Sunday, 25 July 2010

Karóly and Magda Ákos

Give them the due due, do

As part of the continuing discussion of the mysterious Chinese posting on conductive upbringing, Susie Mallet has pointed out its affinity to the position of the Ákoses' book Dina. My own comment in return is published below –

Thank you for mentioning Karóly and Magda Ákos in this context.

This gives me opportunity to say, again, what a privilege it was to have known them, thoroughgoing representatives of the intelligentsia of Hungary of its time. Such a terrible shame that, though they lived in Vörös Hadsereg útja only a mile or so away from the PAI's spanking new HQ in Kútvölgyi út (which they never visited), they were effectively excluded from Conductive Education in Hungary: another terrible example of the what-might-have-beens of Conductive Education.


As for their book Dina, now there's another strange story. Gabi Haug published the original German manuscript, in Germany, through the tiny poetry publishing house of Alabanda Verlag. It did not sell. It appears in German-language bibliographies but its effects upon practice and understandings have been negligible, and Gabi's attempt to establish the parental self-help network that the Ákoses had advocated are now lost in the mists of history.

I published an English translation of the German text through the Foundation for Conductive Education. That did not sell either. This was long before the days of print-on-demand publishing and, if I recall, we were left with some seven or eight hundred copies on our hands, Gill Maguire and I tried to push the book over the years that followed but sales were at best only a tiny trickle. The Foundation lost quite a bit of money over this adventure and the Ákoses never made a penny from their efforts. There is no apparent sign of its existence in present-day CE in any of the English-speaking countries.

Gabi and concluded that the rival image (icon) of Conductive Education, comprising some amazing things that conductors did to children on parents' behalf, was just too beguiling. In social-policy terms, the image of 'institutional Conductive Education' as the Ákoses called it – in contrast to parental Conductive Education, has proved a disaster. Its 'solution' to the Conductive Education's availability problem is self-evidently unattainable: that all that is needed is more and more conductors, and more and more centres/programs for them to work in. Realistically, there will never be enough for all but a privileged minority.  The Ákoses' sterner vision, of something that is primarily the responsibility of parents themselves, may be more attainable in terms of social policy but ultimately could not compete for the attention of the conductive world with the siren songs of 'find a conductor' and 'open a centre'. .
The English translation of Dina was also published in Chinese translation, by what is now SAHK, but does not appear to have penetrated the Chinese CE culture. There was also a Russian translation, produced in Moscow by the publishing house Uliss. I have found no trace of Uliss for some years now. I wonder what happened to the copies that it had printed – pulped, or mouldering in some warehouse? I have certainly see little sign of the book's existence or influence in Russian-language Cyberspace.

There was never a translation into Hungarian and I suspect that most Hungarian-trained conductors will not have heard of it. In Hungary, as elsewhere, the Ákoses' names seem to have been effectively struck from the cartouches!

Potentially one of most influential and important books in Conductive Education has vanished almost without trace. Talk about lost chances and what-might-have beens!

Thank you, Susie, for helping bring them their due.


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

Mallett, S. (2010) How to 'ignite children's enthusiasm', Conductor, 23 July

Sutton, A. (2008) Poetry, and philosophy of science, Conductive World, 29 March
(There have been plenty of mentions of the Ákoses on Conductive World.)


  1. To my shame, I am only just now reading "Dina" and a compelling read it is.

    I tracked the copy down through a second-hand book dealer on the internet.

    Do you know if any of the "seven or eight hundred" you and Gill were left with are still available?

  2. There is greater rejoicing over one that is lost and found, and there is
    more joy in Heaven over one sinner that re-pents and is saved, than the ninety and nine who went not astray.

    You have no reason to feel ashamed, you got there! Shame only on the nine and ninety, and nine hunfred more to boot, who do not and may never do so.

    Gill will probably be more exact over the numbers as last seen. All that I can suggest you to do is write to the Foundation and say what you have in mind.


  3. I met the Akosh couple at their home in 1989. Udi Lion took me there. I think I was too young than to capture the moment as an historical one. I recall one sentence which impressed me at that time, said by Karoli himself: "all children when they are born are tetraplegic". i bought the book 'Dina" directly from them.

  4. I think a copy of Dina should be part of a "summer-camp package" especially when the people who take part are too far away for follow up sessions or house visits to take place.

    With all those summer camps in English, German, Chinese or Russian speaking countries we should soon be able to distribute several hundred copies of Dina.

    Norman, I can think of better holiday reading, but that said I will be taking Makarenko yet again.
    Despite your uncalled for shame it is good to hear that you are enjoying the read!


  5. As I remember there were quite a few boxes of Dina stored upstairs in Cannon Hill House, home of the Foundation for Conductive Education. Copies are available to buy via Amazon (seller - mbrown1569) or the Foundation.

  6. I wonder what constitutes a good 'summer camp package'.


  7. Emma McDowell writes –

    I too visited Károly and Magda Ákos – regularly – and during lengthy conversations I gained lots of essential contemporary details, not only about Pető and Hári but also (and chiefly!) about the age that they lived in and which – necessarily – influenced the birth of what we now know as Conductive Education.
    Yes, a good read, indeed, Norman!. I doubt that a good book like “Dina” will fail to be rediscovered in these days of distance-conductive-upbringing.