Monday, 16 August 2010

History, historiography, and change

Is CE ready for revisionist history?

Our own little historical crisis

When I first attempted to create a structure for the history of Conductive Education a few years ago, I proposed a series of stages from its origins up until what was then the present day.  I predicted – such presumption –  that the 'International Stage' in that story was entering a historical crisis, with its internal bonds no longer strong enough to resist the forces building up both within it and without. The then barely credible prospect of financial crisis would but deliver the coup de grace.

I think that no one will now seriously resist the suggestion that the world's financial institutions have been having and continue to have a bad time, though looking round it can be hard to resist the impression that the world of Conductive Education is trying to carry on regardless. These things take time – Christmas will offer a cheery pretext to review where we all are financially.

Perhaps there are still some, however, who cannot or will not accept that Conductive Education is in crisis anyway. Perhaps they are right but, since they tend to hunker down rather than hollar out, we may never know what they think. All sorts of straws in the rising winds of change do, though, seem to indicate that things are no longer  regarded or spoken about in the same way. Holy Cows are being questioned and personal reputations, such as there is room for such things in the world of CE, hold lessening currency. And looming over all is the shadow of China. Again, Christmas 2010 may be a benchmark point from which to look all around, and behind as well as to the fore, to check again where we have been and where we have really got to, as Conductive Education lurches forward into the unknown.

I think that I know what I shall be doing when I come back from Hong Kong in mid-December:

Come gather 'round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You'll be drenched to the bone.
If your time to you
Is worth savin'
Then you better start swimmin'
Or you'll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin'
(Bob Dylan)

(Sorry, no Dylan on YouTube.)

Revisionist history

Times change and as they do new generations inevitably look back on the past with different eyes. Old power structures relax their once-iron grip and the unsure youngsters of yesterday become the confident, outspoken adults of today. New fronts open up, with new problems, new advantages, new heroes and new alliances. Old soldiers prepare to fade away.

Things can now therefore be said, and will be said, that might not have been said all that long ago.

And of course, as our real world finally settles into a new equilibrium (and that might not be for some time yet), so its new (and as yet unknown) institutions will require new creation myths and historical teleologies, to explain and justify the new order. Twas ever thus.

So expect the popular history of Conductive Education to be revised over coming years, with some sharp critical light  thrown on to the old fairy tales and received truths as an important part of that process. This is never an easy process, either for those who offer new accounts or for those who may find the new versions very unpalatable.

Here's one small example, written a few days ago by Susie Mallett as a comment on a posting on Conductive World. I suggested to her that this should not be hidden away in a comment thread at the bottom of somebody else's posting but instead deserved greater prominence.

She has therefore published it as a posting in its own right on her own Conductor blog:

The quality of conductor-training at the Pető Institute

Click across to see what she says about this. It is her personal report of one aspect of the Pető Institute's conductor-training at a particular time, made by one particular conductor (who, as her Conductor blog frequently demonstrates) found many aspects of her four years' training at the Pető Institute in many ways extraordinarily satisfying. Maybe others, at other times experienced it differently.

It would be very interesting indeed to know whether any of this applies to the experiences of the youngest generation, those now in training there.

Conductor-training is just one specific. A new stage in the history Conductive Education will come with is own, new revisionist historiography.

Not a moment too soon.


Mallett, S. (2010) 'The conductor' (There is no such animal: discuss), Conductor, 15 August

Sutton, A, (2006) Notes towards a history of Conductive Education (published on line as a knol)
(Please forgive the formatting on this one)

Sutton, A, (2008) Conductive Education: whatever next?

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