Monday, 21 December 2009

The eyes have it

Windows to the soul

At the start of this month Judit Szathmáry (2009) posted on her blog a promotional video from the US:

She commented enthusiatically:

A clip just arrived in my e-mail box from a colleague this morning. I would like to share their joy and determination with you. I went to work with a smiling heart…what a lovely bunch of Stars! Enjoy.

The video come from the Rising Star CE program, situated in the most aptly named town of Mentor, Ohio

See this video

As Judit says on her blog, enjoy..

Bonus video from

Rising Star's website is very cool and very sharp:

I could not, however, find a link to this video there either:

What I did find is a small bonus in the shape of a brief local TV report from last summer (see also Kyle, 2008). Go to the foot of any page of Rising Star's website and see links to two TV reports. One is the disappointing but vaunted 60 minutes report. The other is from local TV news service Click on this one for something rather superior:

No misinformed and misleading neurobabble ('mind and muscle') but the pedagogic heart of conductive upbringing:
  • Says Mom Erin DeCarlo: 'I can see a spark in Thomas, he always feels good about himself'.
  • Reporter Maureen Kyle comments 'confidence is probably the key'.
  • Mom Amy Debro, who did Canada and Budapest before starting in Mentor, clinches it: 'It is a lifestyle ... it is not that you do therapy, that's not what you do.'
And look at everybody's eyes!

Human contact

A few days back (Sutton, 2009a) I wrote to deplore 'hands-on' accounts of the conductive process. This does not mean that teachers and taught should not touch. On the contrary, they must. This is what Mária Hári called 'the contact'. This expression might sound so physical and so cold, but it was not meant so. The contact, the touching referred to is not 'physical' (in the sense of physiological', it is... oh, what's the word in English?In English we struggle to express such contact (such 'encounter' as Martin Buber, and followers such as Carl Rogers, expressed it) extending out from the individual to the social).

You could say that the contact is 'emotional', but that somehow fails to catch it.

What you just cannot say in English is 'spiritual' or psychic', not anyway if you do not want to to sound up with the fairies.

And you most certainly do not talk about the 'soul' in technical contexts.

In German, however, you can say psychische and in Russian you say psikhicheskii (and you could de so right through the era of dialectical materialism, than which nothing could be further from the fairies). Here in the English-speaking world, though, we are in the bizarre position of have a psychology but no psyche for it to study.

I do not know what the Hungarians say in this context but no doubt now I shall soon be told!

But how do you talk about bringing up children, about pedagogy, without recourse to some such concepts? Those who know me know that I neither make nor need personal recourse to God or the Tooth Fairy, and that what I seek is a material account to catch and match material phenomena. And I need words to communicate this.
Look again at these two videos from Rising Star.

The one that so enthused Judit is especially telling. Something very material and concrete is happening between those two conductors, Judit Kiss and Gabi Juház, and those children, something that needs catching, then matching with appropriate words if the experience is to be communicated.

This is more than just the usual soppy promo video, with swirling music, cute kids, keen parents and familiar situations and songs (though it has these too).

Kelly Lepo: 'You can see the pride in their faces when they are doing something'. Debbie Heintz: 'I'm so proud, not just of my daughter but of all the kids'. Kelly and Debbie say a lot more. So do Judit and Gabi. The four of them should write it out, as a more powerful statement of fundaments of Conductive Education than choke a thousand webpages.

Some random reflections

What is pride/proud? Is is a psychological category (an emotion) or a value (a philosophical one). Or, more likely, some complex intermixture of the two (you can ask the same question of that other well exercised concept, 'hope'!). Just what is it that we are dealing with here? We are certainly dealing with something that is not just experienced powerfully by those involved but has its own further powerful active effects upon human activity and development. So how do we harness and focus this to the service of pedagogy and upbringing? For a start it would help if we could talk about it.

The discourse of developmental psychology, (interactions, transactions etc.) does not really do the trick here. Or maybe I'm just out of date: it does now and I've just missed it – but I doubt it..And the language of biology and medicine is streets behind.

Airy-fairy nonsense? Well, something is working here:
  • I used to say that the way that I could tell whether I was in the presence of 'it' (not just through CE, either) was because of the children's eyes. They were 'alive'. By extension this applies to the parents too. And of course, to the pedagogues.
  • One hears a lot about speech and verbal communication in CE, and very right too, but unless there is something 'deeper' involved then such analysis runs the danger of being superficial, mechanistic, reductionist.
  • One hears too little about physical communication. We should hear more, as we did see and hear a little here from Judit and Gabi..
  • 'Visual communication' falls pathetically short of what is needed to describe a further channel or modality of communication, 'eye-contact' is just vulgar.
  • Content/meaning/sense is a vital part of the analysis, whatever the modality. What is it that is being conveyed in the mutual pedagogic gaze displayed so vividly in this video?
Is this the place (and the time of year) to start asking about pedagogic love.

It's that secret weapon again

This is a special video. A couple of months back I reported on another special video, from Gaitway of Tucson, Arizona, starring conductor Viktória Szokniki (Sutton, 2009b). These two videos differ in style but have in common letting conductors show and recount their practice, in their ow n spontaneous, straightforward words, free of the clunking verbal baggage of years and years of 'outside' miscomprehension.

These young, articlate conductors are the secret weapon against which the wicked world should have no defense.


Kyle, M. (2008) Small miracles happen with "Rising Stars", 6 June

Sutton, A. (2009a) Balderdash today – 3 Conductive World, 18 September

Sutton, A. (2009b) Ex America semper aliquod novi, Conductive World, 10 December

Szathmáry, J. (2009) 'Rising Star... A brighter approach to teaching children with motor disabilities', Judit Szathmáry, 1 December

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