Friday, 19 March 2010


Three splits

For whatever reason Google Alerts has just brought up rather an old article:

Presumably Google will have sent the same notification to everybody else around the world who has put an Alert out for new web pages bearing the words ''Conductive Education".


The article was published in 1984 and documents the moment of what was, as far I personally experienced, the first split amongst those who wanted to establish Conductive Education outside the then Hungarian People's Republic. This split was the parting of the ways between on the one hand the Cottonists, the followers of Ester Cotton, her 'five principles' and her concept of multi- (or trans-) disciplinary Conductive Education provided by a mix of people with other kinds of training, and on the other those who sought to derive the basis of Conductive Education directly from its development in Budapest.

Over the subsequent twenty-six years this schism has remained unsatisfactorily resolved. Some may consider that it has, but how this is so in practice and in theory, with what effects and implications, has yet to enter the public record.

Western splits

'As far I personally experienced...'  What happened before 1983 has left very little public record indeed. Maybe there are hints in private or institutional archives, who but knows? A couple of examples, however, do spring to mind, from the UK.
  • Maybe a split, or maybe just a drift, but by the time that I was first hearing mention of Conductive Education, around 1979 or 1980, if was being described by the very few who were aware of it at all outside Hungary mainly in terms of movements. The earlier insight of the American James House had slipped out of the consideration of this orthodoxy and, when finally I did hear of this, it took the excellent resources of the British Library to track me down a copy of his refreshing and largely unheeded article (actually an interview) from 1968. Contemporary public discourse on Conductive Education suggests that this gap in understanding is still to be adequately bridged even now, even though parents and conductors frequently express themselves in just the same terms of reference as James House utilised all those years ago.
  • Then another mystery that I met back in the early eighties. One of the earlier British establishments to have encountered Conductive Education had been Claremont School, in Bristol, under the headship of the redoubtable Miss Ram who had set out to create a whole-school conductive approach (educationally, the UK was a remarkably free country during those years, the seventies). I gather that many of the school's staff went to Budapest to see the work of the State Institute for themselves. For whatever reason this involvement had ceased before my own arrival in Conductive Education (I have been told that this had been because Miss Ram had retired but I know of no proper documentation from this time). Clairmont was (and still is) a state school, while the CE narrative that I came upon in the early eighties projected CE very much as a matter of therapists and the voluntary sector. There is now a state sector in English Conductive Education (and something intermediate in Scotland) and perhaps these divisions are blurred.
Hári and Ákos

An earlier 'split', in Hungary in this case, had much, much wider implications for the whole future of Conductive Education everywhere in the world. This was whatever it was that happened to alienate Mária Hári and Károly Ákos from each other in Budapest in the seventies. What little I know of this came mainly from the two protagonists themselves, and neither report would have stood up in a court of law! I suppose that if nothing else is to emerge, then so I should be obliged to say what little I know – and what I surmise.

Suffice it here to say that their disagreement involved the concentration in Hungary chiefly upon 'institutional' rather than family-based Conductive Education – particularly upon Conductive Education provided through the framework of kindergarten or school. This is a division that continues to strikes to the very heart of the development of Conductive Education (and of conductors) around the world.

Those were the days, notification of this old article reminded me. It all seems so long ago, even just back to when I came into Conductive Education. The article that sparked this posting dates only from 1984, barely twenty-six years ago. Twenty-six years may seem a long time for many of the individuals living and working now in Conductive Education but it is not really such a long time.

It also therefore reminds that a lot can happen in twenty-six years, for good or for ill  be these years in the past, or in the future.


Maas, R. (1968) Breakthrough in Budapest: an interview with James House. Ideas of Today, no. 16, pp.110-114

Sutton, A. (1984) in the importation of an educational method, Educational Studies, vol.10., no 2. pp 121-130

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