Monday, 8 March 2010

Those thoughtless little acts

Death by a thousand cuts?
Plagiarise – II.

A phrase from here, a sentence from there – just the more attractive, reassuring status-granting ones, especially the one's that one hears all around (nothing controversial mind you).
  • You know the stuff, 'mind and muscle', 'rewire the brain', 'repetition of tasks', 'a reported seventy percent success rate for children with cerebral palsy to learn how to walk' (did I hear 'eighty percent'?)... ad nausem.
  • It may come mixed in with all sorts of similar, second-, third- or fourth-hand snatches that were originally part of some quite different narrative, somewhere else, like 'problem-solve' (what on Earth does that mean out of its original context, come to that, what was its original context)?), 'learning to learn', 'neither therapy, treatment nor cure' (Hey, I wrote that one),
The latter group may flatly contradict the former, they may even do so within the same paragrah, even within the same sentence.

What does one do about all this, each example perhaps trivial in itself but immediately part of the public record, ready to be copied itself by others on the same quest for something, anything, to write down about Conductive Education? Particularly though not uniquely guilty are centres or programs, through their websites or accounts to their local media. It might seem churlish (mightn't it?) to try to correct these and, anyway, what a colossal job! So just leave them, then, stitching together bit and bobs from who knows where, perpetuating myth and misrepresentation, mixing together in the same account facts views, clichés that may not only distort in themselves but even wholly contradict each other?

Tiny, trivial things, written perhaps for the best motives, but plagiarism nonetheless and, like more significant and more calculated acts of copying, harmful to the interests of all involved. Writing is a tool, after all, perhaps often specifically a weapon. If you use is carelessly, without knowing what you have in your hands, then you can harm others – and ultimately yourself. (And remember another way of looking at this: plagiarism is theft)
Conductive Education desperately needs honest, open, informed writing... at every level, from elevated academic publication to everyday personal blogs. Otherwise bad coin simply takes over from good.

Whose job is it anyway?

The group professionally supposedy trained to understand and articulate Conductive Education – conductors – are fairly thick on the ground and should have every reason to wish their work properly portrayed.
  • But does their training really prepare them to do this. Do they regard it as their responsibility? Would they be permitted to do so anyway in most workplaces? And of course, in so many places where conductors work, there is another question – language.
What about their employers? They are fairly thick on the ground too, and should have every reason to wish their work properly portrayed. They can on the other hand claim – reasonably – that they have no training in such matters, and in most cases little relevant education. Further, they might reasonably ask, where are they going to find what they need to know (indeed, is there anything that they feel that they need at all in this respect)?
  • Until recent years it was mainly employers who created the sort of accounts referred to here. Reasonably, they must have felt that their websites have to say something about Conductive Education. What happens then? I speculate but I suspect that one mechanism for creating the needed text is to cut and paste, sticking together bits and bobs from other such sites or from the media, to make the best sense they can. Recent years have seen the advent of conductor-run services Are they guiltless of such behaviour, or are they the source of much-needed, plausible, horse's mouth information? Let us at this point say that numbers remain as yet too small to generalise, and the jury's still out.
What about those who read this stuff, most especially would-be and actual service-users? They have every reason to want to know what they are buying into, and they more than anyone else will bear the consequences of any error. This is the largest population involved here, and the most atomised, isolated and vulnerable. They are almost wholly dependent for information upon the conductors and the conductors' employers. They see leaflets, they hear tales, they read things on line – and they have to fit all this together to make some sort of sense. If it doesn't tell a coherent, plausible what do they do?
  • For the most part, the service-users are paying customers. What are they told that they are buying? How long before many begin to drift elsewhere.
  • There is another group of paying customers, however – at least most people in Conductive Education would like there to be – that is the public systems and other services-providers who might potentially buy into Conductive Education, but don't. Some would like to buy in, others would like to hear no more of this strident upstart. Bundles of cut-and past information, copied and assembled with no real understanding, are a source of exasperation to Conductive Education's friends, and of great satisfaction to its enemies.
Do look out for the dodgiest statements of them all, those prefaced with 'Professor Pető believed this...', 'Professor Pető said that …'
  • How do people who write such things actually know?
All we need, here as in respect to everything mentioned above, is a little atribution, a 'reference', to say where the information came from, the small beginning of an evidence chain. How often do you see such a thing in Conductive Education? Without it, off into the public domain all these statements spin (in clouds, locks, swarms) to be copied, quoted and misquoted, and to gain the further authority of common currency.

Who will nip them at the bud? How?

No comments:

Post a Comment