Friday, 6 November 2009

The morning after

All those left-over sticks…

It is the morning after Guy Fawkes night. The day has dawned bright, following twelve hours of near-solid squally rain. Not surprisingly, the harvest of sticks is not what it usually is.

Usually a walk round the streets on 6 November yields a rich harvest of the balsa-wood sticks from spent rockets. Balsa wood is not cheap and over the coming year these find a host of uses…

An allegory?

Enthusiasm for Conductive Education can be like a rocket. It roars up into the darkness, there is a huge bang and a coruscating display of crackling, sparkling light.

Then darkness again, while another expensive firework is found…

The sticks are all that remain, the sticks of furniture that around the world now litter schools, clinics even homes, mute testimonials to a past, passing joy and enthusiasm, now spent, mute and perhaps accusatory reminders of what once was and is no more.

What do others think?

Yesterday, Conductive World published a few thoughts of my own around the question of what in English are called ‘plinths’.

This attracted some interesting and challenging comments, all so far from usual suspects. I would like to hope that there might be others who have something to say, as a first step in a real and long-overdue discussion on what seems a taboo subject, the wooden-furniture fetish within Conductive Education.

I shall be responding to the thought-provoking Comments on yesterday’s posting as soon as I can. This second posting on the theme hopes to help provoke a wider range of opinions, both on what I wrote and the important points that these three Comments raise.

Decluttering… and a dilemma

Meanwhile, Susie Mallet has proposed a simple solution to those with the problem of decluttering their premises of redundant wooden furniture: give it away free to those who are just entering the CE process and baulk at the hideous cost of all this stuff. Tell people at conferences (like tomorrow’s, in Germany), advertise, otherwise announce that the stuff is there for anyone who cares to come and pick it up, and it's FREE.

Sounds a terrific idea but, like in much else in Conductive Education (and other areas of life!), a satisfactory immediate solution for individuals may act to the ultimate long-term dysbenefit of the system as a whole:

Given the high attrition rate of CE schemes, there is probably enough wooden stuff already manufactured to eliminate the need for any more to be manufactured in the forseea le future. The furniture-makers might grieve but people establishing programmes would certainly not. And how ecological such recycling would be!

On the other hand, also recycled along with the wood, would be all sorts of constructs that such furniture, along with all other human instruments, embodies within its use. Now there’s Leontev’s classic Activity Theory in action for you!. Put it another way, you might be unwittingly transmitting and facilitating all sorts of Mickey Mouse ideas and practices in the name of what is ‘conductive’ (the so-called ‘principles’, for example). Implementation of such ideas and practices might have inherent benefits of their own but, advanced under the ‘conductive’ rubric, they act against the proper understanding and interests of what many of us still regard as Conductive Education.

Nice idea, Susie, and I sincerely hope that you get to test it out at tomorrow’s conference.


Previous item referred to here

Sutton, A. (2009) Prischen, priccsek, plinths, Conductive World, 5 November


  1. When I suggested " come to a conference take away a free gift" I was thinking more about the free gifts stuck on to the outside of a comic or tucked inside the cornflake box, rather than being kind or of recycling.

    I was thinking about the free gift that is a five minute wonder. Something that, if it doesn't break immediately and a plinth is hardly like to do that, after a day or two rattles to the bottom of the toy box never to be played with again or perhaps discovered again in a couple of years. Just like like our stack of plinths in the garage and the other pile in the cellar!

    Here in Nürnberg we are a huge charity with lots of different strings to its bow. Those plinths will slowly and surely find new homes and as you say when they go we must make sure they don't take any Mickey Mouse messages with them.

  2. In the morning after Guy Fawkes Night I woke up rested and content. We didn’t have any rain, but the skies were warning us for possible rainfalls. My morning walk in the forest refreshed my soul.
    Good start for the day ahead I thought….
    Reading your posts reminded me of the past…. those crackling and sparkling lights of yesterdays Conductive Education’s projects, which only left the ashes of the might have been behind, also reminded me of the false premises and misinterpretations they were built on.
    One of them is the wooden furniture fetish as you stated it in this posting. There is no such thing in CE… if there was it limits CE to wooden furniture only.
    The word fetish is inappropriate in this context. Those projects bought wooden furniture and a conductor who was squeezed to the end.
    It was done for only to the financial benefit of the schools. Those days’ schools could get more funding if they came up with something new and parents also demanded it. It had nothing to do with CE and helping children.
    This posting, which is the follow up of your previous posting also, have no relevance to the viability of the plinths and any wooden Petö equipments.
    Judit Szathmáry conductor

  3. Dear Andrew, Susie and Judit,
    I must admit, that no connotation of Israeli families being at the Peto Institute of the Plints resemblance to beds in concentration camps can I recall. That does not mean that all have shared their feelings with us, but yet, if it were prominent, I would have known.
    Shouldn't we forget, that after all, in a very different context, this piece of furniture has been dressed with a new meaning.
    We should however, bare in mind this historical information, whether it is true or not, in order to me a more sensitive service provider.
    As to the discussion whether we should or should not use the Plints, I want to make my point clear:Any piece of furniture, aid, technology (wheter low or high) ,offered to a child, the family etc. should be considered as legitimate if enhancing the client motivation and participation.
    Yet, sometimes, the "special equipment" typical for conductive education, may mislead the viewer to believe that this is what CE is all about. We know it isn't. We know that a good conductor does not really need all these stuff to conduct. It is only facilitator which may be very helpful, or not, depends on the context, environment etc.
    I truly believe that we should prefer conductive education without Plints on Plints without conductive education