Sunday, 31 January 2010

Quis? Ego


Best thing on the CE-Internet this week was said by a six-year-old who is only just beginning to speak.

Clearly, I am not the only one to think so.

What she has said is a wonderful mantra for developmental-pedagogic-upbringing contemplation and discussion.

Who 'owns' Conductive Education?

It also set me off thinking about another question, one that is not publicly addressed – who 'owns' the process (the practice, if you like) of Conductive Education. Here are some possibilities.
  • The people who pay for it, the funders, the managers, in a very few cases the state? This can be argues to be wholly proper – but he who pays the piper does so often likes to call the tune.
  • The conductors? They are paid to do it (usually), so we are soon back to the previous point. What happens if they become a 'profession', at least in some countries? Personally, I am still with Lloyd-George, or Clemenceau or whoever else might be attributed with the original saying: Conductive Education is too important to be left to the conductors.
  • The learners? But CE is a transaction, and is no more possible without the social encounter than is anything in human development.
The vignette about the six-year-old girl gives the clue. She is an active agent in her own (conductive) development, she and the conductor present 'owned' that particular transaction, because they created it. It would not have been possible without the active agency of both.

Yes, I know, this gives no space for consideration of accountability, financial or otherwise, and doubtless all sorts of other 'outside' considerations that are important in their own ways. But it does give a substantive conceptual platform from which to look out on the rest.

And it does one more thing. It indicates that a little girl on the threshold of conscious individual existence is in fact already well in possession of her own being. Se is already a subject. She is not an object.

A lot of people need to note this.

A soppy little story...

No, not the one reported her. Here's one by L. N. Tolstoi. When talking about theories of upbringing to students I tried also to indicate that there are different ways of thinking about how one should bring up children. I am personally far from Rousseauesque in this respect but I did like to give the students copies of one of Tolstoi's shorter short stories (or even read it to them them, it takes but a few minutes!)

The title says it all:

Little girls wiser than men
(not a brilliant translation but I do not have my own handy)

And if you don 't know anything about Tolstoi, shame on you, though there is currently a film going the rounds...

US: congratulations due

SB is go

The advertised course on Conductive Education and spina bifida has attracted the required number of registrants and is definitely on. There will be seven participants, six of them conductors.

This is a big step for CE, the first CE/SB event in the international CE movement's very first CE-SB event, anywhere.

A big step for conductors too, a professional-development course outside Hungary, attended by six conductors.

Hats off to Kasey Grey and Andrea Benyovszky. They deserve a medal. Please ladies, written report of the course when it is done, so that we can all learn something.

Spina Bifida and Conductive Education
Two-day workshop
Conductive Learning Center
Grand Rapids
18-19 March 2010

The course follows on from the successful inauguration late last year of one of CE's first special interest groups. So, it can be done! Sign up to keep in touch:

A couple of previous postings on spina bifida

More where those came from!

UK: meanwhile, less cheery news

Next week's Hemi-Help education conference in Birmingham, particularly relevant to teachers, teaching assistants, SENCOs, special needs advisers and educational psychologists, has been postponed until further notice, due to a lack of confirmed attendees,

It was to have included a contribution from conductor Wendy Baker, on Conductive Education. So it goes. A sign of the times?

Hungarian wood

Conductors, who needs ya, baby?

Home > Special Populations > Positioning > Conductive Ed
Conductive Education Equipment
Conductive education kits that help children with motor disabilities improve their coordination and movement.

From a wooden-furniture advertisement, from the United States:


Where can I look it up?

A correspondent writes –
I am searching for a published definition or explanation of 'upbringing' or anything which pays attention to the concept in some detail. Do you have any suggestion? Was it your book about Hári which had something about this notion?

I am looking for something in English that gives some clarification of the term, not necessary in CE, just in general terms.
What an elementary but nonetheless searching enquiry. Since my correspondent is Hungarian, and a conductor to boot, then once I should have thought that she could perhaps answer the matter raised in her first paragraph far better that I might. Her second paragraph, however, suggests that she is asking something different – I think. So here is a rather discursive response that might help her formulate something of the answer that she requires. 

The only way in which I can think of structuring this is to recount it historically.  

I first really came upon Conductive Education some thirty years ago, at one of those three-day courses run by Ester Cotton. I was immediately struck by a glaring, inherent contradiction in what she was saying (funny, no one else was and few seem to have been since):

  • on the one hand there were the most remarkable developmental transformations that she described so enthusiastically, occurring in some distant and unreachable Shangri-Lâ called 'the Institute', locked away at that time behind the Iron Curtain, in Budapest, Hungary
  • on the other, there were the simple nostrum of the 'five principles of Conductive Education' that she was sharing on the course that weekend – that individually or together, and however well they might be executed, could patently never attain anything like the transformational effects that she reported from Budapest.
As a psychologist with a little background in Soviet psychology and special education, I could, however, see behind this something of the universe of forces that might actually be leading to the results reported from Budapest.

Only much later, as I have very slowly unpicked the tangled mix of myth and misinformation around what we call in English 'Conductive Education', did I begin for myself to see more concretely what Ester Cotton had patched together to create these 'principles'. That, however, is another story. More important at that time, was to understand something of what what she had missed.


Before I had really met the work of L. S. Vygotskii and his fellows, my first loves in Soviet psycho-pedagogy had been A. S. Makarenko and vospitanie. In the early nineteen-seventies I even ran a university extra-mural course around this for a couple of years, called 'An alternative psychology of childhood'. I do not know what the punters thought they were signing up to under that title (in the early seventies of all times!) but most of them seemed to enjoy it. A good proportion of those who came were teachers – and a large slab of each of these two twenty-week courses was on vospitanie. In those days, anyway, the sort of teachers who would surrender their own time and money to going on such a course seemed to find all this intrinsically plausible – and rather enviable!

Makarenko is a lot less 'intellectual' than Vygotskii (I'll say!) and a lot more practical. His life and ideas can also be great fun to put across, the primary sources are a jolly read, and the pedagogic technology developed out of this, in the family, in school and in wider society, was awesome, both in its substance and in its implications, perhaps especially so in those would-be 'radical' times.

The Russian word vospitanie is most readily translatable into English  as 'upbringing', meaning what is involved in bringing up children – particularly bringing them up to attain your goals.

And as my correspondent well knows, the equivalent word in Hungarian is nevelés. Indeed, when she was a girl, and a teenager, and a student, and a young conductor, the equivalence between Soviet vospitanie and Hungarian nevelés was all the greater, because of the massive influence of Makarenko across the then Soviet bloc. She and her peers, and the generation before in Hungary, experienced in their schools not just 'upbringing' but a Socialist upbringing closely modelled on the Soviet model. She experienced benefits that she and her peers may sometimes now look back upon with a certain guilty nostalgia, the little blue neck-scarves, the funny salute, the stirring songs, the jolly, free holiday camps... from all of which that now remains just the 'Pioneer Railway' in the Buda Hills.

The full name of the State Institute for the Motor Disordered in Budapest proclaimed that it was nevelési – to do with upbringing. Student-conductors at the State Institute were lectured on Makarenko (by Ildikó Kozma, no less, for a time). There was even a children's town in Fót, for delinquents, directly analogous to Makarenko's own Gorky Colony (Mária Hári's best friend from her school days, was a psychologist there). With respect to Conductive Education, the only thing for the aware visitor from abroad to question was whether the Hungarian czoport (group) differed in substance from Makarenko's kollektiv and, if so, how.

Who cares?

In the nineteen-sixties and seventies, 'the West' (particularly America) had been fascinated by the motivated, achieving, well-behaved and aspirational schools and schoolchildren reported from behind the Iron Curtain – compared with the increasing educational shambles and failure experienced in school systems in the English-speaking world. Sputnik and what this said about the Arms Race brought this very much home to political and therefore academic attention. After all, if Soviet children were really doing better, how they were being brought up by their families, their schools and society at large, provided the obvious place to look! If you want to read about Soviet education and Soviet upbringing, go to the second-hand bookshops and look around for the wonderful stuff still to be found there. You can find plenty of books from the sixties and seventies on vospitanie

There I was, at the start of the eighties, with a new-found interest in what was already beginning to be called in English 'Conductive Education'. I was certainly not the only person outside Hungary interested in Conductive Education at that time and I thought that some of the others might be delighted to be introduced to the much wider current of interest directed towards Soviet psycho-pedagogy. Whoops! It took me very a long time fully to wake to the fact that I had now left the world of intellectual excitement and enquiry, of social relevance and serious political concern, and tumbled down the rabbit hole into the Alice in Wonderland world of physical disability – Mária Hári's allusion, not mine.

In my naivety, using the simple samizdat tools of the day, I produced a range of leaflets and pamphlets to introduce people then working in the light of Ester Cotton's 'principles' to some of the other factors that they might consider. In the well-known words of Corporal Jones: 'They did not like it up'em'. Not entirely true: in Birmingham Philippa Cottam, Jayne Titchener and I formed the 'Birmingham Group' to explore the relevance of such ideas (soon joined by Ronni Nanton). In 1983 Ester Cotton formed an organisation, the Conductive Education Interest Group. Philippa, Jayne, Ronni I went our separate way (Sutton, 1984), setting off the chain events that a couple of years later led unwittingly to the international migration of Conductive Education.

In this, however, relatively few have seemed to care much about explicit questions of vospitanie, the international CE movement having assumed forms and developing practices that have permitted little or no attention to upbringing, practical or academic. Most astonishingly, in both the English language and in other 'literatures' translated from it (who translates from Hungarian?) Ester Cotton's 'principles' have floated buoyantly along on top of it all – you can even hear conductors repeating them!

By the way, I have absolutely no idea whatsoever about what the new generation of conductors learn about upbringing, wherever they are trained. Maybe they are all still taught about Makarenko and (as I used to teach too, about the 'post-Makarenoan' V. A Sukhomlinskii). Perhaps not. Perhaps there is nothing like vospitanie in present-day conductor education, perhaps it has been substituted by something different. No harm in that of course, as long as the new is compatible.

(It is another strange feature of the world of Conductive Education that it does not publish what its front-line operatives (the conductors) are actually taught to believe, do and to aspire to. Perhaps, though, those who pay for conductive practices, or agitate for the public services to do so on their behalf, really ought to know such things. If the public services are ever to take this matter seriously, then they surely will want to know.)

What to read?

So, if my correspondent's question means that she is looking for academic-professional publications in English concerning 'conductive upbringing', then I am afraid that she will be rather disappointed. The sad fact is that no widespread discussion of conductive upbringing was ever sparked off from that early attention in the UK, and upbringing as a component of Conductive Education has not been subject to either academic research or professional description. With isolated and generally ignored exceptions, and whatever may happen in practice, we have had a described 'Conductive Education' free of explicit account of how to bring up children, how to inculcate values, in fact free of child-rearing and the role of personality-formation in general. Since in the UK education  in general seems to operate with a similar gaping void at its heart then perhaps this is hardly surprising in that country, but one might perhaps have expected some other countries to expect better..

(There is one obvious European exception: the theorised work of Yves Bawin and his colleagues in Belgium. And of course in Israel, for quite different reasons, there is the work of Tsad Kadima).

So, is there nothing to read in English about conductive upbringing?. Yes, a bit. My correspondent mentions Mária Hári, specifically the short collection that Gill Maguire and I edited a few years ago (Maguire and Sutton, 2004, pp.23, 26, 75-76 and 77-80). Actually, however, this adds up to very little concrete here about neveles, either in the home or elsewhere. I am afraid that this tends to be the case in her writings in general: scatterings of mentions but no coherent whole. She was more of a 'pedagogy person', at least when it came to public presentation. Perhaps this has served to reinforce people's lack of explicit attention to upbringing.

The only Hungarian authors whom I know to devote a whole book to conductive upbringing in more accessible languages have been Károly and Magda Ákos (1991). Their book Dina has been almost totally ignored by the professional establishment in the West (and by institutional Conductive Education), though some parents have sworn by it. Dina has been published in German, English, Russian and Chinese, though not in Hungarian. I doubt that many conductors (or any other Hungarians) have even heard of it (do please correct me if I am wrong).

Few conductors write about upbringing (few conductors write!). Susie Mallett has frequently introduced and described concrete examples of  conductive upbringing on her blog, and that's about it.

And parents? Over the years Emma McDowell has published a number of items about bringing up her son conductively, and made principled statements. Had I time, I could probably trace several more. Norman Perrin's blog evidences conductive upbringing, and so recently has James Forliti's, but the English-language parental blogosphere so far is remarkable mainly for its convincing demonstration of how little parents who have 'done Conductive Education' have taken home with them to incorporate into the upbringing of their child – and presumably therefore how little effective attention is given to this vital matter during their experiences of Conductive Education.

As for professionals observing from 'outside', James House (1968) was a notable exception in headlining something related to this aspect of the process – though he did not express it in these terms. Perhaps this is part of my correspondent's problem in finding English-language literature on this theme. Without our own tradition of considering questions of upbringing, there is no conceptual framework, no common vocabulary even, for us English-speakers to use. So we tend to ignore the whole essential area, so that it just bobs up unexpectedly here and there, almost unnoticed even by the writers themselves..

My correspondent asks –
I am looking for something in English that gives some clarification of the term.
My best advice for a quick and significant introduction to Soviet vospitanie is to go to Urie Bronfenbrenner's (1974) charming little book called Two Worlds of Childhood, which at one time no self-respecting Education Library  would be without, in this country anyway. She will still find copies aplenty going for a song on the Internet (though many contemporary English-speaking educators, I suspect, may never have heard of it). She could also try and n antikvariat or two. His book has helped me understand what I mean by the term 'upbringing'. It might help her.

Pedagogy, upbringing and effective practice
(in Conductive Education, as elsewhere)

Coincidentally (I think) another conductor correspondent recently wrote to me:
Please tell me a bit more about the enormous advantage upbringing has over pedagogy.
I answered, cryptically and perhaps too briefly (but it was late at night): 'TIME and LOVE.  For good or ill'.

I do not know how far this response would really stand up critical examination. I do rather suspect, however, that 

  • whatever is done in schools or centres, however excellent the pedagogy provided there, this will be enormously more effective if the child returns home to a 'conductive family', and 
  • correspondingly, that a sound conductive upbringing at home is to be enormously reinforced by access to a good professional conductive service. 
Hardly an Earth-shattering revelation!. Indeed, self-evident to the point of being banal, But where does one ever see this explicitly stated? And how often does it simply not happen in practice? And then along come the people who 'evaluate Conductive Education'...!


1.    Former students of mine to whom I lectured over the years about V. A. Sukhomlinski will find that, thanks to the individual pioneering work of Alan Cockerill, this renounced Soviet educator is at last subject to scholarly attention in the English-speaking West. (Note that he is now Sukmolinsky with a -y and that is being hailed as a great Ukrainian educator, with a new Ukhrainian transliteration: Sukhomlyns'kyi). For a nice, recent human touch, see Alan Cockerill's recent blog of his visit to the schol at Pavlysh to see the material roots of Sukhomlinskii's work:

2.  There was actually more than one strand to Soviet vospitanie, as can be seen in Bronfenbrenner's book. Two important strands were upbringing at school and family upbringing (ideally the two were of course linked, as were all aspects of the upbringing process). If the analogy between Soviet upbringing and Hungarian nevelés of the time is a valid one, then Mária Hári's mentions were concerned largely with the former, the Ákoses' largely with the latter.


Ákos, K., Ákos, M. Dina: a mother practises Conductive Education (Pető System), Birmingham, Foundation for Conductive Education, and Ulm, Alabanda Verlag
Some pages of this book are available free on line through Google books:

House, J (1968) Breakthrough in Budapest. An interview with Professor James House about a method of helping severely disabled children, Ideas of Today, vol. 16, pp. 110-114

Maguire, G., Sutton, A. (2004) Mária Hári on conductive pedagogy, Birmingham, Foundation for Conductive Education

Sutton, A. (1984) Conductive Education in the Midlands, Summer 1982: progress and problems in the importation of an educational method, Educational Studies, vol. 10, no 2, pp. 121-124 ttp://

Friday, 29 January 2010

Modern manners

I'm lost

Funny places, English universities, they have been for years. Maybe they always were. Still, I see much less of them nowadays.

Yesterday I went to one, for 'a meeting'. What a lovely physical environment to work in, how privileged. And the coffee was good, too.

Came the time to visit the ablutions. My hostess directed me '...down the corridor, then up some little stairs...'  I got as far as the little stairs, then got lost and found myself in a cul-de-sac (the usual Brummie word for a dead-end). I was spotted through an open door, by a lady in an office.

'Can I help you?' asked the lady – and did I detect that edgy cadence of suspicion or even threat that these linguistically innocent words can imply?

'Yes, please, I'm looking for the Gents.'

'And you are...?'

I had not anticipated this. I could not see how either the nature of my mission as stated, or the nature of the answer that she might supply in response, could possibly relate to such information. None of her business in fact. So, as if I considered that she might not have heard correctly, I repeated:

'I'm looking for the Gents.

'But who are you?'

Perhaps she was toilet-monitor. Perhaps she was professor of such matters. Either way, I never know how to respond favourably to Jacks-in-Office, the only rule being not to encourage them. So, rather than follow my immediate inclination, to walk off and find the Gents for myself, as I had been prepared to do anyway, I just stood.

Pause, and glower. 'There's a unisex toilet along there on the right'

I thanked her and went on my way.

'Unisex toilet', indeed. How gloriusly naff. What a dreadful self-proclaiming genteelism!

Poor soul. There is a Great Cull coming to the English universities. I wonder whether as a result some of the people there might find their way back to Planet Earth. And the concerns and  priorities of people still working there.. Should I risk holding my breath?

As others see us

It suddenly occurs to me: maybe the lady blogs. Maybe her own understanding of this brief encounter is already posted up somewhere, how yesterday she found a dreadful person outside her office door, who not only ignored her challenge, twice, but persisted in asking for genderised ablutions. She told him...

Never mind, I am off to the Palace of Westminster on Monday. I already know where to find the Gents there and, even if I get lost, I shall not experience anything but courtesy!

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

UK: charities under the Conservatives

Specifically, what about Conductive Education?

Come the summer the United Kingdom may have a Conservative ('Tory') Government. Much of the Conductive Education in the UK is implemented through the charitable sector, also known as the voluntary or third sector. What might a new Conservative Government be expecting of charities?

Conservative Party manifesto author says
Tories plan 'huge' role for sector
in service provision
Some voluntary organisations spend too much of their resources on campaigning and not enough on service provision, according to Oliver Letwin, the author of the Conservative Party's forthcoming election manifesto. Letwin, MP for West Dorset, told the NCVO's campaigning conference yesterday that a "vast and powerful" sector was necessary to deal with problems that the private sector was unwilling and the state unable to address. But he said he regretted that 'so much of the effort of some parties in the voluntary sector is devoted to campaigning. They are free to do it, but what I treasure about the sector isn't its campaigning role. Its special contribution is to do something to change things and solve problems.

He described the voluntary sector as 'one of the cornerstones' of what the Conservatives wanted to achieve and pledged that a Tory government would provide sustainable support to enable the sector to work with people the state had been unable to reach...  'You can't build capital or run a proper social enterprise on the basis of full cost recovery and micromanagement from government,' he said. 'You need to be able to make a reasonable profit and plough it back into expanding services.' All sector public service delivery should be paid for by results or with grants, he added.

He said the real question was not whether a Conservative government would turn its back on the sector but whether it would ask it to do too much, given its existing capacity. "The answer to that is 'Yes', which is why we are working out how to build the capacity not just of large but also of tiny organisations," he said. We need a huge market place of voluntary sector organisations and we need to find ways of replicating things, supporting best practice and increasing access to capital.

Good news or bad?

If you are in the UK, with concerns for the future of Conductive Education in that country, does this sound good news or bad to you? The answer will presumably depend in large part on how you regard Conductive Education's primary future social, as provision or catalyst.

If you are outside the UK then perhaps you need not care. Though do remember that the UK played a vanguard role in bringing about the international expansion of Conductive Education outside Hungary, beginning in the mid-eighties. Future British developments, if they amount to radical change, might still prove of significance elsewhere.


Jump, P. (2010) Charities should campaign less, says Oliver Letwin, Third Sector Online, 26 January

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Are you being serious?

The identification of sarcasm and irony

Always being behind on the latest trends I have only just been alerted to the existence of the 'SarkMark'.

Stupid Idea? Think About It!

With the spoken word, we use our tone, inflection and volume to question, exclaim and convey our feelings. The written word has question marks and exclamation points to document those thoughts, BUT sarcasm has NOTHING! In today’s world with increasing commentary, debate and rhetoric, what better time could there be than NOW, to ensure that no sarcastic message, comment or opinion is left behind...Equal Rights for Sarcasm - Use the SarcMark.

It comes, as such things tend to do, from America. I suppose that, being British, I should say that it most certainly looks it.

Sarcasm or irony?

Is sarcasm the same as irony? They they do seem to be variations upon the same trait, distinguished by the nuances of snobbery, the better kind of person being possessed or irony, lesser beings (including of course foreigners) being stuck with sarcasm, the 'lowest form of wit'.

One of the strange illusions that the British hold about themselves is that a sense of irony is a particularly refined art amongst the British. As a corollary, it may be considered that a developed sense of irony is not to be found amongst other nations. The British find it highly amusing to think that there could be such a thing as American irony, or Italian irony, or German irony. (The Brits have no myths one way or other about Magyars, and no myths means no information whatsoever).

The most useful human truth to consider in discussions of group differences is that there is usually at least as much within-group as between-group variation. In other words, people vary a lot in their exercise of the sarcasm/irony trait, whoever they are.

I personally do rather tend rather towards 'the lowest form of wit', rather often in fact. Those similarly oriented or inclined go along with this, but others, less so, and do at times take considerable umbrage. My positions on all sorts of issues, some of which I consider far too deep for tears, and address accordingly, have sometimes been severely misunderstood over the years because of such mismatch of style. Indeed, I have at times landed myself in severely hot water for ironical or sarcastic comments (the fault for which is always always unquestionably laid at my own door).

Flag it?

So the idea of the SarkMark seemed on first hearing yesterday to offer a great advance in the technology of human communication (at least in cases when one's interlocutors grasp the underlying notion of punctuation in the first place). Give widespread adaptation of the proposed SarcMark, people would know what to lake literally or seriously, and when to summon up that extra 'a pinch of salt' and ask themselves what is really being said.

I could then flag up a warning sign about the way that I might regard researchers' almost unavoidable conclusion that 'more research is needed', or of the attitude of the parent-Mayor of Brusselles towards the paediatricans and associated persons at their forthcoming big conflab in his city. Then those readers who just 'don't get it' at first reading, or get it sure enough but then refuse to accept it as an ironical (or sarcastic) take upon the doings of of the day, would have a zonking great signpost to help orient them to what they are really reading.

A SarcMark stuck in the ground next to such unrecognised verbal UXBs might prove helpful to some readers, not just with what they encounter here in Conductive World but, as the originators of this would-be punctuation mark intends, in all sorts of contexts elsewhere.

So, will or won't I?

Utilitarian or no, the SarkMark is a strange whimsy, its inner contradiction being enough to banish it from the punctuation of the literate. Simply put, if one's intentions so need flagging up or signposting, then explicit signage to say 'This bit is meant sarcastically' indicate no more than writers' contempt for the audience's intelligence, other than for those tawdry aspects of their topic towards which their withering contempt should be directed.

So the SarkMark is unlikely to find itself deployed here on Conductive World. Some things here might indeed be meant sarcastically (or even ironically) but please don't expect this to be spelt out in neon. There are things to be reported in Conductive Education in which assiduously applied SarkMark would come so thick and fast as to be in danger of enveloping significant parts of the text. Indeed there are some topics in and around Conductive Education, proper mention of which might cry out for the assumption that 'sarc' is the default mode for every word to be said about it.

This leads one inevitably to the next logical step – introduction of a further, new soi-disant punctuation mark, to make clear those few parts where one might be safe to take seriously what one reads.

Sarcasm and irony are really effective only if listeners or readers have to stay on their toes, and recognise them, or make their own judgement of just how seriously they should be taking the outer form of what they read or hear, then seek or apply the inner meaning for themselves. In other words, they have to have their own critical stance, their own critical apparatus, and never, never believe all that they hear of read.

I am all for punctuation as means to help convey the meaning of a text (ask the students whom I used to persecute over this), but the arc mark, despite its claim is not, I think, a punctuation mark in its proper sense. It is rather a prop (a 'support') that teaches the audience to be passive recipients of information presented. It robs them of the possibility of active agency within this transaction (sound familiar?). It closes down on their ability to learn, and that would surely never do.

Not in Conductive Education, of all places.

Further enlightenment

– (2010) SarcMark. Tell them how you really feel

Meltzer, T. (2010) The rise of the SarcMark – oh, how brilliant, Guardian, 20 January

Monday, 25 January 2010

Conductors working in Germany

More than meets the eye

Gill Maguire is continuing publication of her lists of places where conductors work around the world. The latest country for her attention is Germany. You will find her listing at:

Gill has restricted her listing to services that are provided only by conductors. She has not included services provided by PTKs (therapists with add-on training), and conductors working in various private capacities are not identified. The list still includes centres or others services (all of which – I believe – are permanent provisions (i.e. not occasional camps as a listing of programs in the United States might include).

The list extends to thirty-two centres or other kinds of service, some rather small, some quite substantial. As everywhere, most of the practice is directed towards children with cerebral palsy. Those outside Germany may not be aware of the extent of conductors' practice in that country, where there is also a constituted conductors' association of some years' standing.

One hears many things about Conductive Education in Germany, and Conductive Education had experienced more academic-professional publication in German over recent years than it has in English. On the other hand, with one exception, there is virtually nothing to be learned first-hand of the considerable body of practice from the conductors active in Germany. Another of Conductive Education's forgotten armies: a pity: a lot is surely being missed.

If you detect any omissions or errors in Gill's list, please contact her direct:

Sunday, 24 January 2010

La Ronde

Drawing, painting – and some theoretical links?

Susie Mallett's Conductor blog has just published an interesting account of teaching drawing and painting – that's the act of drawing and painting (including when an artist is disabled).

Her account reflects years of teaching drawing and painting, but was prompted in this form by recent publication if an article by conductor Julia Horváth from the Pető Institute, of which it offers a mild critique.

Susie's posting may be of intrinsic practical interest for those who 'do' drawing and painting. At a theoretical level, however, I was immediately struck by how her understanding accords with L. S. Vygotskii's psychology of art.

LS was not of course writing about graphic but about dramatic art, specifically about Shakespeare's Hamlet, which he approached on the basis of the essential nature of performance. Susie is concerned with the essential nature of the process of graphic creativity. Common, it struck me, is that both of these understandings are praxis-based. In Conductive Education's own jargon, they are operative.

This is where, at the theoretical level her approach differs from Julia's, the one materialist, the other idealist.

Theoretical links?

There is plenty to read in English about Vygotskii's psychology of art. Like most English-language stuff on Vygotskii (usually 'Vygotsky with a y'), however, this tends to be what used to be called 'bourgeois science'. For an introduction, why not go for the horse's mouth, to be found in part anyway on the Marxists website.

From my mention of Vygotskii and 'performance', it is but a short step to Lois Holzman's Vygotskian therapeutic theatre in New York.

And thence another step (more a vertiginous leap!) across to Jakob Moreno.

And from Moreno – I leave you to make your own next steps, to close the circle.


Holzman, L.

Mallett, S.

Horvath, J.

Moreno, J.

Sutton, A.

Vygotskii, L. S.

La ronde

The linear story of a venereal infection that provides the plot structure for La Ronde is a simple and seductive one, often applied by those who seek to explain the history of Conductive Education (and of much else). The history of ideas, however, is much more complex than can be 'traced' in this manner, as ever, the social cannot be understood through a biological model. Like in La Ronde, however it makes for a simple story with widespread appeal. Don't you believe it!

By the way, in writing this posting I noticed something that I do not think is generally remarked upon. See the specific plot structure outlined in the Wikipedia article referred to above. This story is a pantoum:

*  I do not know what afflicts this URL, but it refuses to incorporate the necesary closing bracket in the live link. A pity, because the whole sense of this passage depends upon it! You have three ways round this problem:
  • click in the link anyway and you will go to a Wikipedia page on which you may click again on La Ronde (the play).
  • Cut and paste the URL as given above into the box at the top of your screen, and press Enter.
  • Go to Google and search for "LA RONDE - TOURNENT MES PERSONNAGES"
I need a technician!

Saturday, 23 January 2010

More Conduction Education jobs...

Job Centre's first five weeks

The Conductive Education Job Centre opened a week before Christmas.

The last five weeks have seen both jobs wanted and jobs vacant advertised, from France, the United Kingdom and the the United States, twenty-four jobs in all.

The Job Centre now has 258 signed-up 'friends'.

So far advertising has involved only conductor jobs. Don't forget that there are other vital jobs to be filled, in and around Conductive Education.

Advertisement is free.

A users' manual has been published. Suggestions for improvement are welcome.


Conductive Education Jobs Centre
(whichever you find easier to remember)

Users' Manual

Previous posting on this topic

Sister site

Conductive World Market
(sales and wants related to Conductive Education, including vacancies in programs and centres

Friday, 22 January 2010

Des grandes fromages aux Bruxelles

Big cheeses in Europe

From an email received today, from Prof. Bernard Dan –

EACD 2010 in the Capital of Europe

Dear Colleagues,

The forthcoming meeting of the European Academy of Childhood Disability will take place in Brussels from 26 to 29 May 2010.

The scientific programme of the meeting will focus on evaluation of management outcome in childhood disability. Many areas will be covered, including movement disorders, spasticity, visual problems, ADHD, behaviour, education, communication, muscle disorders, epilepsy, nutrition, cognition, transitions to adulthood, pain and sleep. Moreover, the very location of the meeting in Brussels will emphasise the European perspective of the action of the EACD.

In addition to patronage of Her Royal Highness Princess Astrid of Belgium and the City of Brussels, Mr. Jerzy Buzek, the President of the European Parliament, has accepted to offer us the patronage of the European Parliament. The first European highlight of the meeting will be the address of Ms. Roberta Angelilli, Vice-President of the European Parliament, at the official opening ceremony, which will be hosted by the Mayor of Brussels in the magnificent Salle Gothique at the Grand Place of Brussels.

The scientific programme itself includes several European highlights. There will be a symposium on orphan drugs organised in partnership with the European Medicines Evaluation Agency (EMEA). There will also be a special workshop dedicated to European policies in childhood disability, addressing health service provision, basic and clinical research, public health policies and networking, and a keynote lecture on a European perspective in policy making in childhood disability by Dr. Andrzej Rys, Director of Public Health at the European Commission.

Overall, the programme promises to be varied and educational. We look forward to seeing you in Brussels.

On behalf of the organising committee,
Prof. Bernard Dan,
President of EACD 2010 Meeting

'Capital of Europe'? He jests. Surely.

M.Dan is an academic neurologist. In Brussells

From the conference blurb

The EACD is an academic, multidisciplinary association of professionals working with children with disabilities throughout Europe. Its members include paediatricians, paediatric neurologists, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, speech and communication therapists, psychologists, rehabilitation physicians, orthopaedic surgeons, orthotists, nurses, dieticians, social workers and special-needs teachers. The EACD aims to ensure the development of high quality research and teaching in the field of childhood disability and improve the care of these children across Europe.

The theme of the Brussels 2010 EACD Meeting is "MEASURES OF PROGRESS – Evaluating management outcome in childhood disability". Major conceptual and technological advances in the management of children with neurodevelopmental disability have brought about new challenges with respect to evaluation, management and research in habilitation outcomes. The Brussels 2010 EACD Meeting will provide an occasion for updating and clarifying the multidimensional model of disablement as it specifically applies to management of children with neurodevelopmental disability. It will reemphasise the need for reliable measurement of management outcomes through new findings, from functional imaging to quality of life assessment...

... There will be sessions organised together with the European Paediatric Neurology Society (EPNS) and a session organized by the American Academy for Cerebral Palsy and Developmental Medicine (AACPDM). There will be a special workshop dedicated to European Union policy making for the benefit of children with disabilities and a workshop on parenting the child with disabilities organised by parents for parents...

... The Mayor of Brussels, Freddy Thielemans, will welcome us at an opening reception in the magnificent Salle Gothique at the Grand Place, which is arguably the most beautiful square in the world.

Key-note addresses

The first obligation of the healer is to establish that the treatment works (Nigel Paneth, USA)
  • Translational research: from animal models to child habilitation (Tommasso Pizzorusso, Italy)
  • Multidisciplinarity approach (Martin Bax, UK) 
  • From stem cells to neural networks: basic mechanisms and perspectives for neurodevelopmental disorders (Pierre Vanderhaeghen, Belgium) 
  • From early assessment and therapeutic education to later assessment (Michel Le Métayer, France) 
  • Essentials of measuring health and life quality in youth with neurodevelopmental conditions (Gabriel Ronen, Canada) 
  • Finding pathways from gene to behaviour (Christopher Oliver, UK) 
  • Augmentative communication (Annalu Waller, UK) 
  • European perspective in policy making in childhood disability (Andrzej Rys, European Commission) 
  • Evidence-based practice (Hans Forssberg, Sweden)
Some interesting and not all unproblematic propositions there. If I had several hundred Euros to spare I should dearly love to go an hear some of them, and puzzle whether 'Europe' is going to be part of the solution, or just another (very big) manifestation of the problem? It certainly seems for some to be one big Klondyke.

I won't make the usual observation, nor ask the usual question here...

Inter alia, there will also be 'instructional courses':

Courses on the methods of therapy evaluation, on the Measures of Progress, on how to perform RCTs and meta-analysis studies are very welcome as well as courses related to the main topics of the meeting.

Again, no comment, no question.

The Mayor's greeting to the conference

The greeting to the conference by Freddy Thielemans, Mayor of the City of Brussels, concludes with these words –

… The struggle is constantly renewed. A fight against hopelessness or abandon, a fight in favour of continued life, fair education (sometimes of the parents as well), but also a demand for a measure of humility. To have to bear all the know-well, all those who know better than the medical team or the patient or even the family. Those who know why and how to the point of charlatanism. Why is wisdom such an unattainable virtue?

I wish to thank all of you, and all the others, who have helped us in keeping hope, who were with us in times of despair and in particular those who never lied to us. For truth is another necessary weapon under the circumstances.

Ladies and Gentlemen, as the Mayor of this City I want to thank you for being within our walls. But in particular, as the father of a wonderful daughter with a disability, I wish to express my gratitude for the help, the hope and the knowledge we may share thanks to you. In the hope that her life, and the life of all children with disabilities, may still be full of happiness, beauty and especially of the greatest freedom.

Now read that all again, knowing that Freddy Thielemans, Mayor of the City of Brussels, has a disabled daughter. I wonder...

Measures of Progress
Management of children with developmental disorders
22nd Annual Meeting of the
European Academy of Childhood Disability
27-29 May 2010
Under the Patronage of
HRH Princess Astrid of Belgium,
The European Parliament and
The City of Brussels

Public row in Sweden

Look what the rest of us are missing

This morning, and without comment, Lars Mulback sent me the following press release:

This is in Swedish. By my own reckoning, this is what it says –

Do not miss: "'Health care is CP', to be shown in TV4 at 1600 hours on Saturday 23 January

In this new documentary Mullback sets the nation's leading CP-researchers, Hans Forsberg, Ann-Christin Eliasson and Eva Brogren-Carlberg, against Professor Arvid Carlsson joint winner of a Nobel Prize in 2000 for the discovery that the brain is plastic.

'Neglect!' screamed Lars Mullback in a debate in 1996, 'Cerebrally palsied children, so cherished by the Swedish health care system die prematurely as a result of the well-meaning help of incompetent therapists, instead of teaching their patients to move'. He followed up by setting up embarrassing documentary films in TV4 on health care that was awkward at helping those with cerebral palsy with their problems.

Doctors said that Mullback had told lies and exaggerated in the television and newspaper debate and the National Board found that the method that had taught Mullback to eat and to dress himself in three months, was quackery and should be banned in Sweden.

Despite the opposition and warnings of the establishment, five private schools have been established in Sweden and several thousand have been trained through Conductive Education, the method that has been so controversial. Many have to pay several hundred thousands themselves for their treatment if they live in the wrong county.

Lars Mullback, film-maker and himself disabled with cerebral palsy, has now made a new documentary about what has happened to children with cerebral palsy who chose the Hungarian treatment in the late 1990s. Now, they can tell us how even today training services are not offered as a treatment option.

This new film is called: 'Health care is CP!. which means that those with cerebral palsy have learning problems that are best remedied by education, not health care.

In this new documentary Mullback sets the nation's leading CP-researchers, Hans Forsberg, Ann-Christin Eliasson and Eva Brogren-Carlberg, against Professor Arvid Carlsson joint winner of a Nobel Prize in 2000 for discovering that the brain is plastic.

Contrary to the Nobel Laureate, this is the view of the three scientists,who govern how cerebral palsy should be treated in Sweden. These three do not believe that Conductive Education is somehow better than medical care. 'It is neither better nor worse' says Hans Forssberg.

Nobel Laureate Arvid Carlsson, however, says: ''The brain is plastic, meaning that it can rebuild itself and solearn new things. This also applies to a damaged brain. New synapses emerge and seek new contacts with other cells. With conductive pedagogical help children with cerebral palsy learn to move . Though I am not an authority on the CP area, I have seen this when I visited your school, said Arvid Carlsson in the film, stressing the importance of providing children with praise when they do things right: 'It is through the encouragement of a reward system as we learn new skills,' he explains.

The three scientists believe that they have evidence to the contrary, that it is not good to get children with cerebral palsy to move in a more correct manner. Eva Brogren-Carlberg says: 'The disabled themselves should have their own idea of how to move, that someone else should teach you a movement, I perceive as problematic.'

Maria Andersson is now 18 years and has cerebral palsy. Today she says: 'It has often been tough many times but I regret nothing.. Without this training, today I would have been a package.'

Due to lack of interest in this treatment option, only twenty percent of those with cerebral palsy in this country receive support for Conductive Education, the remainder are referred to the medical rehabilitation services, without any educational assistance to develop their ability.

Maria Andersson says: 'I have friends who have been packages. I am receiving the best training, I see the course. I am receiving the best training, I see how it goes. Those who do not get it, they only get worse. It is very hard to see.

I would not take my translation to court but I think that it conveys the drift. The word 'training' is frequently used in Norwegian and Swedish to cover both Conductive Education and therapy. I have never been able to discover whether it bears the same rather negative connotations in those languages as it can in English. I have translated sjukgymnasters as 'therapist'. I could have said 'remedial gymnast'. I am sure that neither English term will really be equivalent. The wor kolli can be translated as package, parcel – or vegetable.

This is a repeat of a programme first put out over Christmas. Draw your own conclusions.

Dramatis personae

Arvid Carlsson. Pharmacologist whose work had involved dopamine and synapses, rather than plasticity in damaged nervous systems, also well-known in Sweden for his opposition of fluridisation.

Hans Forssberg. Neuroscientist, Vice-President of the Karolinska Institute and Director of Stockholm Brain Institute. His view quoted above, that CE is neither better nor any worse that other approaches, is fair summary of the outcome of nearly twenty years medical and medical-style evaluation of Conductive Education.

Ann-Christine Eliasson. Occupational therapist, working at the Karolinska Institute, has been involved with 'intensive training' which was developed in part in reaction to parental enthusiasm for Conductive Education.

Eva Brogren-Carlberg. Physiotherapist, also at the Karolinska Institute.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

UK government funding for Pető Institute

Continuing questions?

For years and years I have been reading nonsense, fielding questions and correcting misapprehensions about the UK Government's financial contribution to the rebuilding of the Pető Institute's building in Villányi út in Budapest. I have experienced three examples only this week.

Perhaps it doesn't matter now. Perhaps it never did! Perhaps there is no one left on the planet who cares tuppence about the issue..

For the record, however, presented herewith are two concrete public documents. If having read these you have specific questions or comments on this matter then I shall try to respond them. You may do so by using the COMMENTS facility at the foot of this posting. Or you can write a private email to:

1991: original treaty (English version only)

1997:  final treaty (in English and Hungarian)

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

An offer you can't refuse

Only few days remaining for would-be collaborators

Call for applications to organise the
8th World Congress on Conductive Education

The 7th World Congress on Conductive Education is to take place in December 2010 in Hong Kong, China. A meeting of the Executive Committee and a General Assembly of the International Pető Association will be held parallel with the Congress. Similar to previous Congresses, it is our endeavour to make the final decision regarding the organisation of the subsequent, the 8th World Congress on this occasion.

The Executive Committee of the International Pető Association is pleased to invite organisations to submit applications to host the 8th World Congress on Conductive Education. Applications should include all essential details of the applicant and of the possible partner organisation

It is desirable for applicants 
  1. To ensure that the 8th World Congress on Conductive Education is succeeded by the 7th Congress in about three years’ time (approximately in 2013)
  2. To take account of national and international as well as major religious customs and holidays when setting the date more nearly.
  3. To offer alternatives and easy travel access when specifying the venue.
  4. To guarantee accessibility and the opportunity to work for all participants (including those using special aids and appliances).
  5. To offer a wide range of accommodation possibilities.
  6. To provide acceptable organisational and financial guarantees.
  7. To offer attractive social events.
  8. To involve the Board of the International Pető Association in strategic discussions and organising committees.
  9. To collaborate with the International Pető Association.
The 8th World Congress should be characterised
  • By a great number of participants 
  • By the participation of young professionals and trainees
  • In proportion to summaries, cross cultural CE studies and own researches
  • By the collection and introduction of similar experiences and profile consequences in an abstrac
 What the IPA can offer:
  • Mailing list of possible participants
  • Advice concerning the invitation of plenary speakers
  • Setting the topics
  • Invitation of the scientific committee and coordination of their work
  • Setting up the scientific programme
  • Organisation of personal consultations with CE professionals
  • Fulfilling special professional requests other than official conference programme
We will be pleased to be at your disposal with any further information

Applications must be submitted by 31 January 2010 latest.

Applicants are requested to mail two printed copies of their application to Júlia Horváth PhD to Kútvölgyi út 6, 1125 Budapest, Hungary and to send it also via e-mail to and/or

The winner will be announced in the General Assembly of the IPA on the occasion of the 7th World Congress on Conductive Education in Hong Kong, China.

Yours sincerely,
Prof. Ildikó Kozma President
International Pető András Association

 December 2008