Sunday, 28 February 2010

Proof of the pudding – the punters

Acid practical test, of everything
  • Q.  Who is Conductive Education for? Where does the buck stop? Whose benefit is ultimately the purpose and bedrock of everything in Conductive Education?
  • A.   Its service-users, customers, clients, beneficiaries – or, to use a British colloquialism, the punters – children adults, families, carers. The benefit of all other groups is at best seconary to this.
If something delivers the punters the goods, then it is good. If it does not... well, there may be all sorts of good reasons, but...

Even if it does deliver goods, but mainly or only to other groups, like conductors, centre-managers, researchers... well.

Thursday was Conductive Education Awareness Day in North America. Looking at the effects of this in terms of media coverage on the Internet Gill Maguire suggests that this might have been 'very disappointing':


Acid test

There are of course other possible outcome criteria and doubtless these will be used elsewhere in evaluating the Awareness Day experience. The acid test, however, must be what this Day will have achieved for the punters.

Yesterday the Ridding family from Oshawa, Ontario, posted the latest item on their family blog:


They had heard of Conductive Education through the oldest communication medium of them all, still probably the best: they heard it through the grapevine. TV coverage generated for the Awareness Day then served as back up.

I just found out about something called conductive education. It was through a post at the BabyCenter Spinabifida Kids group - I hadn't joined it before, but it has alot of the same moms as the spinabifida support forum. Anyways, two of the moms posted about their kids being involved in a conductive education center. They were on the news here is the link:


I looked into it and the March of Dimes in Toronto has a program. I have NO idea what it will cost (the Center in Michigan the news report is about has a 4 week program that costs $1200). But I thought it would be interesting to check out. And if it helps great! I'll talk to the SB clinic about it. They should have some more info.

Now (for a while only, one hopes) they are out there on their own and here will come the first acid test:

I'll talk to the SB [spina bifida] clinic about it. They should have some more info.

I am sure that the best wishes of all who read this posting will accompany the Riddngs to the SB clinic in their quest for information. Let us hope that the people at the SB clinic are more CE-aware now than they might have been a week ago and that, having read what they can find, the quality of their information will be what the Riddings need.

And if not...? Whose job is it, to do what?

Diana, a tragedy in the real sense

And a distant, odd episode in the history of Conductive Education

A bit of self-indulgence last night: a couple of hours in front of the tele, to watch two consecutive documentaries on channel More 4, about the UK's incomparable Royal Family.

One was on HMQ's annus horribilis of 1992, the other specifically on Diana, Princess of Wales. Whatever you think of the BritishRoyal Family, they have offered extraordinary fascination as a soap opera, perhaps never more so that over the course of the events picked over by these two intersecting programmes.

As for me, these two programmes dealt with the only time in which, however peripherally, this saga has involved me and those around me at a personal level, because it involved the time in which Conductive Education and Princess Diana were marginally entangled.

It was a strange entanglement, ending with my boarding a coach very early in on the morning of her funeral, along with a sleepy collection of children and parents, adults and carers, staff and associates, from the Foundation for Conductive Education, to drive down to Chelsea Barracks in West London. There we would be assembled into the procession of charitable tributaries and trophies that would follow her gun carriage to Westminster Abbey. For my pains I was given a good seat in the Abbey, just behind the Great and the Good (a pity for me that most of them are also rather tall), but I did all the same have a most privileged experience of this whole public spectacle (which, no surprise, did not seem in reality quite all that it has been described).

Last night, for the first time, I was able to perspectivise Diana's life as a classical tragedy (that is a tragedy in the real, Greek sense of this now hideously devalued word). One day, perhaps it will make great drama (again, original sense). Distance does lend perspective...

And to be honest, I enjoyed sitting there on the qui vive, watching every shot, just in case...!

Diana: a life and a legacy

This morning I visited a local jumble sale. On the first stall, just inside the door, there was a mint copy of Anthony Holden's saccharine photo-biog Diana: a life and a legacy. It was only a couple of quid (now less than the proverbial price of a pint of beer) so I bought it. There on page 84 was one of the familiar photos by Rosa Monkton taken at the 'official opening' of the Foundation's National Institute of Conductive Education.

Why buy it? Habit, I suppose, from years of picking up all sorts of scraps from jumble-sales and second-hand bookshops, jig-saw pieces to be presented to Gill Maguire on the next working day, jigsaw pieces unimportant in themselves but to be classified and catalogued into an archive that one day...

Ah well, old habits die hard.

This afternoon I checked Internet book dealers,Abe Books. It looks like that, if not two a penny, copies of this book have come on to the second-hand book market is quite some numbers. I could pay up to ​27-odd quis for a copy Diana: a life and a legacy, but I could be pretty lucky for just 0.66p.

This makes me wonder about other Princess Di CE-memorabilia out there – like the philately that we helped create – and this in turn reminds me of my doubts at the time about the two-way flow of benefit between celebrity patrons and their 'good causes', and any net benefit that might result.

Now there's a good subject for critical TV documentary.

See the two TV documentaries

The Queen
(Series 1, Episode 4)

Di's Guys
Does not appear to be on line.
Pity.

Reference

Holden, A. (1997) Diana: a life and a legacy, London, Ebury Press

Saturday, 27 February 2010

UK: 'Sorry'

Or time for radical change?

The United Kingdom does not elect its governments for fixed terms. There is a maximum term before a new General Election must be called but within this it is up to the Prime Minister of the day to go to the Queen and initiate the process that will lead to the next one.

The present government's time will be up in May. A General Election could be called any day between now and then, perhaps at only a couple of weeks' notice. Not surprisingly, therefore, national politics are now even dodgier, more suspect, than they usually are. Nothing that the politicians do or say is accepted at face value (even less so than usual).

Dodgy and suspect political act of this last week (though to be unwontedly fair, this was pereannounced in November), was Prime Minister Gordon Brown's public apology to the child migrants on behalf on the British nation, along with financial compensation. That is, he apologised on behalf of me and will give some of my money, neither of which actions his Government was elected for nor, as far as I recall, was this debated in Parliament.

I have nothing against the child migrants' cause, and that it was just one sin amongst so many does not mean that it was felt any less keenly felt by its victims. I would feel happier with a better quantified profit-and-loss evaluation of the whole child-emigration project ( I mean in human, not financial terms) and I would have appreciated a better evaluation of why this sin is now offered public priority. Perhaps I feel (again) that someone is trying to manipulate me for political ends. Perish the though.

The British media have been distinctly underwhelmed by all this and have said much the same as I and, I suspect, most of those who have given a moment's thought have felt about this business. Here are a couple of examples, one from the right and one from then left political wings of the serious press. I leave you to guess which is which.

First, Gerald Warner in the Daily Telegraph

...Mr Brown has succumbed to a very modern tendency. In the old days, the maxim of politicians was "Never apologise, never explain", variously attributed to the Duke of Wellington, Disraeli and a number of other possible contenders. (Some purists insist it was uttered by Admiral Fisher in the variant form: "Never explain. Never apologise.") Now, the vogue is for pointless apologies for events in the remote past, made by people who were not the perpetrators. When the heat is on, the conventional wisdom now holds, divert attention from your own blunders with an apology for the Norman Conquest, or whatever. Nobody did this kind of pseudo-apology better than Tony Blair: his glistening, Bambi-eyed sincerity as he apologised for the Irish potato famine, or Britain's role in the slave trade, was the stuff of which Oscar nominations are made. But he defiantly refused, at the Chilcot Inquiry, to apologise for the Iraq War, which actually was his responsibility.

Blair belonged to the Clinton school of feeling other people's pain, while evading responsibility for one's own conduct. Outside of politics, one of the worst offenders has been the Catholic Church: Pope John Paul II issued more than 100 apologies for events in which he had no conceivable involvement, including the Crusades and the trial of Galileo. ...

...it would be preferable if individuals and institutions renounced the archaeology of contrition and addressed their present-day delinquencies. Historical apologies, rather than appeasing public opinion, now provoke derision. As implacable nannies used to tell their charges: 'Mr Sorry comes too late.

Warner, G. (2010) Sorry, Gordon Brown, but these apologies provoke derision. Daily Telegraph, February, 25 February

Secondly, Kristen Rundle in the Guardian

Today Gordon Brown is expected to apologise to my grandfather, Joseph John Rundle. Joe was among the thousands of British children taken from their country and sent to Australia under the child migration scheme. When in 1934, aged 13, he boarded the ship Jervis Bay, bound for Pinjarra, in the west of the country, the scheme was being publicised as a great opportunity for poor and orphaned youngsters. A four-page advertising spread in The Times in June 1934 depicted miserable children in British slums next to happy faces on the docks, with the caption 'Good-bye to all that!'

The reality, as we now know, turned out to be very different....

My family's story, and that of many others, offers obvious lessons for practitioners of child welfare, social policy, psychology and many other disciplines. But the child migration story also offers some important insights into how the law addresses our most vulnerable. Lessons that infuse my own academic work, three generations later. Although it authorised the removal of thousands of British children to the far corners of the earth, the Empire Settlement Act 1922 actually says nothing whatsoever about child migration. Instead, its most vulnerable subjects are effectively invisible, something to be delegated without mention to the administrative sphere where agreements as to their fate were brokered with the voluntary child migration associations.

Yes the child migration scheme might have been dreamt up with some worthy intentions. But those behind it failed to understand that connection to family and identity, and being regarded as deserving of choices in life, are values too great to measure. If the measure of a civilised society is how it treats its most vulnerable, the lessons of these past failures must be brought to the way that our laws and institutions address the vulnerable today. Apologies are a time not only for recognition, but for putting a mirror to ourselves and our current practices.

Rundle, (2010) Apology to a lost generation, Guardian 25 February

Action soon?

Two rather different stances, but common concluding thoughts:
  • If the measure of a civilised society is how it treats its most vulnerable, the lessons of these past failures must be brought to the way that our laws and institutions address the vulnerable today. Apologies are a time not only for recognition, but for putting a mirror to ourselves and our current practices. (Rundle)
  • it would be preferable if individuals and institutions renounced the archaeology of contrition and addressed their present-day delinquencies… 'Mr Sorry comes too late'.(Warner)
In November last year Conductive World carried four postings on the apologies around child migration, directing such sentiments rather nearer home. Thus –

The time to say ‘Sorry’ about something, surely, is when you have had a hand in bringing a situation about, or have stubbornly maintained it, especially when something is still happening now, when you really do feel for the situation, and when ‘Sorry’ is just one tiny, verbal step in the far more meaningful process of doing something to right the wrong and improve the lot of poor suffering humanity?

Can anyone out there think of such situations today? What about, around the globe, the continuing official policies towards children and adults with physical disabilities, their parents, families, and carers?

In the United Kingdom this means the populations currently accounted under the rubrics of ‘special needs’ and ‘inclusion’ (different countries use different terms, at different times). The terminology is not the issue here, but the human and social realities. Does anything written above, about child emigration of the past, ring a bell about the human and social realities of those now touched by special needs and inclusion?
  • deceit, lies and official neglect
  • not exactly a thought-out government policy
  • originally dreamt up by charities
  • of an ideological bent
  • poor, awkward, neglected, cruelly treated, or just plain unlucky
  • families powerless in the hands of an established system
  • often actively misled
  • certainly remarkable personal success stories
  • so many horror stories
  • duped and dumped
  • without a care
  • unaccountable administrative machines
  • high-moral-ground ideologues
  • human heartbreak en masse
  • bureaucratised disposal of human beings
  • be sad or ashamed,
  • particularly, learn
This continued...

There is nothing extra to be gained from ‘Sorry’ if you care, you listen, you understand, you communicate, you feel, and above all, if you try to do something to change things. In a word, if you love.

No doubt Mr Brown means well for the child emigrants. No doubt he means well for children and adults with ‘special needs’, their parents, families and carers. I doubt, though that he will be saying ‘Sorry’ to them,
either on his own behalf or on behalf or Government. To do so would acknowledge a problem now, one that has to be solved. Better pick on one that is safely out of the way in the past and across the oceans...

Fast-forward some forty years. What cold comfort will there be if some future Prime Minister and Government should apologise for the wildly misguided and dysfunctional policies and services, and sheer bloody-mindedness of the special-needs ‘systems’ of today?

Wind back to the present day, what if some Prime Minister and Government should apologise, admit responsibility now?

In 2050 saying ‘Sorry’ for these past sins would be ‘leadership’ in the way so often meant today by that unfortunate word, in all sorts of walks of life: bureaucratic pusillanimity.

In 2010, that would be leadership of  Churchillian scale.

Sutton, A. (2010) Deceit, lies and official neglect, Conductive World, 15 November

Or do we just need a Royal Commission?

Friday, 26 February 2010

Spina bifida TV news report

Such awareness so desperately needed

Give it a while to start evaluating North American Conductive Education Awareness Day. Meanwhile Gill Maguire has begun assembling mentions on the Internet to go on Conductive Education Information. Please let her know if you have any.

But I do have to mention here what I think is a first (always dangerous to call something the first, so please do correct me if I am wrong). This is the first public video broadcast showing Conductive Education and a child with spina bifida.

It shows work at the Conductive Learning Center in Grand Rapids. An unnamed mother and conductor Andrea Benyovszky have their say. The newscast comes from local TV station WZZM13 and accompanies a written report.

I had this notification prepared to post earlier today, then suddenly the video went off line. Thanks are due to conductor Kasey Gray who managed to track two other URLs for where it is hiding. Now the original one has reappeared! So it goes.

CE in 21C

Note the 'twenty-first century' element in the story. The mother of the child with spina bifida 'stumbled across' CE through reading another mother's blog..

And note the persistence of that old twentieth-century iniquity. It's still up to parents to do the stumbling.

Reference and notes

 Pascua, J., Urka, K (2010) Conductive Learning Center offers help to children with neuro-motor disabilities, www.wzzm13.com, 25 February
(Text plus video)

Conductive Learning Center helping kids with disabilities
(Video only)

I don't know how long any of these will remain available.

Conductive Education Information


Most recent posting on spina bifida

Irish politics

Buddy Bear again

Conductive Education

Education

Northern Ireland Assembly debates, 22 February 2010, 2:45 pm

George Savage (UUP) 5. asked the Minister of Education how much her Department has spent on conductive education in each of the last three years.  (AQO 795/10)Caitriona Ruane (Sinn Féin)

Chuir príomhfheidhmeannaigh na mbord oideachais agus leabharlainne in iúl dom gur cuireadh páiste amháin i scoil Buddy Bear sna blianta acadúla 2006-08, 2008-09, agus 2009-2010.

The chief executives of the education and library boards have advised me that one child has been placed in the Buddy Bear school in the academic years 2007-08, 2008-09 and 2009-2010. That child is financially supported through the payment of school fees to attend that school by the Western Education and Library Board. The costs are as follows: in 2007-08 it was £22,680; in 2008-09 it was £23,355; and in 2009-2010 it was £15,880.

Education and library boards have a statutory duty to educate children with special educational needs in ordinary schools, and that right to be educated in an ordinary mainstream school was strengthened with the instruction of the Special Educational Needs and Disability Order 2005.

That provision seeks to enable more children with special educational needs to be included successfully in mainstream education. I confirm that no grant-aided schools provide conductive education. The Buddy Bear School, which specialises in conductive education, is an independent school approved by the Department under article 26 of the Education Order 1996 as suitable for the admission of children with special educational needs. Education and library boards do not, therefore, have to seek the prior approval of the Department before placing a child in the school.


Last sighting of Buddy Bear

United Kingdom: Stick'n'Step

New premises officially opened

A Lord Lieutenant and five local Mayors (accompanied by three Mayoresses), plus actress Jessica Fox from TV soap Hollyoaks, attended the ceremonial opening yesterday of new premises for Merseyside CE charity Stick'n'Step, described in its local newspaper as 'one of the leading conductive education centres in the country'.

Reference

Marles, L. (2010) Wirral charity Stick'n'Step celebrates opening of new centre, Wirral Globe, 26 February 2010

New contact details

3 Croxteth Avenue, Wallasey, Wirral CH44 5UL
0151 638 0888

Question of nomenclature

Norwegian conductors' initiative

Following yesterday's item, touching on an important episode in the history of Conductive Education in Norway, conductor Marthe Gulbrandsen writes to update me –

The NFKF (Norsk Forum for Konduktiv Pedagogikk) as such no longer exists. In April 2009, at the årsmøte (the annual meeting of the board to which all the members are invited) it was decided to change the name to PTØ Norge.

We have also got a new logo and new colours. You can see it on our web page:


As you can see of my title below, we have also changed our name from konduktor to habiliteringspedagog.

Marthe Gulbrandsen
Habiliteringspedagog

PS   It will be VERY interesting to see other people's opinion about this

In Norwegian, as an abbreviation, PTØ stands for Pedagogisk Trening og Øving ('pedagogic training and exercise'). As an acronym, it sounds very like Pető.

The term 'conductor' has caused problems of communication in many countries. Five years ago, specifically in Norway, conductor Kari Hapnes wrote:

The question 'Exactly what is it that you do?' is beginning to be very familiar to me.

Her reasoning in response to this was published in Recent Advances in Conductive Education, leading at that time to the following condensed but careful formulation:

We are pedagogues who provide a specialised service to people with motor disorders. Whilst we use movement as a tool for teaching, we also target the non-motor aspects of the conditions. Because w have detailed knowledge of the conditions that we work with, we can supply strategies useful in the present and in the future. We provide a service not only to the people who have the condition, but equally important to the families and carers surrounding those people.

Granting the existence of the terms 'teacher-conductor' and 'conductor-teacher', which may or may not be regarded as representing the same phenomenon, the Norwegian conductors have taken a radical step. It will be interesting in coming years to see whether other grouping within Conductive Education also begin follow their own lines in professional nomenclature.

References

Hapnes, K. (2005) Exactly what is it that you do? (Abstract), Recent Advances in Conductive Education, vol. 4, no 1

Sutton. A. (2010) Official investigation into CE: Norway did it differently, Conductive World, 25 February

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Official investigation into CE

Norway did it differently

Yesterday's dip into the archive showed what happened when the French government established a commission to investigate Conductive Education, where it went and what happened.

This was not good news so, in the tradition of 'balance', here is a (rare) good news story about a report by a government commission that did it differently, and came up with a rather different outcome.

Sutton, A. (2000) Norwegians would, Conductive Chronicle, 9 May

Sutton, A. (2000) Norway: tension mounts, Conductive Chronicle, 19 May

Sutton, A. (2000) Norway: what a saga! Conductive Chronicle, 6 July

Sutton, A. (2001) The Norwegians will, Conductive Chronicle, 26 February

The above record is presented by means of of the Wayback Machine.

Note that the Norwegian system for providing for disabled children (habilitering) presents particular opportunities – and imposes particular limitations – for developing conductive services.

Norway today

Combination of the longest coastline in Europe (and therefore the lion's share of the oil and gas under the North Sea), a small population, high taxation, a very generous social-welfare system, and liberal and genuine policies on choice, has produced an exceedingly enviable environment for a nascent Conductive Education service.

The Norwegian national CE-provider is the Norsk Forum for Konduktiv Pedagogikk:


This website is in Norwegian but there is an on-site TRANSLATE button.

'Lofterød Report'

If you would like to read the report of the Commission, this is availableon line:

Lofterǿd, B. et al. (2000) Faglig vurdering av alternative treningsopplegg som Doman-metoden og ligende for barn med hjerneskadar rapport fra en arbeidsgruppe. Oslo, Statens Helsetilsyn.
(This responds well, into English, anyway, to Google Translate)

There is also on line somewhere an official English summary of the cnclusions and recommendations about Conductive Education on line somewhere but I cannot for the moment find this.

For comparison, here is a summary (in English) of the French Commission's report:

Sutton,A. (20010) L'éducation conductive: nul points, Conductive World, 24 February

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

On-line Conductive Education degree

Here's something new

Hurry, hurry, hurry. Get yours while stocks last!

http://education.socialmedia4seo.com/2010/02/14/online-degree-conductive-education/

L'éducation conductive: nul points

A lesson from history

French families receiving Conductive Education in Budapest contacted the French Embassy to request that the system be officially evaluated with a view to possible transfer to France. In September last year the French Ministry of Education contacted the Centre National de Suresnes to investigate and advise. A commission from the centre visited Budapest, going to the Pető Institute, the Bárczi Gusztáv College of Special Education and two establishments for disabled children. The commission also took account of discussions with establishments in France and Belgium which know of CE. The commission’s report has now been published. It is not favourable.

Read the more of this sad and shocking tale at:


Earlier this week I was asked something about Conductive Education in France. My reply required me to dig out the record of an event which, it seemed at the time, altogether closed down further official consideration of Conductive Education in that country.

This was the publication of the report of a visit of enquiry to the Peto Institute in Budapest by the National Centre for Study and Education of Disabled Children (acronym in French: CNEFFI).

As a mere Englishman I stand uncomprehending before the culture and society of France. I do suspect, however, that in dealing with bodies with names beginning with the letters CN one is advised to treat them with the outward respect that they consider themselves to deserve. Above all one does not patronise.

My impression upon reading CNEFFI's report was that the delegation thought that it was being sold a line, and reacted accordingly. It made no compromises in its judgements, it took no prisoners. CNs don't.

As a result, a national door slammed shut and l'éducation conductive en France was left to start again, from the bottom up. With the exception of a tiny handful of brave but isolated individuals (see for example, the CE blogosphere on the left-land column of this page) the families of a major European country have lost a generation's momentum is possible service-development. For the rest of us, we have lost the major possibility of contact, alliance and interplay between Conductive Education and Henri Wallon's heritage of psychomotricity – another sad, lost opportunity.

Yes, the people and circumstances have changed now in Budapest, and maybe it is worth people in France trying again. When they do, however, they will probably find CNEFFI's report still on file as the first threshold to be crossed.

Bonne chance!

For the record

I dug this news feature out of the old Conductive Chronicle that used to be published as part of the now vanished Conductive Education Website. The article in question was published on 29 October 1999. I brought it up it by using the Wayback Machine that retrieves no-longer published materials from the bowels the Web's vast archive.

You can find the original of this item for yourself at:


Perhaps I should dig out some more.

No, please don't say such things

(No names, no pack drill)

A Snapshot of Conductive Education:
  • One Conductor leads the class through a series of repetitive excercises
  • Use of special equipment (ladders, chairs, plinths, tabletops) to create the prescribed environment
  • Activities include teaching life skills and age appropriate academic and social lessons (i.e. potty training, snack time, music)
  • Classes are typically grouped by children's age and ability
Not so much a snapshot, more a distorting mirror.

Great seminar material, though. Depending on where you draw the boundaries, I scored seven errors. I am sure that people have no intention of contibuting to dissipating the reputation and the message of Conductive Education. Its not anybody's fault. Just a question of day-to-day priorities. When did you ever hear of such seminars?

Discuss.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Still the worst research ever?

Trawled up from 2000

Worst research ever?

This comes over as a cross between revivalism as they chant instructions, and Hitler's [sic] Youth as the conductors deliver orders.

Bridge, G. (1999) Parents as care managers: the experiences of those caring for young children with cerebral palsy. Aldershot: Ashgate, ISBN 1 84014 973 6

This prejudicial account of Conductive Education was taken from the old Conductive Education Chronicle, and was trawled up along with other gems whilst looking for something else. The question raised in the headline seemed fair then, and perhaps still stands!

Reviewing this book for the medical journal Family Practice, Maggie Somerset wrote:

... thought-provoking are the accounts of seeking therapy in specialist centres abroad, only to find that the methods used in other cultures may conflict with the gentle approach that many parents regard as central to their child's care.


The book itself is available for purchase on the Internet, from book services in the UK, the US and Germany. It is also available on line to rent, and through at least one parents' resource library in the UK:.

Perhaps people now forget the enormous antipathy that Conductive Education has evoked. Perhaps that still stands too.

Gillian Bridge has retired

Reference

Sutton, A. (2000) The worst research ever? Conductive Chronicle, 20 December

Monday, 22 February 2010

More research is needed...

But what is the question?

Time to pause, and think


If you are ever stuck at Euston Station – Heaven forfend, one of Virgin's InterCity Expresses might have been delayed or even cancelled – you will find yourself not only waiting in one of London's worst architectural disasters but in a micro-universe that is also  a culinary disaster.. Where can you go to kill time, to have a good meal, a cup of coffee or even just acomfortable and entertaining interlude? If time is not a factor, then I recommend that you nip out of the station a few yards to the west, and wander up Drummond St, for some of the best South Indian restaurants in London.

Or going to the front of the Station, you can cross Euston Road, diagonally and to the south-west, where you will find the entrance to the museum of the Wellcome Trust.. This is not just an amazing museum (free) but also, just up the steps, it has a very nice coffee-house-cum-bookshop. It is a world away from the stark modernist rush of Euston Station, a calm world of wealth, privilege, self-confidence and knowledge.

Thinking about brains

I have just been reminded of this by an interview on the radio this morning, with Sir Mark Walport, director of the Wellcome Trust – not just director of the excellent coffee house but of the whole caboodle, the largest medical research foundation in the United Kingdom. He sounded a nice, civilised chap and was being interviewed because the Trust has announced a major ten-year research strategy, 'an attempt to solve the most important questions facing our understanding of health and disease'. This interview focussed upon one of the five strands of this strategy, what Sir Mark described as

...the toughest challenge of all, how we think and how the brain controls behaviour

He added:

It's not clear that we can do that at the moment.

It was one of John Humphries' more friendly, sympathetic interviews. Mark Walport was not challenged, he was neither rushed nor pushed, so he could say what he has presumably prepared to say, in his own time. 'Is there a particular question about the brain,' he was asked, 'that, if we could unlock and answer, it would tell us where we should go from here?'

Well, that's a very good question, and I think that part of the problem of understanding how we think is that it is not absolutely clear what the question is. Part of is understanding how the nerves talk to each other, which neurotransmitter links one nerve to another is released at each nerve junction, we'd be a long way along but it's a very complicated question....

We can do some remarkable things. So, by measuring blood flows you can see where in the brain people are thinking.

Etc.

'Well, good luck with it', concluded John Humphries. Indeed.

A few minutes later, came the regular five-minute God-slot, 'Thought for the day', not usually my cup of tea (though some of the non-Christians who turn up occasionally can be very jolly). I usually turn off, mentally if not physically. Today's offering was from the Rev Dr David Wilkinson, Principal of St John's College, Durham, a Christian physicist speaking on a quite different theme, but what he said crossed over nicely – I doubt that this was intentional. He spoke of the need to recall that

...science is a messy activity involving the interplay of evidence and theory, and the role of human judgement in what the philosopher of science Michael Polanyi called 'tacit skills'

Dr Wilkinson cited 'tacit skills'. He could have called equally upon 'tacit knowledge'. He could instead have invoked 'common sense', 'education', 'taste', 'judgement'.

If the people at the Wellcome Foundation can speak of the brain as if it were mind, and vice versa, perhaps they will not exercise their tacit knowledge of life in formulating the questions that they will be asking over the next ten years. In that case, how can one blame ordinary folk in Conductive Education if they cannot always sort out their pedagogies from their neuro-sciences, sometimes even falling in with those diversionary mechanistic notions that one hears or reads, about brains, and pathways and such.

Such everyday confusions, contradictions and paradoxes result. For example, the other day I heard of an experienced and really quite gifted conductor who has dedicated her life to teaching motor-disordered children, most effectively I believe. She knows 'tacitly' how to work with the delicate social and psychological mechanisms, and more importantly, the bring about the material mechanisms that link these together as one creates and transforms the other. She knows these, she understands these, at a deep and largely unarticulated level, a 'practical' level. Yet at the same time she argues passionately, even angrily that only way to understand how Conductive Education is through how it 'changes brains', and therefore through the brain sciences. The higher-level of knowledge, the really relevant one, she completely discounts as a matter worthy of scientific enquiry and understanding. She is respected for her practical work and for what she does for fellow conductors. She is one of the few conductors who could claim (should she wish) a leadership role. If she embraces neuro-explanation at the explicit level, and discounts the primacy of pedagogic sciences, what is the betting that many will follow?

Why she speaks like this, I just do not know. Something in the mind, I guess. Or in society. No, silly of me, presumably it is in her brain, in which case more medical research is needed to answer that question. Perhaps as a first step one could look at localised blood flow within the brains of conductors and of directors of research foundations when they are thinking such thoughts, to see what lights up in common. Perhaps, if they think such things persistently these areas will grow over time, perhaps such a study might then even be successfully replicated. Even if it is not, it can still be cited – again and again – in favour of the notion that the brain sciences hold the key to teaching, learning, knowledge and personality, and the cure and prevention of 'diseases like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's', and that all that we need in order to turn that key, is more of the same sort of thing

I should stop listening to the Today programme. It can make one quite cynical.

Notes and references

The Wellcome Trust

South Indian Restaurants in Drummond Street

Interview with Sir Mark Walport:

Thought for the day, from Dr David Wilkinson

Tacit skills and tacit knowledge

The place of tacit skills and knowledge in training and 'professionalism' in Conductive Education should be returned to at a later point

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Az 1% 2010-ben is fontos

Szábó Zsuzsa in appeal

A very short appeal video, called 'The 1% in 2010. It's important'.

This refers to voluntary disposal on one percent of personal taxation due over the coming year to a charitable cause of taxpayers' own choice.

'I would love to learn to walk alone', says the little girl.

Then a conductor-commentator takes up the story –

There are also adults who want to become independent. There are youngsters who study, so that as conductors they can help them achieve these goals. I am Pitti Katalin. Please give 1% to support the Pető Institute.

Katalin Pitti is an internationally known opera singer.

The adult who wants to become independent here is old friend to many around the world of Conductive Education, Szábó Zsuzsa

http://www.peto.hu/

Mathematics resource for 'teacher-conductors'?

Available in English
Those who were trained as 'teacher-conductors' and work in English-speaking schools must miss all sorts of curricular materials. I have not myself come across the following before but teacher-conductors (and conductor-teachers) might wish to check it out if they do not already know it.

PRIMARY SCHOOL MATHS

9th May 2005: Our thanks to Kaiya Williams who has sent in details of this amazing resource.  Maths Practice Books and Lesson Plans ' covers the whole years work for years 1 to 6 - scroll down the whole page' Note their disclaimer: 'The material is made available through the CIMT for downloading and dissemination for NON-PROFIT MAKING PURPOSES ONLY.'  Copymasters, practice books and lesson plans (175 lessons for each year from Year 1 to Year 6) - beautifully-constructed worksheets and nearly all the data accessible without "passwords" (their site says "passwords are not normally available to individuals who are not part of an educational institution"). Home-schooling parents should be able to make use of a huge percentage of this resource, however – it is quite the most comprehensive and practical guide to learning Maths we have ever seen on the Internet. This free resource has been created through a collaboration between the Pető Institute in Budapest, Hungary, and the Centre for Innovation in Mathematics Teaching at Exeter University, England.

More on the programmes:

http://www.cimt.plymouth.ac.uk/projects/mepres/primary/default.htm

Note the date! I have only just noticed this information. Does anyone have any experience of using these materials?

Mayorial proclamations

North American Awareness Day approaches

This is getting close now (Thursday next). Here is what I have have noticed so far, from my side of the Pond.

The Moose (newsletter of Aquinas College, Grand Rapids)

http://themoose.aquinas.edu/2010/02/17/come-celebrate-conductive-education-day-2010-thursday-february-25/

Proclamation by Mayor of Grand Rapids

Conductive Learning Center (via Facebook)

Proclamation by Governor of Michigan

http://www.michigan.gov/gov/0,1607,7-168-25488_54480-231631--,00.html

Proclamation by Mayor of Toronto

Mhari Watson (via email)

Proclamation by Mayor of Tucson

Mary Hare (via Facebook)

Saturday, 20 February 2010

PLAGIARISM

Big and small

Through rose-tinted spectacles, perhaps...

When I was a lad at school and at university I never really met plagiarism. I am not sure that I even knew that the word existed until I became aware of the song by Tom Lehrer. No doubt there were sad souls about doing this sort of thing but I just never heard real instances mentioned.

This was possibly nothing to do with our all being wonderfully noble, or innocent beings, more likely because of an almost total, universal disinterest in marks or grades (I think that it was not even till my second or third year at university that I even heard that there were classes in the final degree, firsts, seconds, etc. The topic just did not come up. We went to school and university for many things but getting 'grades' was not one of them, not amongst people whom I knew anyway. Who's to say today that the world was any the worse for it...

One of the features of the culture of my youth, in all sorts of fields, was that, if you were caught 'at it' over something (not just over plagiarism or intellectual property, no Siree!), there was a certain self-regulatory mechanism that often kicked in: shame. One of the worst punishments for being caught at something would be other people's knowing. This could be a very powerful check upon behaviour and, if things did turn out that way, then it was only rare persons who were able to work their way through this and re-earn themselves back into respect in the public gaze, and that by sometimes extraordinary acts of expiation.

A much harder world

Lots of people however, must subsequently have thought  that the world was indeed a lot worse for such a relaxed attitude to education. A grim process of commodification, vulgar quantification and managerialism has brought us to a very different place, one manifestation of which is that both schools and universities on the one hand, and pupils and students on the other, are now all too aware of grades, and outcomes – and plagiarising.

One may now purchase nippy softwear through which electronic versions of assignments and dissertation can be fed. The softwear then searches the Web, marks up all the passages that have been copied from websites, and tells you where the originals may be found. Actually, one usually hardly needs the softwear to spot the phrases, sentences, whole paragraphs, even more sometimes, that have been cut and pasted into a student's text from somewhere else. If you know the field, you can often even recognise the particular passage – never more so when you recognise your own words staring up at you! Even in a totally unfamiliar field, a sudden break into literacy is usually indication enough! I suppose that the machine still has its place though: it saves time, not just time wasted in ploughing through text that is obviously heavily plagiarised but in collecting along the way the specific annotation that will be needed if 'procedures' are to be invoked. I understand that it even awards a score.

Copying is therefore now an exceedingly stupid thing to do. as I would have thought is apparent to the stupidest of copyists (or plagiarists, or cheats). Academic handbooks are full of dire warnings of the consequences, teachers and lecturers reinforce these verbally. Yet still people do it, right up to PhD level!

And beyond. It is not just pupils and students who do this. Some teachers and lecturers do too. And people outside, in the 'real world' do it too. Writers, 'creatives', bureaucrats, journalists, public officials, politicians, even governments (remember that dodgy dossier' that helped justify invading Iraq?).

There are laws about plagiarism (intellectual property) that deal with it according to its circumstances: not wanting to do the work, sheer bloody intellectual laziness, self-preservation when into something well beyond one's competence, more innocently, just not knowing that it might be wrong. Then there is the arrogance of believing that one will get away with it, and the lack of self-respect, and respect for the work of others, that may go with not caring a jot about the real substance of what is being done.

Conductive Education

The world of Conductive Education is part of the real world. Over the years I have come across the odd breathtaking example of plagiarism in the sector but at the time I and others involved just let these go. Maybe we were wrong to do so (though we do know where the bodies are buried). There may well be more than I know of – but I suspect that they are fairly rare. After all, the amount of academic/professional writing in Conductive Education remains fairly low.

I was prompted to take up this theme by a much more prevalent, much lower background noise of cutting and pasting to create patchwork documents, by taking a sentence from here, a phrase from there. This seems quite common is the construction of documents of the 'What is Conductive Education?' nature, i.e. on the sites of CE centres, legal firms etc.. This is probably for the overwhelming part done in all innocence but, all added together, does not serve the benefit of Conductive Education, its public understanding and possibly its reputation too.

Reference

Friday, 19 February 2010

One of Mária's favourites

And one that I think even better!

Mária Hári liked quoting snippets from Alice in Wonderland. Here is one that often got an airing (from Chapter six).

`Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?'
`That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,' said the Cat.
`I don't much care where – ' said Alice.
`Then it doesn't matter which way you go,' said the Cat.
`– so long as I get SOMEWHERE,' Alice added as an explanation.
`Oh, you're sure to do that,' said the Cat, `if you only walk long enough.'

Alice was lost, She had come to a fork in the road and asked the Cheshire Cat the way. Mária never, as far as I know, quoted what Alice and the Cat asked about next, though it does strike me as particularly apposite to the world of Conductive Education, then as now.

Alice felt that this could not be denied, so she tried another question. `What sort of people live about here?'
`In THAT direction,' the Cat said, waving its right paw round, `lives a Hatter: and in THAT direction,' waving the other paw, `lives a March Hare. Visit either you like: they're both mad.'
`But I don't want to go among mad people,' Alice remarked.
`Oh, you can't help that,' said the Cat: `we're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad.'
`How do you know I'm mad?' said Alice.
`You must be,' said the Cat, `or you wouldn't have come here.'

In fact, I think that it's even better. Now as then.

Well she might have quoted Lewis Carroll. Over her lifetime Hungary had been as surreal as anything that he had ever dreamed up (and a lot nastier). I do not know how much of Alice she knew, how much the Wonderland analogy helped sweeten the pill of her own often bitter and confusing life, or whether – and she was quite canny enough for this – such snippets were dragged out specially to lull and endear her British visitors.

There is an awful lot that we shall never know.

Not multi-disciplinary

Uni-disciplinary, joined-up working

Norman Perrin's recent very interesting letter on the problems of even mentioning pedagogy in England, in a context where education itself is in danger of being swamped in a multi-agency sea, reminded me of my last formal presentation on a related theme.

It was March 2005. I had been retired for just six months and didn't know where I was or what I was. I was running on automatic, thinking still like an employee, still gasping desperately towards the brave future that I had been struggling towards for the last twenty or so years. I was trying to present something that should have been rather exciting but trying to please everybody. The result was rather dull.

I had been experiencing some of the Government's early attempts to construct its dream of unified professions. I could see no good coming of this managerially constructed melange but, running on automatic (and pretty well on empty!), I still entertained the flimsy hope that Conductive Education might latch on in there somewhere.

Of course, nothing of the sort happened.

An old paper

Almost five years on it is somewhat embarrassing to look at the intellectual case that I tried to construct to justify Conductive Education's being taken on board to help the government achieve some of its stated goals for children with physical disabilities at any rate:


I have come across the text of the paper that I gave in 2005. In 2010 it is clear that, for all the astronomical sums spent, the fancy buildings constructed, the careers and traditions ruined, that the well-being of the punters and effectiveness of out public services have not been enhanced in the major ways intended. Stir the economic crisis into the mix then it seems that the edifices constructed by one Government around 2005, will be facing immanent reconstruction by a new Government by the end of early 2010.

Reconstructing the world of multi – as 'uni'

What on Earth can a new government do? There is so much to fix in the fuzzy world of multi-disciplinary and multi-agency working. If a new Government takes the sensible view, and tries for change by way of bite-sized chunks, then it might find a few things that work. It would do well to look at something that is hanging on there in the field of 'physical disability', something to break out and start evolving into new forms if unshackled and nourished.

And if the existing array of tiny CE preschool services stand up, flaunt the uni-disciplinarity that lies at their very essence, and act flexibly and innovatively, then they might just attract the sort of recognition that CE has been gasping for – and create a demand that will permit the sector some much-wanted expansion.

References

Perrin, N. (2010) Comment to 'Ranting and raving', Conductive World, 17 February

Sutton, A. (2005) Joining up to the ‘joined up’ agenda. What can the conductive movement offer the joined-up children’s agenda? (Based upon an informal presentation to the conference Children’s Trusts: Transforming Futures), Institute of Directors, Pall Mall, London, 10 March)

Acknowledgement

I just might have found what I was looking for in terms of an (almost) idiot-proof means of publishing documents online: Zoho. Thank you very much indeed, Adelaide Dupont, for responding to my cri de coeur and directing me to http://writer.zoho.com/.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Promiscuous parents?

Shopping around

Just over a week ago Conductive World reported on a parent-blogger's posting, from Jennifer in the USA:


This caused a minor kerfluffle in comments on the original posting:


Jennifer is a sharp lady and in the last week has checked out and seen straight through something called 'brain-based therapy', an amusing and revealing post in its own right:


A Feydeau farce

The issue here, though, was the plethora of 'therapies' that she has accumulated notwithstanding. She is not alone. Just days ago another entertainingly salutary parent-blog dropped into my mail box, from Brenda, also in the USA:


I particularly like her metaphor of having multiple therapists as being like trying to juggle a life with several lovers...

Conductive Education, which I totally believe in, which has overtaken my basement with wooden furniture, and which sucks my money out of my account, but I see the most promise with. They want me to date them exclusively. No exceptions. CE believes that if he and I are exclusive, my life will be full and functional and independant. But how do I keep Occupational Therapy happy when Maclain has to sit at a plinth for eating and playing, where he is not totally supported, which OT says we need for him to learn to maximize his fine motor skills. And what about PT? They would love to have Maclain in a stander so he can bear weight on his legs, and a walker that will help him be independant. CE would slap me if they heard me mention those things. But I become confused when I try to balance the value of Maclain learning how to walk one day on his own, but giving up his ability to explore his environment on his own in a walker that he can use by himself. And then we have AVT therapy which wants me to focus on having Maclain listen, but which requires me to narrate my entire day, use visual reinforcement and now tactile input to help him develop language, which needs to happen in an environment where he doesn't have to work on anything but listening. That would almost involve me doing no other therapy but AVT if I one day hope to have Maclain talk. And I didn't even mention the time I spend setting up doctor appointments, assessments, pre-school meetings. Oh, and we are going to start trialing a communication system soon, so there is another person we will be dating.

If this were truly a dating situation, I think I would break it off and just be single!

Her son Maclain is a little older than Brenda's Roa, and mother Brenda, has achieved a certain modus vivendi of sorts and is perhaps beginning to sense the possible benefits of settling for Mr Right and becoming a one-guy gal:

So my latest struggle is how to make CE a part of our day, while trying to make sure that we have the appropriate "equipment" for Maclain. And how we work in all of the other things we need to practice in a day while working through our new CE schedule. Oh, and did I mention that I also have another son and a husband? Just saying.....

I tell you, if I wasn't already crazy, I would have no trouble getting there in a hurry. To make a really informed choice, the she really ought to know more about him, get to know his upbringing side...

Maybe stay at home a bit and read agood book (Dina), certainly hunt down, meet and talk with others who have found happiness on the same road...

Too many cooks

Both these recent examples come from the United States but they do not represent a specifically American phenomenon. It goes on around the world and was already common when I came into 'physical disability' some thirty years ago. Nor of course is it specifically a matter of physical disability, witness the amazing array of products and services' on sale in the booming 'autism' market.

I seems to flourish especially when there is no perceivedly effective paradigm on offer, for understanding or intervention, from established ('official') systems of provision. People are understandably disappointed, puzzled, frustrated, desperate, and – as far as their resources allow, and sometimes beyond that – they shop around.

Did you know that some (a few) of the more worldly evaluators of service-effectiveness, those who take a more psychosocial perspective of the processes that they are investigating, use 'shopping around' for yet further interventions as a simple quantifiable index of services' effectiveness? The less people shop around, then perhaps the more satisfactory the service received, and the more they shop around...

Feuerstein's finger

My take on this is very like Reuven Feuerstein's finger of blame. When a child fails to learn or to behave,we should never point a finger at the child .Instead we should turn it round, and blame ourselves, and set to working out what we could de more, or better, or different – or not at all..

Similarly, where people shop around for more and different sernet and comtinually novel services, howver implausible the basis for their claims, we (society) should not point the finger of blame, pathologising them, as some professionals do, as feckless,  'pushy' parents, 'middle-class mums' etc. . Rather, we should force that finger of blame back upon ourselves, and seek to find what it is that we do – or do not do – that pushes parents out to act in this way.

And the only effective way to give people peace and calm in bringing up their children? Something that hands back control of their children's upbringing, and restores confidence and hope...

Sound familiar?

You couldn't make it up...

And anyway, who would believe you if you did?
Don't get mad, get even

James Forliti blogs –

My son is 'integrated' into his school classroom. Hmmm, sounds rather like a piece of equipment; bolted onto a machine. It's old news that he is 'integrated' into his school; but every once in a while it just hits me again how bloody low the bar is set for him. His little log book from the classroom aide reports that his task at school today was to give the spelling words to the other kids for a spelling test. THis means that someone else recorded the words into a computer, he hits his head on the button (I think, or maybe they held his hand and hit the button with his hand) and the word is blurted out for the OTHER STUDENTS to do their chores. Holy smokes, is that what my boy is worth in the classroom? He helps the other kids practice spelling, yet noone is asking him to try to speak, or use his hands? Only conductors have touched that path with him.

Off with their heads

What can one say? What generally recognised wrongs have been done here? What crimes could 'the system' be charged with?
  • Misuse of public funds?
  • Malpractice?
  • Criminal neglect?
  • Child abuse?
  • Denial of fundamental human rights to dignity and education?
  • Conspiracy? (the closed shop of the multidisciplinary team)
  • Psychocide? (I made this last one up: it refers to choking off the development of a child's personality, and shackling a family's hope and soul – so maybe there should be two counts on the charge sheet here)
How many hundreds of thousands, how many millions of victims are required before talk turns towards crimes against humanity?

Of course, there is no chance of any such charges, they are altogether contary to common wisdom, to the present paradigm, to the the hegemony of established institutions. They would be laughed out of court. Ditto if suing for civil damages.

Hold on, though, nothing is fixed for ever. Think of the criminal offences and actionable situations that nowadays we take for granted as matters for laws, punishment and compensation. Once such accountability was no more than the unrealistic and unrealisable dream of a few progressive reformers, regarded as no better than oddballs and trouble-makers by the responsible opinion of their time.

Their dreams got on to the statute books eventually, as result of years of campaigning and struggle, through hard-fought political action and by winning over public understanding – not because of the inherent goodness of a given cause.

One day maybe … but only if ...

Reference

Forliti, J. (2010) Spleen test, CE IN BC, 17 February