Tuesday, 7 September 2010

András Pető, L. S. Vygotskii and A. R Luriya


Following Conductive World's recent posting on Brazil, Leticia Búrigo asks –

I had beeen reading about Luria at the Library, and I wrote this post. Please if you have any comments about it, I would like to know:
And as well, I read that they had being visiting Pető Institute:
This is not true?
Thanks for helping.

I have looked back at the two URLs provided, and read them. I am afraid that I missed them at the time. They add the further tid-bit of a visit by Piaget.

A lot of people who try and find out about Conductive Education, like you, Leticia, may be bombarded with all sorts of uninformed nonsense, not least about András Pető and the origins of his assumed ideas.  Here are some basic historical facts as essential background.

Vygotskii died in 1934. Pető was at that time living in Austria, allegedly, doing whatever it was that he did. He began the sort of work that might today be called Conductive Education in 1945, in Budapest, eleven years after Vygotskii's death.

Vygotskii never visited Austria or Hungary. Ever. Soon after he died, all his publications were withdrawn from publication, libraries, and bookshops. They were (partially) rehabilitated from the mid-fifties. (I do not know when they began to find their way into Hungary: I suspect that this could have been in the seventies but I do not know). By the mid-fifties onwards, however, the building blocks of conductive pedagogy appear to have been already well in place and András Pető was an increasingly sick man (sometimes very sick indeed) and the days of conceptual innovation were probably over.

In 1934 Luriya took the wisest course of action, self-imposed internal exile, doing medical training in Kharkhov in the Ukraine. He graduated as a doctor and the War drew him into rehabilitation of brain-injured soldiers. With the war over, he continued to keep his head down, working at the Institute of Defectology in Moscow (an increasingly dangerous city for a Jewish doctor under Stalin). His rehabilitation also came in the mid-fifties, after Khrushchev's denunciation of Stalinism, and was intertwined with that of Vygotskii. It was only then that he could begin publishing his work again. There is no way in which AP cold have read of this before that.

Luriya had died in 1977. Did he ever visit the State Institute for Motor Disorders (there was no 'Pető Institute' till 1985)? Well, yes, actually he did. I was told this in 1984 or 1985 by Mária Hári, who told me almost by accident. She would not later amplify on it.

She told me that when Luriya was a famous Soviet scientist he was allowed out (of the USSR) to go to Budapest to speak at a conference. He had a couple of minders with him, to make sure that he behaved himself, did not speak to the wrong sort of people, and, above all, make a dash for the West. One morning Luriya slipped out of his hotel very early, when the two minders were still asleep. He came to the Institute, talked with AP and was then back at his hotel by breakfast time, with the goons none the wiser.

I do not have a date for this reported event

You may make of all that what you wish – as long as you see that on the basis of the knowable facts, the relationship between Conductive Education and Vygotskii/Luriya has been imposed by later commentators, rather than being something that was played out in historical reality.

As things stand, there are interesting parallels and analogies to be drawn.

I think that I have told Mária Hári little anecdote before on Conductive World, but it is important enough in its implications to bear telling again. Thanks for giving me the pretext!

Con amor,


PS. As for Piaget, yes I have also heard that he went to see Pető at the Institute (again Mária Hári was the verbal source). I know no more than this., though I am not sure that parallels/analogies can be drawn between the two men's work/ideas, and I have not seen anyone trying to do so..


  1. Andrew,
    Thank you for sharing with your readers your reply to Leticia. I really enjoyed reading this posting which took me back to the time when I was a trainee conductor at the Peto Institute.
    Although dr Hari taught us through the conductor course, amongst her anecdotes there was none about the visits of Luriya or Piaget. Interestingly the little grey books which were the readers for the course despite making a number of references to Vygotskii, Luriya and Piaget, but without mentioning these visits.
    You must have been a very trusted person by dr Hari!!!

  2. Hello Tünde, nice to see you back here again.

    I am not sure that we actually trusted each other, but we did know what the other would be interested in!

    I doubt that she felt much need to impress you lot. I she did, then I should think that tales of Luriya and Piaget would not have been the way to do it!

    Our long conversations were part of a much longer Great Game. And just because she told me something did not mean that what she said was necessarily gospel. She knew my weakness for good stories....


  3. Andrew,

    Thanks you so much for sharing your history. I am a courious mum, i am not an educator neither a conductor, but it is always a pleasure to know more.

    I really thanks for this sharing experience.


    CoM amor,