no 4, pp.:A9-A11

No Abstracts are available for the ‘A’ pages but the item’s title suggests something intriguing, and rather nearer home for most advocates of Conductive Education.

Again, can anyone oblige?

_______________
* Presumably, given the generational shelf-life of ephemeral fads and fashions in psychology and education, it should not be long now before you might have to be thinking the same about Vygotskii (even the Anericanised Vygotsky with a -y).


 

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Another conductive upbringing…

And a tiny gimpse into the Magyar soul

Following yesterday’s item on the outcome of Holly’s long conductive upbringing in New Zealand, Emma McDowell writes from Belfast to tell of a recent trip, with George:

We have been away to Hungary with George for a week…

In Hungary we managed to catch the "winter-week" that started straight after their October heatwave... However, it was brilliant, with three days in the Gellért Hotel (spas galore!), two days in Szeged, the rest with my sister (also in Budapest).

We saw (FOR THE FIRST TIME on stage in the Operettszínház), Imre Kálmán’s Csárdáskirálynő (Tschardasch-fürstin), where it turned out that we knew all the songs, very well. My sister (a classical musician) also saw it for the first time. She had wanted to take us to a string-quartet concert, but George chose the operetta, a wise choice!

On the next day my brother took us in the bucketing rain down to Szolnok (an hour from Budapest by car, beside the river Tisza, now connected by motorway) where, in the high- standard local theatre we saw a production of the famous Hungarian drama by József Katona: Bánk Bán. George just had to have the book; he still reads Hungarian better than his younger brother Andrew, who is also bilingual and has spent two separate working years in Budapest...

This is what a "conductive upbringing" meant and means in our case.

Don't you think for a moment that it is easy to manage the traffic in Budapest, we were not always in a car, in fact that was the exception rather than the rule. George took to the fast-moving stairways in Budapest (up and down to the various Metro lines) with gusto. Of course he had to be helped, but his courage!!

In Szeged the weather was better (although still cold) and we walked a lot, especially to restaurants.

And to manage Gatwick Airport, well, you don't need to be disabled to be frightened or confused there... In fact, to use their much-hailed "Disabled Assistance" is the easiest way to miss your connection. So, we gave up on it. George only fell once, and that on his way into the aeroplane, where the path started treacherously to slope...

I am a "double" conductive carer at such trips, but it makes me feel proud of him (and myself) - and grateful to Pető and Hári, and Sutton.

I really enjoyed reading the poem, excellent! Congratulations to the fellow conductive-carer and initiator. I hope that their story makes you feel happy, too.

Lots of love to them and you.

From Emma.

A taster

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hBQ91Zu8UCU

This is a different production from that which Emma and co. saw, but the Magyars always put on one helluva show…!

By the way, can anyone identify the biplane? My first thought was a JN-4 but that’s hardly likely. Anyway, the tail’s wrong.

I sure has me beat.

Library listing

On-line catalogue

Quite by chance I have stumbled across the following venerable document on the Internet. It looks incomplete and it is certainly only of academic, historical interest now:


Nevertheless, its URL set me off on an immediate hunt to see what else might be up there from the same source.

The source is the Library of the Hong Kong Council for Social Services.

Gill Maguire had shown me HKSS’s library catalogue when she got a copy a couple of years or so back. It is always interesting know where there are collections, and the sort of holdings that they keep, so maybe others in the world of Conductive Education might welcome a peep.

The library catalogue can be found at:

A quick, easy overview will be gained there by entering “Conductive Education” into the Search box that you will find on that page.

I could not find the PDF that had first attracted my attention to the library’s site. Maybe there are also other documents from the same source up there.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

‘BRAVO, ANDRÁS PETŐ!’

A conductive upbringing in New Zealand

Gail Edgecome writes from Christchurch, New Zealand –

We went to Hungary when Holly was five years old.

She had never been able to stand. I have no doubt she would never have walked. There is no other way in NZ, even now, that she would have achieved what she has.

Of course there are still difficulties but at least the body is still functioning and the brain is still alert. Holly has no speech but her time in Hungary helped her with her gift for understanding other languages (she understands and can write some of four). She can use a computer, she is a wonderful writer and is just finishing the last couple of papers for a Diploma in Creative Writing.

Conductive Education in our own special form is still alive and well and funded in NZ. No matter what is said in Parliament I think it will be difficult to get rid of. There are CE preschool groups in Auckland, Waikato, Christchurch, Invercargill and Auckland. There are school units, one college unit, and one adult programme just starting (not before time). I stared the ball rolling in establishing CE in Christchurch and I don't think they'll give it away easily.

Here is a sample of Holly’s creative writing – 

MELTDOWN
A pantoum about fear and pain of sound

The fire siren sobs in the night
purples the air with its voice
wrenching the innermost child
caught in the hands of the dark
purples the air with its voice
like the rise and the fall of a tide
caught in the hands of the dark
squeezing the oxygen down
like the rise and the fall of a tide
gauging a path in her skin
squeezing the oxygen down
adrift on an ocean of sound
gauging a path in her skin
curled up in her roughly-made shell
adrift on an ocean of sound
like a mother at loss for her child
adrift on an ocean of sound
like a mother at loss for her child
adrift on an ocean of sound
like a mother at loss for her child
adrift on an ocean of sound
like a mother at loss for her child
adrift on an ocean of sound
like a mother at loss for her child
curled up in her roughly-made shell
blind to the touch of a friend
like a mother at loss for her child
shackled by senses untamed
blind to the touch of a friend
wrenching the innermost child
shackled by senses untamed
the fire-siren sobs in the night.

We were at the Pető Institute for five months in 1988 and two more months in 1989. That was all we could afford. We had to raise the money by public appeal to get there at all. We raised NZ$50,000 in 1987. I can hardly believe that now. It's a lot of money. We promised the donors that we would help get Conductive Education established in NZ and that's what we did, in Christchurch and as part of the New Zealand Conductive Education Foundation group.

Holly was in the mother-and-child group on the Fifth Floor. It was mainly Hungarian, with some children from other countries, some English. There were different kids each month, except for us. I believe we were there that long because Holly did exceptionally well under the CE system.

After we came home, she had about three years in Christchurch attending an after-school group-programme twice a week, run first by me and another woman who was an occupational therapist and then with a Hungarian conductor.

But we kept it up! From the time that we first came back from Hungary. The walking, the way of doing things that Holly was taught in Hungary. I think that that is the key. Although Holly has an electric wheelchair now (which she drives like a girl racer) she still likes to walk. It is shorter walks now, but it is still independence.

Holly is very strong-willed. She needed to be to achieve this. Have you noticed that those kids who achieve with CE are not always the least disabled, or even the brightest, but those who develop a determination to be independent and to succeed? I guess that the parents’ belief has to come into it too, and drive. It is a long way to go if you are just going to give up when you come home. We also had an obligation to do our best because of what people did for us.

I truly believe we would be nowhere but for Conductive Education.

Bravo, András Pető!

Footnote: pantoums
 
Pantoums are a verse-form comprising a series of four-line stanzas in which the second and fourth lines of each stanza are repeated as the first and third lines of the next, all coming together, neatly inverted, to close things off at the end.


This might sound complicated but is very obvious in Holly’s example above. The simple, repetitive rhythm that builds up is very good at expressing strong feelings such as those here, the disproportionate response to loud sound that is often a symptom of cerebral palsy. Pantoons are fun to compose and to hear, and can make powerful statements that are satisfying at both the intellectual and emotional levels.

The pantoum originated in Malay, was developed in French, and works well in English.

New CE group on Facebook: CE2.0

The interface between Conductive Education and Web2.0

Norman Perrin writes to inform that he has just set up a new Facebook group, to explore ways in which Conductive Education might benefit from the present generation of website technology.

Elliot Clifton has emphasised the need to take this slowly, one step at a time:

As a community CE hasn't really grasped the possibilities of Web 1.0 (static web pages), never mind the community-building social possibilities offered by 2.0.

Version 3.0, is probably too mind-boggling for it to be comprehend right now. Let's make 2.0 work for CE first!

I have ideas of how CE might use both 2.0 and 3.0. But, take a deep breath, 'I stand up... 1, 2, 3, 4, 5!'

Don't run before you walk, or walk before you stand.

From a Comment to a recent item on Conductive World, 'CE3.0. Is CE ready?'

There is quite a lengthy discussion of the issue, arising out of a posting on Norman Parrin's Paces blog, including an interesting essay from Eliott:

Friday, 23 October 2009

Economics again

Recession figures are only part of the story

The United Kingdom is now, technically, only just out of the longest and deepest recession since records began, it says today on the wireless. It says it again and again.

Great news for surviving bankers, financialists and über-bureaucrats but how is it going to be different for hoi polloi? Easy, for many of us, things will get progressively worse.

Bad news in the education sphere includes headteachers’ making financial contingency plans for laying off the teachers and other staff that they will be having to ‘let go’ because there will not be mony to pay them,. Universities’ (always liking to be ahead of a trend) are already raising fruitless calls amongst their staff for voluntary redundancies, immediately prior to imposing massive involuntary ones before the end of the year.

Whatever cold comfort the politicians may draw from technicalities, it looks like we are in it for the long haul, and the war against economic decline will not be over by Christmas.

As I have been writing this, another cheery chappie has just popped up to speculate that recovery may take another three to five years… The good news is that other advanced economies are doing just a little better, and that this is about the only thing that might drag will ours up!

Previous item on economics
Nothing new here, then

Yoga: correct email

Correction to Veronika Szász's email address

If you are interested in CE and Yoga, please write direct to Veronika Szász at:

szupcsivercsi@gmail.com

Previous item on Yoga and Conductive Education

http://www.conductive-world.info/2009/10/yoga-and-ce.html

HELP!

Why is CE where it is today?
You tell me

A free lunch

Yesterday I was treated to a publisher’s lunch.

In all truth this was not as grand as it might sound: fish and chips and mushy peas, plus a pint of Guinness, all in for £7.50, in the Connaught Bar in Dertend High Street in Digbeth, but the food was sound if simple and Irish community centres are welcoming places, even on a wet Thursday afternoon in Birmingham. Anyway, it is a rare occasion to be asked to go somewhere to talk about Conductive Education, and very nice indeed to be treated for it!

The publisher was Howard Sharron who some twenty-five years ago, as a youngish campaigning journalist was closely involved in the nascent conductive movement in the United Kingdom. Indeed, Howard‘s role was pivotal. In 1985 an article that he published in the Guardian newspaper was read by a TV producer Anne Paul, and by a parent, Mike Horseley, The outcome was Standing up for Joe, without which nobody now might know of Conduive Edcation.

Twenty-five years ago, however, the world that we now know all lay in an unforeseeable future, and the future of Conductive Education was no more than a matter of hope amongst a few intensely motivated individuals. Over the next couple of years Howard got to know many of these individuals, and their hopes.

Ways part, lives move on. Howard publishes magazines and in the field of education and child welfare, now under the imprimatur of ‘Imaginative Minds’. On 2 November I shall see a couple of thousand words of mine published in one of his magzines, e-Learning Today. This concerns some important underlying themes apparent in Conductive Education without actually mentioning CE at all, as interesting exercise that others might consider for the future.

Howard’s latest venture is called Every Child (issue no. 1 has just been published).

Pay back

There is no such thing as a free lunch. I was there to be persuaded to write three-thousand words on Conductive Education, to be published in Every Child in the New Year. This time, though, I would not be getting away with no explicit mention of Conductive Education. Remembering the hopes, the dreams, the goals of those first Conductive Education pioneers in the United Kingdom, Howard was asking me to write about why Conductive Education has now taken off in the United Kingdom in the way that we had wanted.

Who cares?

Now this is a big topic, enough to consume several PhD studies. Luckily for me, the readership of Every Child, like the overwhelming majority of the people in the United Kingdom, have no interest whatsoever in Conductive Education, the rights and wrongs and the vagaries of its history in the United Kingdom. Nor in 2009 do most people particularly care what it is.

What Howard wants from me is that I should write about CE as a type, and epitome, a paradigm example of what happens to stifle, divert or appropriate progressive practices and ideas in education and other sectors of child welfare. Correspondingly, this also raises the question of what society might usefully learn from the twenty-five-year experience of Conductive Education's attempts to get established in the United Kingdom.

Readers in the United Kingdom willjave immediate spotted the sting in the magazine’s title: Every Child. ‘Every child matters’ is one of those soon-hackneyed phrases that Government likes to attach to social policies, or ‘agendas’, in this country (probably in others too), after which its myrmidons in the bureaucracy and academe immediately raise it to the status of a philosophy swaddled in high moral tone: a Holy Cow of unquestionable status till the next divertissement comes to town.

The ‘every child agenda’ anticipates innovation in practice. Maybe the experience of the most innovative, radical force for change to hit British educational and social welfare in most people's living memorory might prove of interest to the thousands of people who will be expected to achieve their own miracles of change under this latest agenda.

Help!

As far as I know, the last time that a journalist asked about the recent history of Conductive Education in the United Kingdom was five years ago, when BBC 4’s You and Yours asked ‘Did Conductive Education ever achieve what it claimed?’ Answering to this ran aground on the BBC’s hopeless desire to be ‘balanced’.

I doubt that I shall achieve ‘balance’ in what I write for Every Child, but I shall try to be broad and comprehensive.
I therefore ask readers of Conductive World to help me in preparing this article. Parents, young adults, conductors, anyone:
  • why do you think Conductive Education is where it is today?
  • what are the factors that have helped shape its ends?
  • is what it has become today a bad thing (and what are its good points)?
  • where is it going now?
  • where should it go in future?
If you do wish to respond to my plea then you can do so in a variety of ways:
Not just the UK

This article will be UK-focussed, but its import ought to be more general. As I currently see the piece (this might evolve over the next few weeks), similarities and contrasts from elsewhere in the world might shed interesting light. Comments, experiences, analysed from other parts of the world will therefore also be most welcome.

Reference and notes
 
Robinson, W. (2004) Did Conductive Education ever achieve what it claimed’? You and Yours, 12 March
http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/youandyours/yy_20040312.shtml

Thursday, 22 October 2009

IRIS

Another name change in Auckland

Nine years ago the Cerebral Palsy Society based in Auckland New Zealand, changed its name to Focus 2000.

It has just (with effect from today, I think) changed its name again, to IRIS (Tirohanga Whanui in Maori).

IRIS (formerly know as Focus 2000) is a not-for-profit social enterprise, that provides a diverse range of community based services to people with a disability, injury or health concern. Today IRIS employs over 1,000 team members and serves over 4,000 people.

Conductive Education is one of IRIS’s five ‘key services’ and, under the new name, will continue to offer offer a variety of programmes for children from under six months of age to ten years:

http://www.focus2000.org.nz/IRISbrnbspnbspConductivebrEducation/tabid/29230/Default.aspx

IRIS is not a school-based service.

Most recent item on threatened cuts to school-based CE in NZ

http://www.conductive-world.info/2009/08/cut-backs-in-new-zealand.html

Yoga and CE

Are you involved in both?

I am helping conductor Veronika Szász identify people in Conductive Education who have an interest in Yoga.

You may be a conductor, a parent, a disabled person, indeed anyone involved in Conductive Education.

If you would like to connect up, please contact Veronika direct (in English or Hungarian) at:

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Competition is the American way

A needle match

On Monday Conductive Education Information drew attention to the Conductive Education Communications Center, to be up and running any day now. Following up the link, one reads:

After numerous conversations, telephone calls and correspondence with Conductive Education professionals, it became increasingly evident that there was the need for an online destination to aggregate critical information on Conductive Education. The Conductive Education Communications Center at www.ConductiveEducation.net intends to be that destination.

This morning I read in ACENA news 2009 that ACENA‘s totally renovated website will be up and running any day now:

We are continuing to add new and unique features to enable this website to become thwe dominant website for info on CE in North America, and the rest of the world.

Time was when there was not information enough about Conductive Education anywhere. Now, two information sources announced from the same country, in the same month!

Nothing sharpens up a sector like competition does. At the very least, it might be fun and instructive to watch, wherever you are.

Tally ho!

ACENA news

On Internet soon

I have just received one of those nice, yellow quarto envelopes from the US Mail, always cheering to me because they seem to speak of something unchanging, stable and reliable, so different from the present state of own dear Royal Mail.

In it was issue no 9 of the hard copy of ACENA News. Eventually this issue will be available on line too.

Inter alia, it announces that the board of the Association for Conductive in North America has formulated a new work plan for 2009-10, with new goals, timeline and strategies. This will be circulated to members following ratification on 20 October. Various new Directors have been elected and the website is to be redone. ACENA has been going now for three years. It has fifty members and it is intended to maintain this level as a minimum.

Andrea Benyovszky’s notification on the future of the training scheme as Aquinas College appears here in hard form. This has already been republished twice already on the blogosphere:


The largest item by far is a sound, basic article by Krisztina Abonyi Bernstein, on equipment for using in Conductive Education, one of those taken-for-granted topics that just never get written down for people to consider and discuss:

Abonyi Bernstein, K. (2009) Creating the proper Conductive Educational environment: equipment and facilities, ACENA News, no 9, pp. 2-3.

Thank you Krisztina.

Look out for ACENA's new wbsite at http://www.acena.org/. 

More on crying

And a hypothesis
 
I have just caught up with an interesting posting by Susie Mallett, concerning children’s crying in conductive groups, especially when they are new to them:

She makes the very important, normative statement that this is one of the things that childen do in such circumstances, and is not specific to Conductive Education.

This is certainly one of those many practical themes, of concern to anyone involved in this work, parents and staff, that really does merit further exemplification and discussion. Thanks, Susie, for keeping tis in our attention.

That said, I should like to add my own fourp’th: two tupp’ths, in fact.*

Something over and above?

Yes, young children’s crying in new and unfamiliar circumstances, not least if separated from their parents and family for the first time, and adults’ having to act in some way in response to this, are hardly news and one should not allow too much to be made of this in CE.

But those circumstances may be all the more new and familiar not just for disabled children entering any new setting, but maybe more so for disabled children (and their families) on first starting out in Conductive Education.

It is hardly my role to enumerate here why this might be.

Correspondingly, there may be all the greater requirement for the adults involved to take especial conscious measures to respond to this, as part of their upbringing and pedagogy.

Hardly my role either to talk about, as I am neither parent nor pedagogue…

A special case

In the first crazy rush of British and other non-Hungarian parents to Budapest back in the late eighties and early nineties, circumstances were certainly new and unfamiliar to everyone involved (and it was not just children who gave way to tears). Parents were away from home and the rest of their families, separated, isolated, lost a strange foreign. ‘communist’ land where people spoke and ate and did everything ‘foreign’. Many of them were living alone with their child the first time, very intensively, and their only social contacts, often equally intense, were with the febrile and atomised little community of other foreign parents. Some emotional background for their little children…!

The Institute and its staff did not know how to deal with this unanticipated influx. Who would? There were problems of language (mega-problems), of welfare, of culture-clash and of mutual misunderstanding (not least those surrounding valuta, love of which is the root of all evil). Incorporating these strange little children into existing groups soon gave way to a way of working totally unknown to the conductors: short-term, rapid turn-over, with new groups in perpetual formation. ‘New child in the group’ soon became the normal status for foreign children. And did some of them cry!

So here’s the personal situation. You have arrived with your child Budapest for a three-week stay. You have raised a small fortune to get there and the hopes an fears of your families, and of your local community (and itd media too in many cases) are heaped upon you. You have had an exhausting journey. Your accommodation may be less that you had expcted, and you may not have eaten properly yet. You are lost, confused, broke, but you are buoyed up by the most colossal hope. Hhere on our first day, you hand over your confused and disoriented child to a lady in white who hardly speaks a word of English and bears him off into a strange room that sounds like its full of screaming, distressed children. You hear him beginning to start up himself, and you are out in the corridor…

More experienced mums downstairs in the Bufé may comfort you by telling you that theirs screamed in the group for the whole of their three weeks thee…. And they will also tell you, in awe, of the progress that their children have made.

Your child may calm down and even start loving it, or may indeed find the whole situation aversive for the whole of your stay. But you too will likely soon be remarking the progress that he has made, the things that he can do that he could not do before. And then, all too soon, you will be safe home again, your family and neighbours will be remarking the change, so maybe will the local media, and you will join the switchback struggle to raise the money to get vack to Budapest for another three-week fix, crying or no crying…

Crazy days.

A hypothesis

Is my account a gross travesty of those days? It is up to others to corroborate, refute or elaborate my account. I saw all this, and more, some twenty years ago. I witnessed the distress experienced by both children and their parents in those circumstances, and the progress, the triumphs that were sufficiently concrete to bring parents back for more, everything notwithstanding.

And I can also confirm that many of these children progressed, despite their distress. How could I account this to myself? My hypothesis made at the time is a simple one:
  • that it was not necessarily the conductive pedagogy as such (alone or at all, I could not say) that was moving these distressed children on.
  • it was what they and their families were now freed from the physical restrictions and the restrictive expectations and understandings that had been heaped upon them.
This hypothesis later led me to recognise and appreciate the iatrogenic, nocebo effect of so much of what our society (inclding its 'services') to the development of disabled children and their families. Funny, you do not see much of that in the ‘professional literature. Two of the few useful, relevant concepts that I have found in the Western psychological literature are learned dependence and learned helplessness, though I would take them further and consider taught dependence and taught helplessness. You do not see much of that in the disability ‘literature’ either.

I would therefore add a rider to my hypothesis above, which was expressed to me by several of the parents (usually young mothers on their own with their child in Budapest). They told me that this was the first time I their lives in which they had been thrown entirely upon their own resources and, however, awful this was, they were being forced to confront their problems for themselves, and solve them. And this included living more intensively, interracting with, getting to know their disabled child in the long in-between-times and weekends in a strange and alienating city, in ways that just did not happen back home.

Crying is not nice, bad times are horrid. But they are part of life. We may even learn from them.

Previous item on crying


______________________
* Horror: my computer does not recocognise the words ‘tupp’th’ and ‘fourp’th’

Monday, 19 October 2009

Blessed are those who tweet

For they too may spread enlightenment

An anonymous correspondent has commented as follows below yesterday’s posting on Conductive World, on the possible potential utility of social-networking for Conductive Education:

Do you think that major CE questions can be attempted through this networking?

It is hard to know how to answer this without knowing what is meant here by 'major CE questons’. But why should not major questions of principle and belief be presented through Twitter- or Facebook-style postings? Indeed, perhaps the really big questions are rather suited to this medium.

A practical demonstration

Just to demonstrate the mechanics of doing this, I am posting chapter 5 of the Gospel according to St Mathew, vv. 1-48 on Twitter. I could have continued this on through chapters 6 and 7 but I think that this is enough to make the point. See what it looks like at http://www.twitter.com/ (search there for "ceworld")

I could also have done this on other social networking sites: I chose Twitter for demonstration purposed becouseit sounds to some the very epitome of trivialisation, to show what great ideas can be conveyed through this format.

The ideas within in a belief system seem to form a sort of hierarchy. The Sermon on the Mount offers some rather important ones, perhaps half-way or more the scale. They are not at the very top but they are pretty big ideas nonetheles. Individual verses in chapters 5, 6 and 7 of Matthew can be the topic of endless and lively thinking and discussion, and not just for Christians. Some of these may prompt bitter divisions, others might cause new and positive action.

They do not of course exhaust the belief-system of Christianity. There are plenty other ideas at the same level, from this the same source and others, some bigger ones higher up the scale, and lots, lots more at lower and derivative levels. But Christianity as such could surely not have developed if Christ, the Disciples and the Apostles, plus an uncountable number of followeres, priests and preachers over two millennia, did not among other things, engender the most enormous and heartfelt consideration and self-questioning based in part around such snippets.

I could have used other believe systems as examples (and not necessarily religious ones at that) but the Bible’s verse-structure does lends itself most readily to the social-networking format, with no need for editing.

If anyone would like to social-network Pető's proverbs in this way, then please feel free: go ahead and do so. If nobody does, then I might have a go myself, but I should prefer somebody else to take the trouble!

Social newtworking sites alone are not of course enough…

The important thing here is not one, specific medium of communication. Also important surely are:
  • the quality and reality of what you have to communicate in the first place
  • the conjoined presence of other information, media of communication, motivating circumstances etc (books, talks, blogs, meetings, broadcasts, action…)
  • the ‘wetware’, the understanding, the orientation, the articulacy, the moral force etc of the people involved, both the would-be proselytisers and the intended congregations
  • convinced, determined and talented leadership
  • and particularly in the twenty-first century, the fact that we have almost instantaneous world-wide reach at our fingertips
  • and resiprocity...

So the answer to Anonymous is Yes, Twitter, in conjunction with however else you are able to communicate, is a useful addition to a scatter-gun approach to get CE into the parental, professional and public eye. Use every means that you can.

If you are successful in reigniting the fire, you will never be sure what particular actions may have led to it, but at this point use every weapon in the armamentarium, just in case. The problem here for CE is that there is no scatter-gun approach, no focused collective force for this to be part of.

Sorry, Anonymous, for such a long response to a short question! It is always thus to a good one!

Reference

Sutton, A. (2009) Facebook and Twitter: Conductive Education and social networking, Conductive World, 18 October
http://www.conductive-world.info/2009/10/facebook-and-twitter.html