Sunday, 31 October 2010

Recipe for success

Apply it how you wish

Aviation historian Robert Owen writes of what makes for success and longevity in a weapons system –

...ability to meet changing requirements and accept continuing modification to achieve superior performance.



Owen, R. (2010) Aerial creatures, In Morris, R. (ed.) Bravery. Sacrifice. Freedom. 70th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain, London, Newsdesk Communications and the Royal Air Force, pp.76-79

Saturday, 30 October 2010

British or what?

And is there reason to care either way?

Today is Samhain, the end of the Pagan year. You cannot get more British than that! Or should I write Celtic? But I'm English, though... It is confusing, but only if you think about such stuff as a matter of importance. Despite the recent commercial revival of Halloween (American? Scottish?) the ancient festival or Samhain and, more importantly, what it represents, hold no discernible meaning for me.

But, to exercise a familiar argument, it happened in these islands so, in a way, it is British. It also happened elsewhere in places of Cetic settlement, that is in many in places across Europe (including in what is now Hungary), but that is a analogy for rather wider discussion that I doubt this context to be ready for.

I am about to go on a train, off for an adventure. Apart from my computer (which is in danger of growing into me) I am carrying two smallish boxes, One is a little plastic tool box, containing small hand tools. The other is a smallish cardboard box, empty apart from some fresh sheets of tissue paper and a roll of sticky tape to seal it shut when I need it. I am headed for that mythic, mysterious destination of my childhood: 'an airfield somewhere in England'.

I am off to celebrate the life and work of a Hungarian Jew, who certainly has had a discernible and pleasurable effect on my own life and my own society, and millions of other lives too over nearly sixty years, in many countries around the world.

Or were he and what he created in this country, British? Or specifically, English? What daft, unEnglish (and very unBritish) questions! I am sure that not a soul at the event that I am going to will give such a line of enquiry a moment's thought, or even be aware that there is a 'history' here at all, a fascinating one notwithstanding.

And there will indeed be quite a few people there, for I am off to take part in a bid for a new world record.

Friday, 29 October 2010

Big splash in Nova Scotia

A justified celebration

There will be big splash tomorrow at the Legislative building, Province House in Halifax,  to celebrate Conductive Education's advance in Nova Scotia, following tonight's Rock for Dimes fundraising event. No doubt all this will reverberate across the Maritimes.

Read about tomorrow's event at:

See what's happening tonight, too:

To the Unknown Conductor

Politics, money, entertainment, philanthropy, will be at Province House tomorrow: tout Nova Scotia.

Er, not quite. What has happened in Nova Scotia (and around, I believe) shows, yet again, what can be achieved by the right person embedded in a local community. I am sure that conductor Beth Brydon will be there at the do, and that her central role in all this duly and publicly lauded. It is a shame, though, that she is not specifically mentioned by name in the coverage so far.

This sort of thing can and often does happen to conductors all over the place, and they can be understandably very sensitive to it, you know. So let us 'celebrate' Beth  here, and all those other like her, wherever they might be.

Hurrah for conductor Beth Brydon, and for all those other Unknown Conductors around the world who do rather more in this Great Game that just carry a spear, and whose names should be up there in lights, at the top of the bill.

CE, sell thyself

However you can

Garden furniture, special deals at restaurants, insurance, clothing, dodgy medication to combat flagging  powers, even dodgier get-rick-quick schemes, unsecured loans, legal services, things to do with computers that I do not undertand, ways to improve my business ... nothing that anybody might actually want, arriving in a steady trickle, my junk/spam-filter notwithtanding. Yours too, probably.

Presumably most of the senders picked up my email addresses through sales of old personal data or from automated searches.  I usually unsubscrtibe from all these emails as they arrive, though sometimes there just is not time to do this. Now I have begun systematically to shut down all such links with the Internet, in preparation for my big shut down at the end of this year.

Some of these emails offer no obvious means of chopping them off. This morning, for example a warm and friendly email arrived under the greeting 'Aloha, Gentleman', from a lady (please nobody tell me off for using this word) presumably offering me personal services from the South Seas. I did not click on the preoffered link for fear that I or my computer might catch an embarrasing infection. Since I cannot unsubscribe, no doubt she and her people will continue sending her Siren Song.

Where is Conductive Education?

But amazingly, over all these years, despite my two email addresses being widely available, and a considerable international correspondence stretching back almost to the dawn of emails, I have never once received an email starting something like 'Hello, Big Boy. Do you fancy some Conductive Education services?'

Given that this is 2010 and that the world is at it now is, should one not find this rather surprising?

I heard recently of a CE service that is trying to work out what it should be doing to attract clients. It is drifting down into Shakespeare's final stage of life: sans clients, sans income, sans services, sans jobs 
–  sans everything. I suspect that its situation may not be unique.

So what does one do in 2010? Cut prices, create attractive new products, diversify, put oneself selves about in every conceivable forum, get some strong PR going, scrape down to the very bottom of potentially relevant data bases, market, explore new demographics, advertise... America is quite a good place for finding such things. Some other countries, less so.

Maybe of course, uniquely, one will always be able to rely upon Conductive Education to market itself, and the world to owe it a living, just the way that it is.

Transformation. Time. Testamonio

Not a lot of people know that

Norman Perrin has drawn attention to an interesting item on Julian Dobson's blog, posted on Sunday and called 'Ten things we didn't learn about regeneration':

This blog is called Living with rats. It concerns the regeneration of towns and cities and is about the complexities of life, making mistakes and learning, inspiration and humility:

Sound familiar?

The Conductive Education movement worldwide might be viewed as a desperate attempt to regenerate an intellectual and human slum, if that is how you chose to view how contemporary societies continue to deal with disabled children/adults and their families.

Norman obviously does, enabling him to ponder whether there might be lessons for CE's own institutions from Julian Dobson's ten points. Theey are certainly contain some well-crafted observations/interpretations. I particularly liked this one:

... partnerships – a collection of sworn enemies united in the pursuit of funding...


And I liked a nice rule-of-thumb given in response to the degeneration of a once perfectly good word increasingly into meaningless tosh. The word in question is 'transformation'. I use to use this word myself, to express qualitative change in human mental/social development, relating both to its occurrence and the means that might bring this about – hence, for example, the little book and the much-bigger series of TV documentaries some twenty years ago, The Transformers.

By this analysis Conductive Education could be productively viewed as part of a loose family of theories/practices dedicated to the mutability of human learning, development, personality etc. The family included the approaches of Feuerstein, Heywood, Friere, Wallon, Zazzo and co., and of course the huge panoply of the Soviet psychological/ pedagogic/defectological complex.

In this age of bioligistic determinism, there is no longer much call for that sort of thin . This seems to go for CE too, both internally and externally.

In Germany, by the way, also about twenty years ago, conductive pioneer and campaigner Gabi Haug took her cue from Goethe and used the term Metamorphose in the context of what was still then called konduktive Pedagogie

In English, the word 'transformation' has soldiered on, attracting a rather vitiated meaning. … Julian Dobson devotes the eighth of his ten points to this --

8 Transformation is a dishonest way of describing short-term change. Political cycles, funding programmes and upward accountability create incentives to over-egg the pudding – to make exaggerated claims about the changes our activities have produced. Among the hackneyed and sometimes mendacious expressions used of run-of-the-mill activity, ‘transformation’ is the most glaring. Nobody should be allowed to use it until at least 25 years after completing a project.

I love that last sentence.

Transformation takes time

Twenty five years, a human generation... never mind the exact quantitative tine-span, what is important here when one regards transformation (or otherwise) of human development is the qualitative index of children's growing up – or, if you think dialectically, bringing up your child.

There's a lot of talk about 'branding' in Conductive Education. If you really want to brand anyone with anything (using a very hot iron, that is) you could start with that final sentence, searing it into the consciousness of those who want to experience, provide, market or even 'research' qualitative, transformative change, through Conductive Education or any other means, in some developmental blink of an eye.

The testimonio

This week I am rushing to conclude the final editorial overview of a further new book on CE, this one comprising fourteen testimonios written by parents who have been involved in Conductive Education in the long term, their children now being children no more but young men and women in their twenties.

Research? That depends upon how you regard the testimonio and the tradition(s) that it represents. Anecdotal evidence? Or a long-overdue light upon the transactional and transformative processes and outcomes of conductive upbringing, upon families and much as upon children? If plans turn out, you will be able to judge someting of this yourself when Intelligent love in published in time for the World Congress in December.

The notion of testimonio was first mentioned on Conductive World on 30 March 2009:

This posting quoted the definition given in the 2000 edition of the Handbook of Qualitative Research:

A testimonio is a first-personal political text told by a narrator who is a protagonist or witness to the events that are reported upon. These tellings report on torture, imprisonment, social upheaval, and other struggles for survival. These works are intended to produce (and record) social change. Their truth is contained in the telling of events that are recorded by the narrator. The author is not a researcher, but rather a person who testifies on behalf of history and personal experience.

Understood this way, a life history document is an entry into life, a portal into a culture different from that of the reader. Such texts become vehicles for self-understanding. They connect memory and history to reflexive political action. They create spaces for the voices of previously silenced persons to be heard. In this way the post-modern historian-ethnographer helps create liberating texts.

Conductive World has so far had reason to mention the testimonio in all five times. If you want to look through these enter the word “testimionio” in the box with a magnifying-glass symbol at the lop, left-hand corner of this Blogger page .

Thursday, 28 October 2010

CE's Hungarianness: I disagree, maybe

Not at all like football or pizza, perhaps

Yesterday Conductive World threw down a bit of a gauntlet about the usually unquestioned Hungarianness of Conductive Education:

This has been been picked up and challenged by László Szögeczki on his blog –

Tehat akkor a konduktiv pedogia nem lenne magyar?
Igazsag szerint errol mar beszelgettunk egyszer Andrew Sutonnal, ha emlekezetem nem csal, akkor talan nehany comment erejeig irasban is hozza szoltam ehhez az oltlatehez. Andrew legutobbi bejegyzeseben azt feszegeti, hogy a konduktiv pedagogia igazan nem is magyar, mert... olvassatok el.

Oh, see the rest for yourself at:

I am afraid that this all a bit beyond my limited Hungarian. I do see that Laci makes a point that football started in England and pizza in Italy, and that the first manifestations of what we currently call CE occurred in Hungary, but I cannot tell what he draws from this (not your fault, Laci, my Hungarian's).

I am not sure how far that this really relates to what I was struggling to say and I do hope that those with better access to Laci's argument will be able to help the discussion along.

Yes, this is a hideously laborious process. No wonder one hardly ever comes across any attempt to hammer out shared understandings on vital matters across the Hungarian/non-Hungarian linguistic divide. Think of this – what a bloody disgrace.

All the greater credit to László Szögeczki therefore for trying to argue across this divide... whatever he is saying.

Millionaire Bootcamp for Women

It could be YOU!

I do get some funny letters.

This one is intriguing, but it is not much use to me. I am happy to pass it on as a public service to anyone in Conductive Education who might be able to make use of it.

Just don't forget to remember me when you have made your first million.

From Ron G. Holland
Sent: 26 October 2010 14:44
To: Andrew Sutton

You're Invited... The Millionaire Bootcamp for Women

Hi Andrew,

Last year's event was a major success with over 1000 women attending not to mention National Newspapers,TV and Radio coverage. If you were there or if you missed out last time... This year's Millionaire Bootcamp for Women is going to be even BIGGER and even BETTER!
With an All Star cast of super cool 21st Century Women, all of them self-made millionaires in their own had better be prepared to have your minds blown! As they share with you how they made the transformation from stressed out wives, mothers and often simply undervalued employees to successful, independent and fulfilled women... and how with their help YOU can too!
Learn how to escape the daily grind and finally live the life you know you deserve. Don't miss out... tickets are going fast! For more details and to secure your place click here now:

This is NOT a hoax, but something to do with 'marketing'.

Good luck.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

How Hungarian is 'Conductive Education'?

And of not, what?
Some history!

When I first stumbled unwittingly upon Conductive Education I was already well imbued with the sound comparative-educational principle that educational systems are understandable and explicable only in terms of the societies of which they are a part. This goes for special-educational systems too.

A Hungarian history

When I first beheld Conductive Education it existed only in Hungary, chiefly at the State Institute for Motor Disorders (later the Pető Institute) every nerve and sinew of which was accointed to me vigorously by my mentor and guide, Mária Hári, as stemming solely and directly from András Pető. In 1985 the late Philippa Cottam and I compiled a book to offer some academic basis for our intention to extract Conductive Education from Hungary. In preparing the necessary early chapter on the approach I wrote an account which began with the arrival of the Magyars in Europe, traced the history of the Hungarian monarchy, dealt with the Turkish occupation and then the Hapsburgs, did the Dual Monarchy, the red revolution, Admiral Horthy, and then the Second World War followed by Rakosi, bringing things up to the then present time with Goulash Socialism. From Comenius onwards there were lots of things to say along the way about the emergence of Hungarian education, not least its own determination to succeed and the national determination that it indeed should.

It was easy to slot in András Pető, what incredibly little was known about him (how little has changed!), at the appropriate place, and see the development of the State Institute in a satisfactorily teleological manner – which was, after all, how Mária Hári wanted me and the rest of the world to see things.

I have loved rooting through Hungarian history. Like most people outside Central Europe I had had no previous idea about what had happened in this neck if the words. The people who live there, however, know and treasure their histories, not least among them the Hungarians. It has always been a great pleasure to talk with Central Europeans about matters that are so important to them, such as the Myth of Dacian Continuity, appreciate the delight that the take to find an Englishman who has even heard of such things – and, I have to admit, delight in extraordinary passions that such matters arouse.

I still hold firmly to that comparative-educational principle, and I think that over the years I have gained not too bad an appreciation of Hungarian history, especially the history of the last hundred years or so.

There is only one problem, however: I no longer think that Conductive Education is particularly Hungarian.

Then what?

Let us start at the fons et origio, András Pető himself.
  • He was born into the Austro-Hungarian Empire, on the Hungarian side of a then fairly arbitrary border. In the plebiscite at the end of the First World War this mixed area voted to stay in the Kingdom of Hungary. But what was he? Hungarian or Austrian?
  • He was a Jew. What language did he grow up speaking at home? Was it Hungarian? Or German? Or Yiddish?
  • He went to University in Vienna and stayed on there afterwards, to live and work. He became an Austrian citizen. As far as the Nürnberg Laws were concerned of course, he was still a Jew, so so after Ansschluss he could not become German. He moved on. Where to? Paris has been mentioned for a brief stay but then, for whatever reason, he found himself in Hungary.
  • Sometime after the War having toyed with the idea of going to Israel (allegedly), he became a Hungarian citizen, and remained in that country till he died.
Perhaps the search for the conceptual roots of Conductive Education should not have started in Hungary at all, but much more generally across Central Europe, particularly amongst things German. And perhaps they it should be directed less to educational ideas than to the philosophical and medical ideas of Central Europe in the nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries – perhaps with particular account to Jewish ideas of healing and human affairs (I have in mind here the thinking of Martin Buber but perhaps there are others of equal or greater importance).

What does Hungary have to weigh against all this in the history of relevant ideas?

And how important was András Pető anyway once he had brought together the beginnings of what we now call Conductive Education? To broach this question is not to deny his central importance in establishing central tenets: it merely questions Maria Hari's categorical determination that everything in Conductive Education was of his making. He died in 1967, after which many things have happened. Not least, even before his death, the organisation that he founded out of his own personal rehabilitative practice, had already come under a very different aegis, the Ministry of Education of the Hungarian People's Republic.

This Ministry of Education was not just a Central European Ministry of Education, with its own definite ideas of how educational establishments should be run and what they should teach, it was a Ministry Education in what we in the West used to call a Soviet Satellite. At such, even if at times at the rhetorical level, it would have had its own position of the mutability of human potential and personality through education, and the best means of upbringing and pedagogy to achieve the desired results. As far as the Hungarian state would have been concerned, it seems unlikely to have shared Maria Hari's central concern to maintain the legacy of András Pető, what it would care about would be to ensure that its own educational goals were met.

Mária Hári fought like a fiend against the Ministry, its ministers officials and inspectors – but how much of what I first saw in 1984 was 'Pető' and how much a blend of his legacy, of Maria Hari's interpretation of this and, perhaps very importantly, of the all-prevalent Socialist Education. I have no idea.

And now

Hungary now is only one part of the story, so is Central Europe. Now the stage spreads across continents.

Why? Because 'we' turned up, and appropriated what we could of what we saw, 'we' here being the world outside Hungary.
  • We have demanded the generation of practices that are altogether outside the ken of an education ministry in a distant country in Central Europe (now of course no longer a Socialist one), outside the experience and competence of that one institute to provide, outside of the historical experience of he system and its pioneers. We  have set about trying to adapt it to our own social ends.
  • And the dying Socialist state privatised the Institute that epitomised this practice, with the commercial possibilities of a lucrative export trade very much in mind.
  • And the Iron Curtain tumbled.
  • And a whole new dimension of practice and its development could begin, in the hands of independent conductors and self-determining families.
  • And all along the way there has been no written record to crystalise ot fix Conductive Education as a communicable body of knowledge.
  • And there has been no proper document-based historical study. We may or may not know where we are going – but we certainly do not know where we came from.
Oh yes, that notwithstanding, Hungarian big business, such of it as there is left, has declared the Pető Institute to be a Hungaricum – a uniquely Hungarian export brand.

But er..., is it?

An empirical answer

This posting opens with a question: 'How Hungarian is 'Conductive Education?' It continues by saying that, insofar as this question is open to historical analysis, the immediate self-evident existing answer to this covers some important, unresolved underlying question.

How much is the answer examinable on the basis of contemporary conductive practice?  What of contemporary conductive practice is discernibly Hungarian in its conceptual roots, and what of this survives – or indeed should survive – into families and into institutional practices, and into the training courses established around the world.

How does the legacy of András Pető fit in with with the values, aims and ideals of so many of the families who have been the backbone of its spread around the world – inclusion, empowerment, choice. How far are these even compatible with the style of so much of András Pető's healing, never mind with the system of residential schooling through which that legacy was formalised under Mária Hári.

When Philippa and I published that book it all so seemed so clear and simple. We even chose a front-cover design composed of red, white and green stripes, the Hungarian national colours, a striking motif adapted then as the corporate colours of the Foundation for Conductive Education.

I have played some personal part over the years in promulgating the idea around the world that Conductive Education is Hungarian.

I got it wrong.

Upbringing: what to read?

I'll give you five

This morning, Norman Perrin wrote –
Good morning Andrew
This morning's Telegraph has a piece 'Best brain science books from Daniel Dennett to Oliver Sacks Five of the best books about neuroscience, psychiatry and the brain, as selected by Tom Chivers.'
It led also to some interesting-looking further suggestions in the comments.
The piece prompted me to wonder what 5 books you might recommend to the common reader, such as myself for instance, with a strong interest in conductive education/upbringing --  given the impossibility of assembling 5 books about CE.
Sometimes, Norman, I think that in CE all readers are uncommon.

I do not know what student-conductors are expected to read nowadays, anywhere, to introduce them to questions of upbringing. I can offer the sort of things that I used suggest when I was involved in conductor-training.
  • Kick off with Urie Bronfenbrenner's little book Two world of childhood: USA and USSR. There are plenty of copies floating around on the Internet. Don't pay more than a couple of quid. Go for the Penguin edition: it's prettier. You may also find copies in local second-hand bookshops. No educated person with a view on fundamental questions of how to bring up children should have failed to have read and considered this (a good test, this!)
  • Go on to the first volume of A. S. Makarenko's Road to life. A pedagogic poem. An epic of education. A rollocking good read, and a fundamental text in the story of twentieth-century education. Again, there are lots of copies available on line. You might find yourself owning one in a nice old Soviet binding (nice smell too!).
  • For the next generation in this line of thinking go to V. A. Sukhomlinskii [Sukhomlinsky]. You can make a start through a free (yes, free) e-book of Each one must shine: the educational legacy of V. A. Sukhomlonsky, by Alan Cockerill, at And you can go on to splash out from there on Sukhomlinsii's own  I give my life to children. As the titles imply, these are rather less rollicking...
Yes, a rather Soviet-oriented selection but I do not think that many Anglo-American writers on upbringing will give you are looking for. Anyway, of the three listed above, one is a critical comparative text from the United States and I see that the other two are now being hailed in their homeland as great works of Ukranian education.

You asked for five and so far I have offered only three. If you want something from the Jewish tradition, from Poland, dive into Janusz Korczak, of whom English-speakers seem diagracefully to have heard next to nothing (just like for the most part they have never heard of pedagogy!). And for someone who has been influential in French-speaking CE (that's 'EC' of course), dig into Françoise Dolto – rather  too psychoanalytic (and too French) for my personal taste, but bearing a bracingly refeshing message about saying No.

How's that for starters?

You can find plenty more of course on all the above books, and on the people who originated these ideas and their related practices, as well as further reading, on the Internet


And yes, go easy on that 'brain-science' stuff!

Monday, 25 October 2010

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Who is in charge of those in charge?

Yesterday Conductive Word took up and extended a question from a few days ago on the Conductor blog. Who, it had been asked on the Conductor are CE congresses for? Who, it was asked on Conductive World, is Conductive Education for?

Here is an extended question arising from consideration of this – perhaps an altogether separate question, perhaps interwoven Who is safeguarding Conductive Education, who is in charge, and who is checking on those who are – who is making sure that they are making a decent job of it?

Conductive Education's 'four estates'

Disabled people. There are precious few disabled people 'in' conductive Educaion at all, and many of those that are are attend short-term for sessions and then move on. For those who are left there have emerged no mechanisms whereby disabled people may take any ownership of Conductive education.

Families of motor-disordered children. A larger population – but, again, a substantial proportion of this has only a fleeting contact with the system before moving on, having 'done Conductive Education'. Again too, those who stay, the conductive upbringers and long-term proponents, have no mechanism for developing common positions, never mind for expressing and pressing common analyses and demand.

Conductors. How many are there worldwide with reasonable claim to be considered actively involved in Conductive Education? In the ordwe of three or four hundred of all ages? I honestly do not know. Nor do I know what proportion of this number has long-term involvement in the system, though this is certainly a higher proportion than is the case for two above-mentioned groups. There are formally constituted, participatory conductors' associations in Hungary, Germany and New Zealand. Maybe in those countries these organisations have actively appropriated some authority over how Conductive Education develops. Perhaps not – nobody tells so nobody knows. As for the rest of the world, there is no sign of conductors collectively seeking to take some public possession of their work. Perhaps they do so non-publicly, but if so then by definition this goes unseen, and the likelihood is that it does not exist.

Centres, programs and other providing/employing institutions. Of all three estates these have the strongest case for ownership that money grants. They take money from the clients (or from the state or insurance companies on their clients' behalf) and pay it to the conductors. Further, in so far as CE has a public-relations wing, they control it – in so much that CE seeks to exercise any political influence at all, then this tends to be through them too. But they too have no mechanisms for mutual communication, no mechanisms for collective action – or if they have, again nobody has been able to hear of it, so de facto it does not exist.

The 'four estates' suggested here are not water-tight compartments. Some parents, for example, may become employers; some conductors may become parents or employers; and there way be other ways in which membership of these estates might interweave and interact. The classification proposed above is merely a notional tool.

Are there any other estates within Conductive Education? It would be nice to hear their claims argued. The only ones that spring immediate to mind are 'the researchers' and 'the funders' In either case their links with each other, or often even to CE itself may, may need powerful advocacy. I leave this task to others.

Big assemblies, conferences and congresses

Every now and then, not that often, there are big get-togethers, national and/or international. These are not academic meetings in the contemporary sense of this term. Nor are they parliaments in the old sense of that word (the one to which the term 'estates' relates).

Such meetings demonstrate five striking features:
  • they assemble a mix of all four estates (though not in proportionate numbers)
  • participants are self-selected (not delegated or elected)
  • they do not serve to crystallise knowledge/awareness
  • they do not make decisions (or even take public stances)
  • they do not control or safeguard Conductive Education (or, of they do, they do so exceedingly discretely).
Others may wish to challenge or add to these. Please do

So, who is is in charge, and who is watching them?

These big get-togethers are not in charge – and nobody is in charge of them. They do their thing.

With perhaps local (that is national) exceptions, the 'estates' mentioned above have no structure of their own, and no corporate mechanisms to exercise internal control or discipline on anything, and no mandated authority to act externally.

So, in a vacuum, individuals and institutions all do their things, the best that they can aspire to in their given circumstances, with little or no idea – or worse, wrong ideas – of what the rest of the world is up to.

As far as Conductive Education is concerned, to Juvenal's question quis custodiet ipsos custodes ('Who should be in charge of the people who are in charge?), the present answer seems a simple, one: Ipsi cives ('Let the citizens themselves be in charge').

There is no foreseeable alternative to the present situation. This you may, according to your choice, regard as a true commonwealth of endeavour and a favourable realisation of the word 'anarchism – or as a recipe for isolation, anomie – anarchy.

When I was a lad, about the only concept that we were offered to explain how our society worked was through the mechanism of 'checks and balances'. Every group of significance took a hand in deciding how things should be, but everyone was subject to having to take account of the interests and the influence of all the others. I suspect that Conductive Education may not be alone nowadays in preferring a more formalised constitutional settlement!

To return to the specific issue that set off this line of thought, if the body that governs the CE World Congress does not in stipulate normal standards for disabled attendance, then whose job is it to step in and bring it to task? Quis custodiet?

You should. You are as entitled as anyone to do so and, if you do not, then nobody will.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

What is the position of disabled people in Conductive Education?

Just one awkward question

In these increasingly straightened times the awkward, unpalatable questions may be harder to avoid, and easier to ask.

Susie Mallett has kicked this particular question into play, about disabled people in CE, by asking a subsidiary question: Who are congresses for, referring specifically to the forthcoming World Congress in Hong Kong, and how the International Pető Association has planned for disability access there.

Tendentious – or not before time?

I favour the latter. There are quite a few other questions in CE well overdue for airing. Thanks, Susie, for kicking this one into public play.

Time for some others.
Meanwhile, here is what Susie Mallett said.


Saturday, 23 October 2010

UK Parliament: debate on educational psychologists

Sound of one hand clapping

From the House of Commons, on 18 October 2010, Hansard reports –

Education Psychology

Annette Brooke (Mid Dorset and North Poole) (LD): I have taken an interest over a long time in the provision of education psychology services, as I am very much aware that long waiting times for assessment can have an impact on the rest of a child's life. I am delighted that the Government are undertaking a review into special educational needs, but deeply concerned that the training of educational psychologists appears to have been put on hold while the review takes place. I shall return to this point in more detail later, but emphasise now that educational psychologists will be needed to help to deliver the Government's agenda to improve educational outcomes for children with special educational needs and to assist with early intervention-another area being reviewed, which again I wholeheartedly applaud.

Clearly, educational psychologists have a crucial role to play. They use evidence-based psychology to help children make the most of learning opportunities in schools. They solve educational social problems and problems arising from children's differing needs through the application of psychology. They work not only with a proportion of the school and pre-school population, but also more widely with groups of parents and pupils. Examples of differing needs include visual and hearing impairments, cerebral palsy, autism, dyspraxia, dyslexia, social and emotional difficulties, and many more...

Scroll down this rather long page till you come to Column 768 to read the full proceedings on this matter, which continue at length, with supportive comments from Stephen Gilbert, LD MP for St Austell and Newquay, and Simon Hughes, LD MP for Bermondsey and Old Southwark. Especial concerns are expressed that many educational psychologists are nearing the end of their careers, while funding for training new ones is drying up.

It looks like Ms Brooke had paid close attention to the briefing material of the AEP – the Association of Educational Services. She concluded her unquestioning paeon of praise for educational psychologists –

There is an urgent need to look again at the voluntary and unsustainable nature of current funding, to ensure that national funds are made available to train and maintain good levels of educational psychologists. The country wants and needs educational psychologists, yet the current funding arrangements and the decision to delay recruitment place the future provision of educational psychologists in serious jeopardy.

The perhaps unfamiliar abbreviation 'LD' in the above stands for Liberal Democrat, part of the UK's present Coalition Government. The ministerial response on behalf of the government is also from the LD –

The Minister of State, Department for Education (Sarah Teather): I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Dorset and North Poole (Annette Brooke) on securing today's debate on this important topic. She has campaigned tirelessly on the issue of educational psychologists and the need for adequate coverage for many years. I remember well the many times in opposition that she sought to amend just about every Bill that went through the House, to ensure that she had an opportunity to raise this issue. I understand how strongly she feels about it, and the fact that the House is so full tonight, despite the fact that it is almost 10 to midnight, is testament to the fact that Members on both sides of the House feel strongly about it, regardless of their political party.

My hon. Friend has shown her tireless commitment to this and to other issues relating to children with special educational needs and disability over many years, and it is therefore not surprising that Dod's saw fit to make her MP of the year in its recent women in public life awards for her work on children's issues. I offer her my congratulations on that.

It will not surprise my hon. Friend to hear that I share her ambition to improve education and children's services in this country, in particular for those who need more support than the rest to achieve their potential. From my conversations with parents, teachers and children's services professionals since I started this job, it has become clear to me that the complex and difficult situations that many families face can be made much more manageable if they receive the support that they need.

Educational psychologists are an extremely important part of the picture for many families in a variety of ways. They assess a child's needs in order to identify problems before they get worse. They provide individual and group therapy to children who need psychological support, and they ensure that children and families are put in touch with the right professionals if they require other services. They also provide important advice to teachers and other school staff about what more can be done to support children with additional needs in educational settings, including gifted and talented children as well as children with special educational needs. They also provide a vital role in offering more strategic advice to local authorities across a range of children's services, including fostering and adoption. I pay tribute to the work that educational psychologists do; it is absolutely vital for children and their families... seq,. ad naus. (note that her reply continues on to till the next web-page:

The question of funding for training was ducked (after all, ministers are still ministers, whatever their party). Stella Creasy (Walthamstow) (Lab/Co-op)f chipped in to reinforce the point about funding, and the minister tried to hide behind some right-on, warm-fuzzy sentiment about how bad it is to be 'adversarial':

I am clear that the system is far too adversarial, with parents all too often feeling that they have to battle to get the needs of their child recognised, let alone catered for. There are some excellent examples of good practice, but unfortunately all too often there are harrowing tales of poor practice. We must get better at identifying need early, diagnosing accurately and putting in place the right support to meet the child's and, indeed, the family's needs. We need a more transparent system in which assessments are streamlined and easier to cope with-a system that focuses more on outcomes for the child and the family and not just on ticking boxes on a piece of paper. I want parents to have more choice and involvement in decisions about their child's education and care. Much more can and should be done to raise the attainment of children with special educational needs and disability as well as to raise expectations of achievement. Key to all those areas of reform will be educational psychologists. We need to make much better use of their skills in assessment, advising teachers and schools, and working with families and children.

Sir Alan Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed) (LD), however, would not let the funding question go, Nic Dakin (Scunthorpe) (Lab) put an additional oar in, and the Minister tried another red herring:

The role of educational psychologists might change depending on what we do with the assessment system. I would like them to play a greater role in offering therapeutic advice rather than just being used by local authorities as a gatekeeper to services, as happens all too often. Much work needs to be done with the Green Paper.

They would not let her off the hook, though, and she had to admit that they had a case:

I am acutely aware that the current scheme is not operating as effectively as it should be. As my hon. Friend said, contributions from local authorities have been steadily decreasing, and so far this year only 16 out of 150 local authorities have confirmed that they will be contributing, leaving a significant shortfall in funding.

Beyond that she would not go. Wait till Christmas, she said, – and drew the discussion to a sharp and tetchy conclusion:

We hope to publish the Green Paper at some point in December. I am sorry that I cannot give a time for reform of the system around educational psychologists. All I can say is that.

Never mind the quality, feel the width

No doubt the AEP will be pleased that it got its day in court, but what has been learned other than there is only one factor in determining anything: how much will it cost and who will pay for it.

But who it is for,? What does it actually do? These are not secondary questions.

Primary the legislators should be asking ask what 'psychology' educational psychologists have that actually is practically relevant to the processes of education, not least to 'assessment' – and what is the ethical basis of how they lend their 'science' to the service of their local-authority paymasters.

Who are educational psychologists' clients anyway: children/families or the schools/bureaucracy.

To dredge up that long-unconfronted question: Whose psychology is it anyway?

Can one expect that this lack-lustre, unquestioning Parliamentary debate is indication of what is being discussed behind closed doors in preparation for Christmas's Green paper. If it is, then never mind the education psychologists (who does?), what future does Conductive Education have in the English state that is so shallowly understood by our democratic representatives?

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.)

Thursday, 21 October 2010

England: some doors may close, others open

Chance of some state funding for CE
At a price?

The voluntary-sector magazine Third Sector reports as follows –

Although the comprehensive spending review will reduce public spending by 19 per cent over the next four years, it promises a bigger role for the voluntary and community sector.
'The reforms underpinning the spending review represent a significant increase in the opportunities and funding available to the voluntary and community sector in the medium and longer term,' says the report, Spending Review 2010.
A key part of this will be the new £100m transition fund, which will run over the next two years in England only, and is intended to help the sector prepare for the opportunities, especially in the area of public service delivery.
Overall, the review says that the government will spend about £470m over the next four years to support capacity-building in the voluntary and community sector, including an endowment fund to assist local voluntary and community organisations and money to pilot the National Citizen Service.....
The review says that the government will consider setting the proportions of specific services that should be delivered by non-state providers, including voluntary groups.
'This approach will be explored in adult social care, early years, community health services, pathology services, youth services, court and tribunal services, and early interventions for the neediest families,' it says.

More on the Hardship Fund

It will be available only to organisations based in England.
The spending review document, published this afternoon, says the fund will support 'those organisations delivering front-line services that stand to be affected in the short term by reductions in spending, and are able to demonstrate that the financial impact will affect their ability to deliver services'.

New forms for CE?

A degree of ingenuity and imagination, flexibility, good local knowledge, enthusiastic would-be beneficiaries, and willingness to repackage – and hey presto, there could be something new here for Conductive Education if you are willing to undertake the necessary application process...

...and embrace the possibly radical changes  to adapt to how and where conductive practice might be delivered to suit very different requirements from those funded today.

New lamps for old

Good luck if you venture on this route. No doubt we will hear, eventually, if you succeed. If you do, then many others will wish to follow your lead (though this particular pot of money will by then have been long exhaused!

Meanwhile one might remember the deal offered by the sorcerer in the tale of Alladin. There will be some unwilling to surrender their old lamp in return for a shiney new one, hoping or striving to find continuing employment for it elsewhere.

Good luck to them too.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Buddy, can you spare a dime

Hard times: what to do?

I walked along Birmingham's New Street this afternoon. On a pitch usually occupied by a small steel band stood, or rather stomped, a six-piece gypsy orchestra – a guitarist, a drummer, a base-player, two accordianists, and a manic violinist.

They were good. You can see and hear far less accomplished, joyous and energetic performances in many an overpriced pince in down-town Pest. I stood and listened for nearly twenty minutes. They had been in full flood as I approached and they were still hard at it, unflagging and without a break, as I walked away. The gave forth a non-stop stream of Ferenc Liszt, Kalinka, Ochi cherniye and many other interwoven refrains that I half-recognised and half did not, all junbled together in a glorious, pacey evocation of Central/Eastern Europe.

They were not making a fortune for their pains, so far from home (they were from Romania), but they were getting through to the Brums – consistently having one-pound coins tossed in the proffered guitar-case, a larger denomination in greater numbers that street performers seem generally to attract within the dour Midland part of this realm.

A salutary reminder that there are parts and peoples of Europe where even in the boom times things are far harder than we have it in the UK, even on this day that marks our domestic economic crisis.

Crisis, what crisis?

Today I have kept my promise to myself, and kept away from the radio. After all, I have already heard about 'the cuts' ad nauseam, I had become altogether fed up with them before they even happened – precisely, I am sure, what the Government ha wanted all along.

I do know that an awful lot of public-sector workers will find themselves out of a job in the foreseeable future and that a lot of people on welfare will also be a lot poorer. The Government, though, is not withdrawing my free bus-pass or my winter fuel allowance (we pensioners are a force to be reckoned with when elecions come).

There will be significantly fewer people working in the police, prison and probation services, but I do not experience this as a threat since I have never hseen reason to draw causal relationship between the size of this workforce and the crime rate (not at least in the direction so commonly stated).

Etc., etc...

It will take us days, weeks, months even, to realise the effects of today's Spending Review. As one of the aged unwaged I hope that I can afford to take this stage of things slowly, as it comes. There is just too much happening at once to get one's head around it all. To be honest, I just do not know yet what to think

Those thinly dressed, smiling Romanians, however, prancing their energetic stuff in a chill street in Birmingham, lent unexpected perspective to the day. They had (figuratively speaking) got on their bikes, and were flogging their talents for all they could to scratch a living. It was hard to avoide the harsh and horrid notion that people laid off by our public services, soon no longer providing and managing for the common good, should be able to turn a hand to something. OK, they might not play an instrument but there are surely be other important things to be done towards rebuilding our economy.

After all, so many of the newly unemployed will be educated and qualified. If the official position of the role of education in our economic prosperity has validity, what a shot in the arm for the economy this will be!

I am glad that it is not me but... life has to go on.

A bit of needle

Public expression of disagreement

How rare it is to see public disagreement from within the 'good works'. How rarely do teachers, therapists, academics and, yes, conductors, break the common front and disagree with each other in public. How rarely are ideas, practices, principles etc. openly challenged. How little correction, argument, debate can there therefore be. How little pressure to justify, modify or shed the outmoded, the wasteful, the counter-productive.

How stale!

I have heard it said, more that once, that it is 'unprofessional' to break ranks and express public disagreement or disapproval. How revealing a remark can you get!

(This does not mean of course that there are not all sorts of whisperings, criticism, spite, muttered and whispered below stairs, but that is another matter).

So it is refreshing when such apparently consensual silence is publicly broken. Such a rare occurence went public from the UK this very morning, not from within Conductive Education but from a closely adjacent field.

In opposite corners

CCNUK describes introduces itself as follows –

Care Co-ordination Network UK (CCNUK) is a networking organisation promoting and supporting care co-ordination or key working for disabled children and their families in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

Interconnections introduces itself as follows –

The core philosophy of Team Around the Child (TAC) is to provide a small collaborative team of just two or three key practitioners around each child – a team in which the parent has a full place and an equal voice.

This morning I received quite a detailed a email from Peter Limbrick of Interconnections. I have no reason to believe that I was singled out to receive this. I suspect that it has been widely distributed. This email begins –

Dear Colleague,
Re: CCNUK’s advice to the government is just plain wrong
Opinion by Peter Limbrick
I thought you might be interested in a stark difference of view about keyworking for children with disabilities and their families. Perhaps you would want to join the discussion. In my view CCNUK’s advice to the government in response to the Green Paper on SEN and Disability is highly dangerous for children, for families, for multi-agency practitioners, for their managers

It concludes –

CCNUK’s advice, should the new government be taken in by it, will be a gross disservice to children, families, practitioners and service managers.... CCNUK are badly wrong in their view.

I cannot adjudicate on the rights and wrongs of the respective positions, since this matter is quite outside my personal experience. I do, however, commend to folks' attention this public shattering of the impression of sunny consensus generated by the good-works trades and their organisations – multidisciplinary and multi-agency. Things may indeed be sunny in many instances, and it may be quite otherwise in others. The issue here, though, is that alternative, conflicting positions are being posited, and someone ('the government'?) is called upon to examine evidence, weigh it up, and make choices. Everybody's position could be the sharper in consequence.

Come the day and maybe such public disagreements will be voiced in Conductive Education. Which day?Advice to Government, should this ever happen again, would probably be a powerful catalyst.

In the meantime, it will be interesting to see whether lessons might be leaned from the key-worker debate, if it progresses.

Local awareness

There is probably no substitute

Contiuous, bread-and-butter local awareness is probably the essential staff that secure and sustained local patronage leans upon – patronage, that is, from service-users and funders alike.

Monday next sees just such an event, hosted by conductor  Krisztina Abonyi Bernstein of Conductiva-Comprehensive Conductive Education Services, in Menlo Park, California:

Conductiva is one of those private practices mentioned here a couple of days ago:

'Good for the soul, good for the whole body'


It's good for the soul, good for the whole body and it's motivating

So says Gabi Szabó of GaitWay in Tucson, Arizona.

You can't say much fairer than that – or do so more concisely. Respect, Gabi.

A good message, well broadcast:

Reckoning for a nice decade

Ten sober years to come

Later today the UK will hear about its public-sector budget cuts.

I shall hide from the radio till these have been actually announced, to avoid yet further painful speculation before the facts.

Suffice it here to note that, Mervyn King, Governor of the Bank of England warned yesterday (as if warning be necessary) that the next decade will not be nice –

History suggests that after a financial crisis the hangover lasts for a while... A sober decade may not be fun but it is necessary for our economic health.

All at sea, in the same boat

However gloomy this might look domestically, there is always the consolation of Schadenfreude, the UK economy being better set, I gather, to see itself through the present unpleasantness than the economies of Greece, Italy, Ireland and, er, France... And Hungary too, I guess.

Mr King had a word about this too. Speaking yesterday in Wolverhampton, not a thousand miles from where I sit now, he said that greater prudence in Britain would be the UK's contribution to a 'grand bargain' that countries worldwide must strike to see off the threat of protectionism and avoid a 'disastrous collapse' in global economic growth. Nations have to set aside self-interest and draw up a plan for common economic reform. Deficit countries, like the UK, need to save more while surplus countries, like China, need to 'shift away from reliance on exports'. In an oblique reference to political pressures in the United States, he added –

The need to act in the collective interest has yet to be recognised ... unless it is, it will be only a matter of time before one or more countries resort to trade protectionism. That could lead to a disastrous collapse in activity around the world. Every country would suffer ruinous consequences – including our own.

This morning China announced a tiny increase in its interest rate. No big deal in itself, just a signal...

Two new acronyms

NICE: Non-Inflationary, Consistently Expansionary – the decade just passed
SOBER: Savings, Orderly Budgets, and Equitable Rebalancing – the decade to come.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

The need for strategic thinking

Art needing resuscitation

Very early yesterday morning, 0615, I sleepily half-heard Conservative MP Bernard Jenkin talking on the radio.

Suddenly I was wide awake. Was he talking about the present state of Conductive Education, nationally and internationally?

No of course he wasn’t. It is a long time now since British Members of Parliament considered Conductive Education a matter of national importance. He was in fact speaking critically of Her Majesty’s Government’s new security strategy, to be announced later that day. His basic line was that the Government has lost the art of strategic thinking and is not therefore able to be radical enough. Indeed that it no longer possesses the capacity for radial strategic thinking.

But what he was saying did seem to reflect how I construe the rudderless drift of Conductive Education worldwide so – I reproduce here a summary of what he said in this short interview, with the specific references to defence removed.

'Strategy' has become rather a Bowdlerised term. A strategy is not a document that is published and one then sticks on a shelf. Strategy is an idiom of thinking, a state of mind, a constant reconciling of possibilities, means and ends

In the very complex world we now live in, strategy requires a lot of analysis and judgement and assessment

What we tend to have is visions, but we find ourselves cutting back very seriously. It is very hard to reconcile the two

The whole point about strategy is that people keep challenging what you are doing, challenging your point of view and testing alternative scenarios. Deficit-reduction is not the only comparative argument. You need research and assessment staff who are going to do the analysis

We seem to be operating under the imperative of deficit-reduction . There is very little in what is being done now that reflects deeper and sustained analysis of what sort of society we want to be in ten or twenty years’ time

Strategy is about far more than responding to threats, risks and contingencies, it is about opportunities, the possibilities – the positives – that we should be working towards, in a co-ordinated way

For a few days you can hear what Mr Jenkin actually said at:

I would, as ever, be interested to hear people’s views, here of CE's apparent dearth of strategic thinking..
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