Friday, 22 October 2010


When I used to lecture student-conductors part of my task was to offer them some conceptual tools to help them understand and articulate what they were learning to become and to do – and of course to provide this in an academic manner.

The 'literature' of Conductive Education is not terribly helpful in this. Over the course of three years we would therefore range widely across psychology, pedagogy, sociology, comparative education, history, philosophy,social policy and, among other things, ethics. I suppose that I really ought to collect some of all this together and publish it – not specifically for those involved in Conductive Education (hardly a cost-effective exercise) but for its wider relevance and applicability.

One of the things that we used to talk about was Hope. I not know when precisely, a long time ago,  I first twigged the vital importance of hope, not only in the pedagogy and the upbringing of Conductive Education but also for the whole panoply of social action that these soon became so bound up with outside Hungary. All I know is that it was parents who 'told' me. That is not to say that they came out with some formal statement, such as 'Hope is central to Conductive Education, a prerequisite, mechanism and product. Rather is soon realised that the word came up again an again and again in what parents said, both in innumerable casual conversations with myself and in the often more intense, concentrated things that they would say to politicians and the media. Once spotted, then the word was impossibkle to avoid – like the word 'knife' in Alfred Hitchcock's classic thriller...

Moreover, I saw that it was not just the English word 'hope' involved here. With the spread of the conductive message, parents (and other family-members), with little or usually no contact with what had been said before, came up with the equivalent in their own languages, spontaneously, again and again, in statements like:

Conductive Education has given us back hope.

Horror of horrors, however, in this as in much else, the insights of families did not seep into the 'technical literature' of Conductyive Education. Nor did it penetrate the 'research literature 'Why not? Don't people talk with parents? Don't they read the newspapers? Or does the Siren call of reductionist science drown out this clarion-clear message. Perhaps it it hard for those with little or no background in humane psychology or in other ways of thinking about thinking, to see that something like hope (or its lack, despair) is no an irrelevant metaphysical abstraction but a powerful material force in human health and well-being, in pedagogy, upbringing and education. Surely they see and act upon this when it comes to their own selves, or to the selves of those dear to the them.

As in my lectures, I digress...

This thing called hope

Prisoners and hostages, those who are oppressed and persecuted, denied their liberty and to any reasonable outsider have no rational grounds for hope whatsoever. Well known examples are Terry Waite, Nelson Mandela and that Lady who so frightens the generals in Burma, but there are uncountable njumbers around the world who, with nothing else to keep them going, still live in hope.

And when they are finally free, they are hailed as heroes. The world marvels at their moral strength and endurance, and lauds that candle of hope that they say kept them going over the years.

So what is it? Myself, I have a problem with whether 'hope' falls within the psychological or the philosophical category (a nice practical question that poses a challenge to the originnal distinction made more than a century ago!). It certainly has not had much of an outing in the category of (re)habilitation – if category that be!

And what is that peculiar philosophical nonsense of 'false' hope, the accusation/judgement so readily applied to those who want and believe in the possibility of what is presently on offer?

All I know is that Hope goes back a long way. Remember what came last out of the box when inquisitive Pandora released all the evils of te world? Something foe humanity to hold on to: Hope.

Or if you prefer the words of the New Testament:, loopk to the report by Matthew, a great lead-in for discussion of the roles of faith and charity in Conductive Education too: faith (pedagogic belief), hope (pedagogic optimism) and charity (love)... but again, I digress.

Joe and Jo

Hope has been mention before on Conductive World.

It cannot be mentioned too often in the context of Conductive Education. I was prompted to mention it again today because I have been reading the manuscript of an inteview with Jo Lebeer, conducted by Jo McGuigan for a soon to be published collection of parental reflections upon conductive upbringing (of which more, I hope, soon).

Jo Lebeer, best known in Conductive Eduction as an academic neurologist, is also a parent, a carer, and strong articulator of the force of things mental and social in the upbringing of disabled children. In his MS for this forthcoming volume, he has stated Hope far better than can I. Along the way, he cites Václav Havel, who puts it better than either of us could. Joe McGguigan is a journalist, sister of a disabled child, and member of one of the pioneer British families to go to Budapest in the mid-sixties. She spend a lot of time over there when she was little, soaking up the culture of CE. I doubt that she remember, but I first met her in 1987, at a sunnt front-garden table outside the now gone and much-lamented Szép Ilóna restaurant, by the historic tram depot in the Buda Hills, where the Soviet pincer closed on Budapest late in 1944...

Digressing again!

And Václav Havel? An intellectual and an articulator, if ever there was one, someone who knew a lot about repression..

Having been prompted by Jo I Googled “Václav Havel” and “hope”., and was presented with a storm of hits. Mr Havel has certain given the matter of hope some thought. Here is a sample of some of his statements of what is hope –

(My computer is playing up and I am running ou of time and energy. Do please come back to this page tomorrow, when I will have tidied up the above text, and brought it to a proper conclusion.)


  1. Hope, yes we hear a lot about this from parents here in Germany too, Hoffnung.

    It is nearly always used together with the words “high expectations” and making sense. The parents tell me that it is the high expectations that the conductors have of the children and then teach the parents how they can develop that too, that brings about a sense of hope.

    One parent described this to me only recently remembering so clearly how her world changed to one filled with hope when her then two-year old child (now eight) first met a conductor and a chair was put in front of him to walk with. It was the first time she had seen him on his feet. Her hope developed because a conductor expected her child to be able to achieve and from that moment on her world made sense again.

    When I went to the Petö Institute to study something happened immediately: I stepped inside a group and began to work and learn.

    I have always described this “something” as the moment that I realised that what I was doing and learning was “common sense”. Now I realise that it was not common sense that I was describing but it was the moment when something in my world began to make sense.

    I had gone to Hungary looking for something and I suppose that I discovered Hope in the same way as the parents did, not for my own children but for those I worked with, and I found a deep understanding and a sense to what I was doing.

    It is with this understanding, the making of sense and the development of hope, that we can achieve so much in the teams I work with. We have a strong belief in our children that they will achieve their aims in life, we all have hope for the moment and take things one step at a time not working towards a happy ending but on a hopeful journey.

  2. "Will he walk?" my father asked the Head Conductor at our first visit to the Villányi út, after 13-months-old George's (=first grandson!)assessment..."Yes, he will" - came the confident answer.

    This is what got me into the conductive world.Hope. Substantiated by what I saw straight from the start. And qualified by what I also understood, straight away:"if you work for it"...