Monday, 10 October 2011


What is and what is not CE?

As early but still low-key interest in Conductive Education grew outside Hungary Mária Hári's public utterances about what she regarded as damaging misunderstandings were what she called 'diplomatic', that is to say so bland or ambiguous as to meaningless. At the start she had tried hard to explain her work, I suspect not wholly aware of how she was being misunderstood or what was being done in the name of Conductive Education. Then she realised.

Presented below are some extracts of what she said at a conference in Brussels, in 1981. This was taken down by an unknown hand, transcribed and much later translated into English (by myself) from its original French for inclusion in the collection Mária Hári on Conductive Pedagogy.

What she says here comes much closer to how I later found her expressing herself herself on such matters privately – angry, indignant, insistent in the defence of her life's work, and on the absolute necessity for proper training – railing against those many who persistently failed to grasp its pedagogic essence, advocating in its stead mechanistic alternatives under the same name.

In 1981 she was at a conference in Belgium, billed as 'Study days on the Pető method', indeed she was the conference's 'President of Honor' The morning of the first day was taken up with presentations on the Bobath method, French 'therapeutic education', the Vojta method and the neuropaediatric approach. Only following this would she be able to speak, knowing that the second day of the conference would be devoted to 'various experiences of integrated education... influenced by the Pető method – from Poland, Japan, Holland, Belgium and England.'

I presume that, as President of Honour, she would have been seated in a prominent position, bemused and angry at what was being presented under the name of the system to which she had devoted her life, but impotent to do anything about it. 

When the time came for her own prepared presentation she appears to have abandoned most of what she originally intended to say, along with much of the film that she had brought to show. Instead she focused upon the fundamental point that Conductive Education is not a bundle of methods easily picked up on short courses  but an adaptive, dynamic pedagogic system requiring extensive and careful professional training. The unknown scribe of the French transcription  underlined certain passages, presumably to mark emphasis.  Capitalisation, I guess, indicated VERY STRONG EMPHASIS INDEED.

Mária began coolly enough –
I was surprised when I read Conductive Education emphasised in the programme... Excuse me for beginning this lecture by opposing myself to the title of the symposium 'The Pető method'. First, as one sees in the programme, other things will be spoken about; secondly, Conductive Education is much more that a method.The system of education is open to many methods, it is the structure, the organisation of the work, the 'conduction' in the teaching, that are its principles – and its result, social integration, is its fundamental characteristic.
She followed with some descriptive outcome statistics for nearly eight-thousand children up to Christmas 1980 – a rather different set of figures, incidentally, from those usually quoted – from which springboard she launched herself energetically into the the subject of conductor-training –
A method can be learned during a course but the system of Conductive Education cannot be applied other than by conductors who have received a training in Conductive Education of four years, The quality of the results of Conductive Education is conditional upon the quality of the conductors' training...

So you must understand that what is called Conductive Education or the Pető method at this symposium is certainly not it!
Showing less of her film gave time for more 'questions and answers', to which, inter alia she responded –
Conductive Education is not straight functionalism. The goal of the conductor is not reduced to the execution of functions. If one wished to execute the functions directly that would be a failure (like with you) because one cannot exercise something that does not exist...

Conductive Education is as complex as education itself... the angle of attack is not the musculature, nor the reflex mechanism, nor some part of the nervous system that we know remarkably well but not well enough. The angle of attack is the personality, the morale... 
Verbal accompaniment of what we make ourselves do is not simply what Luriya has described, it is much more... This is he essential point, that one learns to wish in order to have success... 
CONCLUSION OF THIS SYMPOSIUM is that if one wishes to have the results that we have, it is necessary to learn conduction.
I have no record of what the meeting did indeed conclude, though I suspect that the speakers from Poland, Japan, Holland, Belgium and England went on to present what they had brought to present anyway, and that the audience for the most part heard what it had come to hear and wanted to hear, for 'tis ever thus.

Certainly, the meeting's formal published report (Motricité Cerebrale, 1981/2, pp. 92-94) made no mention of Mária's urgent message, or her proposal of what ought to be the 'only conclusion'!

The above quotations are extracted from pages 65-72 of the book Mária Hári on Conductive Pedagogy.


– (1981) Journées d’études sur la méthode Petö, Motricité cérébrale, 1981/2, pp.92-94

Maguire, G., Sutton, A. (eds.) Mária Hári on Conductive Pedagogy, Birmingham, Foundation for Conductive Education

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