Wednesday, 24 August 2011

FAQs for 2011

Help please

I have been looking through some FAQs that were published on line in June 2000, as part of the then Conductive Education Website:


That does feel rather a long time ago now! Since then the world has changed so much, and so have the ways in which CE is provided. Ideas and priorities have moved on too. Even language.

These FAQs, I recall, were the final version of a line of such documents stretching back to the late nineteen-eighties. There may be purpose now in revising further and reissuing such a document. I would very much appreciate any critical comments that people might care to make on these FAQs from the year 2000.
  • What is no longer so?
  • What new information is needed?
  • What might be understood differently now
  • What new questions are people asking in 2011?
  • Who wants to know?
  • What similar such documents are now available elsewhere?
  • Are such things needed?
If the answer to that last question is 'Yes', then what other matters should one take into account in compiling and presenting such information?

Sunday, 21 August 2011


Can't you just compromise?

Dear Mr Gallileo,

We know that you have been having a spot of bother with the Flat Earth people.

Might we suggest that you work towards some sort of mutually acceptible compromise. After all, surely we all of us want the same thing – and you do want to be part of the team, don't you. And none us want to scare away supporters with the slightest whiff of 'controversy'.

So how's this as a position for negotiating a compromise deal? Drop all this 'the Earth is round' nonsense and suggest instead that it is might be hemispherical. Then you can propose that we all live on the flat top, and maybe then in return the Flat Earthers might even come some way towards agreeing that the heavens and all that lie therein rotate around us.

Sounds win-win to us here in PR, management and governance. Something there for everyone. What does all this theoretical stuff matter anyway?

If negotiations do get a bit sticky along the way, just to sweeten things up you might throw in that Rome should be regarded at standing at the very centre of the flat bit.

There you have it.  Easy-peasy, honour satified all round. No need for anyone to be all stiff-necked about things and upset people, especially in these so-competitive times  in which, we repeat, nobody wants to stand out by being associated with anything that is even mildly controversial.

Yes, we know, if you had taken this easy line from the outset the world might still be stuck back in the Middle Ages but, hey, think about how much easier a time you personally would have had at the hands of the Inquisition.

We do hope that we shall not have to write to you again on this matter. 

Yours etc.

The PR Department

The Big Issue

The 'interestingness' of CE
The Big Issue Test

This afternoon I called into an Internet café to jot down some brief thoughts arising from reading a couple of items in the print media today. As I did, Google alerted me to something just out on the Internet that seemed most concretely to illustrate what I was writing, and I incorporated that too.

This is what I posted... 

Social media: CE take heed

Novelist Hari Kunzru (no relation) sees us at the start of a revolution –

I'm increasingly reliant on this network of people to filter news and information... we are our own PR machine by being interesting on line – it's a ruthless free market of interestingness.

Quoted in The Big Issue, no 961, 8-14 August 2011, p. 32

True false? With the wisdom of hindsight we may eventually know Meanwhile there is increasing awareness, from all standpoints, of the potentially dynamic social force of the Internet, not least through social networking.

Today I picked up a discarded copy of the Mail on Sunday on the bus, finding the following article by Lord Rees Mogg (aet. 83):

Rees Mogg, W (2011) Beware the march of the cyber giants, Daily Mail, 20 August

With respect to Hari Kunzru's 'free market of interestingness', where does CE's lie? It is in that Conductive Education represents concepts that surpass all existing understandings of physical disability (and of a lot more besides) and the structures and practices that incorporate them. Why ever else should the wider world be interested?

Google has just alerted me to (yet another) public appeal for funding by the Buddy Bear Trust in Northern Ireland: deserving enough in its own right, I am sure, but interesting? For the people directly involved, yes. But in a free market of interestingness, why should the wider world wish to prioritise a little local charity serving disabled children and their families over all the other calls for attention (and cash?), in Northern Ireland as everywhere else?

(2011) Call for support for cerebral palsy charity, 1st Amendment Domain Revenue Recovery Service, 20 August

Whatever happened to Conductive Education's own 'big issue'?

The Big Issue Test

I rather like the notion of a Big Issue Test to help gauge the interestingness or otherwise of what one reads about Conductive Education, on paper or on the Internet, and what one hears at meetings and conferences.
  • Does what is said or written give reason to feel that the subject of Conductive Education is immensely important? 
  • If not, what's the big deal?
  • Where is CE's extraordinary USP (unique selling point)?
  • Why should anyone be interested if one is not stated – a truly fascinating one at that?
What do you think that this might be?

Friday, 19 August 2011

Finance and economics

What might they portend?

The headline story on the cover of Time magazine a couple of weeks ago was 'The great American downgrade: why the debt crisis has hurt growth and the nation's position in the world', by Fareed Zakaria.

Last week it was 'The decline and fall of Europe (and maybe the West)', by Rana Faroohar,

This week's edition... I can hardly wait for its wordsof cheer. I already know thta its front page headline will be 'The New Greatest Generation' by Joe Klein. Sounds more cheery. The preview of Mr Klein's article, however, reads –

A new kind of war meant a new set of skills. Now veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan are bringing their leadership lessons home, where we need them most.

Oh dear. What a comforting thought for the future.

Chin up.


Faroohar, R. (2011) The great American downgrade: why the debt crisis has hurt growth and the nation's position in the world, Time, vol. 178, no 6, pp.20-25

Zakaria, F. (2011) The debt deal's failure. Congress proved incapable of solving money problems. The result is that it lost thy world's trust, Time, vol. 178, no 7, pp. 12-15


Wednesday, 17 August 2011

And so farewell, Twitter

Closing down on ceworld...
Help, please

Conductive World has been on Twitter (as ceworld). New postings on Conductive World have been toutinely notified and linked to there and the occasional unrelated comment has been added. I pick up interesting things from Norman Perrin and... er, that's it. As far as I can tell, hardly anyone clicks on links from Twitter to seen what I have been referring to.    

Meanwhile the pages silt up with all sorts of stuff from people whom I do not know, on matters about which I do not care. Despite several attempts years I have been unble to discover how to clear the lot out, so I have been stuck with them.

Maybe there is an exciting, informative CE Twittersphere somewhere out there but, if there is, I am not part of it. I had been rather enthusiatic about the potential of Twitter within CE. Here's just one example:

Sad, but so it goes.

It is time to let Twitter go.


This morning I received an email from Twitter. It began –

Twitter believes that your account may have been compromised by a website or service not associated with Twitter. We've reset your password to prevent others from accessing your account.

I have been bugged, well and truely highjacked (though as the bug has erased everything other than what I myself have posted – I could almost forgive it). Twitter also offers me some helpful instructions on how to create yet another password to have to remember, though I fear that, if I get my proper site back, it will come complete with all that stuff fromother people that I have wanted rid of. 

It seems hardly worth the bother but presumably I shall have go through the rigmarole of signing up in order to get in and close down ceworld. I dread doing so because I know that I shall then face the terrible time-wasting of trying to find how close the whole thing down. If I simpl leave it them presumably it will simply crry on collecting tweets from people who I do not know, on matters about which I do not care.

Can anybody help by telling me how to close down a Twitter account!

Twellow unaffected

At the time of my initial enthusiasm I had also argued the case for including Conductive Education as a category for advertisements on Twellow:

This categorisation of course continues and will presumably continue to do so till the people or the robot at Twellow notice that it has hardly been used, and is just silting up with junk:

Twellow classifies it as a sub-category of Education: Society > Education > Conductive Education:

At the time I remarked  –
Gratifyingly, then, here is one place where Conductive Education does not fall under health.
Lucky that I got in there first!
Ah well, so it goes...

(My Facebook page seems to attract readers and, best of all, provoke discussion, so for the time being anyay this will continue.)

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Hot and high

Conductive Education under siege?

La Rocca (The Rock) stands high over the town of Cephalù in Northern Sicily. It is a very big rock:

It is hard for me to imagine now, but last Friday afternoon I was scrabbling up La Rocca, from the very bottom to the very top, during the very least advisable time of day. For most of the way there was no shade from the sun. I took me a little over an hour and, swelp me, by three-quarters of the way up I was feeling like a gonner and hoping that I could remember Italy's emergency phone number.

There are two concentric stone fortifications on the way up, and the remains of a final stone fortress at the summit. The earliest ruins are megalithic, pre-classical, probably form the the eighth century BC, but in later years both Saracens and Normans had considered it worth their while to extend the fortifications with their own extensive defensive walls.

I do not know whether these fortifications were ever used in earnest but, scrambling through their massive remains, it was hard not to think awful thoughts. Had there indeed been times over the last three millennia when others had scrabbled up the self-same tracks, up over those very rocks and stones, laden down with their period-appropriate weapons of war, driven by the age-old intention to kill or be killed?

What an horrid line of imagining. On these bare and often near precipitous slopes, would any advancing attacker advancing up my path stand a cat in Hell's chance against determined defenders above? Indeed, by the time that I gained the scorched, dry summit, I was wondering whether there might indeed be a general law that in attacks upon fortified places advantage lies overwhemingly with the defenders.

Safe and gasping at the top, I realised that the ghostly, imagined companions of my ascent, whatever the scale of their individual pain and efforts, might have been of little wider significance in the campaigns in which they fought and perhaps died. If any fortress could be regarded impregnable, the this was it – but of course, I realised, the top of La Rocca would have ultimately been an equally very bad place for those holding out during any a protracted, encircling siege. With water supply at the top limited, the garrison's supply line cut, and no way in for reinforcements, all that besieging forces had to do was hold back, maintain their encirclement – and wait. They would be free to dominate the surrounding countryside, leaving the beleaguered defenders plenty of time to contemplate the limited and unpalatable range of options open to people in their besieged situation.

How evocative of the situation in Conductive Education, I thought, as I began my descent.

Conductive Education under siege?

Well, this is one way of modelling current events. What's yours?

A generation or so ago Conductive Education began what was then seen as its 'expansion', setting off boldly to establish new settlements on unfamiliar shores. In some place the soil was good and the native inhabitants proved friendly, inviting it in and encouraging it to settle. Other places were less blessed. The soil was poor and the already local population hostile, resisting the newcomer which it regarded as an intruder or interloper.

In only a few, particularly favoured territories have little settlements blossomed and set up what have become small, self-sufficient and generally isolated communities. In some places, however, the newcomer has gone native, donned the clothing and adopted the beliefs and customs of the local inhabitants, blending into existing ways of doing things. In others it has been simply driven out. Still it comes, though, and the processes are repeated.

And where it hangs on, so Conductive Education as a system of thinking and practice finds itself trapped, under siege, while around them the established forces are safe to continue to dominate the surrounding country side.

Slipping and sliding down La Rocca I thought of the shock troops that had stormed Conductive Education's little fortresses in the early days. In the United Kingdom (and there have been and are similar patterns discernible elsewhere) these drew from the ranks of professional establishments, academic researchers, established disability organisations, state bureaucracies, and extremists from the inclusion and disability lobbies. Generally the immediate advantage remained with the defenders and outright, head-on attack failed to drive Conductive Education out of its little strongholds where, weakened by constant struggle, its lines have largely held – just about.

In most places Conductive Education's supply situation is desperate. Money, sustenance, weapons, reinforcements, are hard to come by, and there is no apparent relief force approaching (even rumoured) just beyond the horizon.

Besieged populations have to look to their options, collective or personal. Collectively, what is there to be done? Sally forth and attack? Negotiate? Collective action has not generally been a strong tradition in Conductive Education. What then might individuals do? Save themselves? Slip away, try to blend into the scenery, go over to the enemy, renege?

Approaching the foot of La Rocca my mind turned to the historical sieges that I had been brought up on, how they had ended and why they ended as they did. I realised that ll the stories had been passed down to me had in common that they represented the point of view of the encircled defenders, not the besiegers. Also in common were courage and suffering, and immense heroism on either side. And that the defences nearly often managed to hold off the frontal attacks, whatever the cost.
  • The mass suicide of the Zealots at Masada. According to the Roman historian Josephus, there was not a soul left alive when the Romans broke into the silent fortress. That is one way out.
  • The relief of the Residency at Lucknow. The siege was only finally lifted when a powerful relief column fought its way in and, so they used to say, the skirl of the pipes was heard approaching. But in the meantime the defences had held. 
  • Roarke's Drift. This was held, just, but did not have to be held for long since it was no strategic importance to the attacking Zulus.
  • The Mission at the Alamo. The only siege that came to my mind that was was simply overrun by its attackers.
  • The Alcazar in Toledo. Relieved just in time, when General Franco diverted the Nationalist army from its main goal specifically to raise the Republican siege.
  • Stalingrad. At huge human cost the Soviet Army kept its supply lines open and resisted encirclement.Their German attackers were then encircled and cut off, and became themselves the besieged. Denied supplies, reinforcement and any possibility of relief break-out, they had no choice but surrender.
  • Leningrad. At whatever human cost the city maintained its supply lines. Surrender was not an option for the inhabitants or the military defenders. German frontal assault was resisted, whatever the cost, the German supply chain was longer and weaker, and eventually the besiegers could no longer withstand the attacks from the progressively more powerful Soviet relief forces.
  • Budapest. Encircled and cut off from supplies and reinforcement, the inhabitants sat tight, hunkered down and mainly survived. The defending troops, German and Hungarian, suffered terrible casualties and an attempted break-out became a massacre. Strategic blunders on both sides in a struggle that was now so vast on the Eastern Front determined the end of the siege as they had the beginning its beginning.   Again, external factors were decisive.
Back down at sea-level, could I see a pattern? No. Much as I would like to one so rarely can in human affairs. What regularities could I see in the few historical sieges that I could remember? The chief message looked to to be that, never mind all the blood, pain and heroism, their outcomes are mostly decided longer term and more widely, by strategy and logistics – by the decisions to join battle and the supplies to maintain it that provide the stage for the suffering and heroism to be acted out on.

In a siege, granting all the human horrors faced by attackers and defenders, it may be big outside forces that determine the ultimate outcome rather the individuals on the ground. That is what La Rocca and its hot old stones told me last Friday afternoon in Northern Sicily.

So what are the big outside forces,the strategic decisions and the logistical base that might determine a future for Conductive Education? How might they be used to contribute to ending the Seiege of Conductive Education?

Would that I knew.

Monday, 15 August 2011

Transformative hope

Serious basis for change
It is some time now since Conductive World referrred to Conductive Education's obvious affinities with Paolo Freire's liberation pedagogy. But time and time again I have come back to the topic of 'hope', as both a vital component and deeply valued outcome of conductive pedagogy/upbringing.

Paolo Freire's 'pedagogy of hope' is one way to explore this challenging pedagogical, philosophical and political terrain.

I am therefore much endebted to Rony Schenker for drawing my attention to an excellent recent critical article by Darren Webb of Sheffield University.

So much of this article applies so neatly to Conductive Education, its substance and its place in the world.  See for yourself:

Webb, D (2010) Paolo Freire and 'the need for a kind of education in hope', Cambridge Journal of Education, vol. 40, no 4, pp. 327-339

Thank you Rony.

A couple of previous postings
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