Monday, 31 October 2011

Teaching, upbringing and the will

Swami Vivekanada

On a cold, wet, windy day in 2007 I made the difficult journey to Tividale, a wilderness lying somewhere between Dudley and Sandwell, to visit Europe’s largest Hindu temple, a trip that I shall never forget. I really ought to go back there in blazing-hot high summer, to see whether the experience appears any the less disorientingly paradoxical.

There was a small, temporary display in the entrance foyer, on Swami Vivekanada. One of the display documents caught my eye and I jotted down something that the Swami had said on the purpose of education. I present this here, as I have paraphrased it into more modern English –

The end of all learning, all teaching, should be to create human beings. The end, the aim of all teaching is to develop human beings. Teaching, through which the energy and the expression of the will are brought under control and become fruitful, is called education. 

I have no particular reason to think that any echoes of the teachings of Swami Vivekanada’s (died in 1902) resounded down and across to András Pető. I did, however, find his words satisfactorily evocative and, being displayed in otherwise so alien a context, strangely reassuring about there being universal principles within in all good pedagogy and upbringing, whatever an author’s particular philosophical base. To put it differently, it is not Conductive Education that is the odd one out…

Or maybe this is but an illusion, created through the process of my own paraphrase!


Swami Vivekanada.’s published work is extensive. Most deplorably I have neither time nor inclination to hunt out the context of the passage quoted here, and I recognise the possibility that the overall philosophy of which this is a part might prove rather less attractive to me.

Conductive World’s computer problems remain resolved but I have jury-rigged my old HP Pavilion tower and via memory sticks and a nearby Internet café, achieved a bit more online access pending more fundamental solution:

Along the way I have found loads of ‘old stuff’ in the Pavilion’s memory and on the sticks – including a mountain of materials towards a further book on Mária Hária’s pedagogy, displaced from the forefront of attention Mária Hária when I began blogging. Look out for some of its eventually coming on line.

As for Tividale and that Swami…

Friday, 28 October 2011

A note to regular readers

A bit of a glitch

Conductive World’s little old computer looks like it has been finally flogged to death. There merely remains to find somebody to extract all its data from it, and to buy a new one.

All of this will take time... and money. Not much of either around.

In the meantime, contact with the world outside will be maintained via Blackberry and an Internet cafe, neither satisfactory. Emails can still be received and answered via

A quiet time?

The world of Conductive Education, at least as is indexed by what is appearing in Cyberspace, has gone eerily quiet. Just one of those temporary things, or reflecting a more terrible hush inspired by the Eurocrash and everyone’s awareness of the shakiness of the temporary solution to this? We shall see.

In the meantime. Conductive World will still find just about enough on-line time to slip the occasional item that emerges on to its Facebook page:

Longer-term projects

Two imminent events from Conductive Education Press:
  • publish the ‘Hong Kong book’ (in a week or so)
  • bring to press the awaited ‘Pető book’ (before Christmas, we hope)
These should not be affected by the current glitch.

Nor should a long-term programme of putting archive documents on line, plus one final obligation to discharge over the Hong Kong congress.

The may just even be the occasional posting on this blog. Keep an eye out.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

CE research

An overview

Memorandum to the Norwegians

This overview was commissioned by the Norwegian national CE organisation, the Norsk Forum for Konduktiv Pedagogikk, at behest of and with funding from the Norwegian Ministry of Health. The brief was simple a simple one:

To produce a detailed memorandum on CE-related research

The Norsk Forum subsequently granted permission for this Memorandum to be published on the Internet, for the benefit of all.

Preparation of this Memorandum was proposed towards the end of 2006 and it was prepared and written over the last week of January. 2007.It was expected that three working days’ equivalent would suffice for this task: in the event it required nearer six.

The Memorandum was published on line as a knol, in October 2007 but proper formatting proved a problem. It has now been reformatted and is available on line and in full, in the Conductive Depository:

The entire Memorandum runs to over 12,000 words, including appendices. There are around ninety references to follow up, should you wish to read further and form your own opinions and conclusions.

This survey of the field had to be ‘quick and dirty’ rather than offering a formal and deeply considered academic document and should be read as no more that a preliminary overview of the field.

This Memorandum is therefore to be regarded as only a ‘scoping report’.

There has been nothing of substance published in the three years since October 2008, though time will doubtless come to update this review.

The field of 'Conductive Education research'

There is far more written material around research into Conductive Education than is generally thought (certainly far, far more than one would think from looking at the limited references cited by most articles on the topic). The conductive ‘literature’ remains generally unstructured and most of those who research in this field fail to identify what might be already there.

It has also to be acknowledged that much of what has been written is of at best middling quality. Some is outright poor. Judgement on this is left to readers of this survey who follow up specific references. Most of the research work cited here was carried out in a flurry of activity over the years between the late eighties and the early ‘noughties’. Research activity in this area is now generally on the wane. Most research has been reported in the English language, though this survey also makes reference to materials written in Norwegian, Swedish, German and French. While this survey does not claim to be wholly exhaustive it does seem likely that no studies of significance have been missed.

Summative statement

It is often said about research into Conductive Education, ‘Research has shown…’ The present state of academic knowledge favours the contrary view, ‘Research has failed to show…’

As research reports often conclude. ‘More research is needed’. But please, not more of the same.


Sutton, A. (2007) CE-related research: a memorandum to the Norsk Forum for Konduktiv Pedagogikk, January

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Hardly sitting on a goldmine

Any old iron? *

For anyone who has a webpage or blog, here is a possibly interesting diversion:

I do not know what this is based upon, or how valid what it does, but according to its calculations, Conductive World can be valued at £2,382.10.

Now that I know the estimated value of my product then, if onlyI could estimate the number of hours that I have allowed myslf to sink into this, I could also calculate the cash value of my labour. Not a lot, I guess.

Emma Chissit ? (Aus.)

What is your center's site worth, or your blog? Just type in its URL to find out, and then make of it as you wish!

Somebody enterprising could now survey property values across the virtual CE world, and produce yet another local variant of the game of Monopoly. Probably no fortune to be made there either (especially considwering the potentially significant loss from the inevitable legal action the makers of Monopoly for passing-off).

I note, by the way, that blogs are relatively well priced in comparison with static sites. What can such calculations be based upon? Might there be important underlying facts here?

I also wondered how much my Facebook presence might be worth in comparison, so I typed in:

Unfortunately, I find, the system does not work for individual Facebook pages, returning instead an estimate for Facebook as a whole: £3.55 billion'

I doubt that either site, mine or Mark Zuckerberg's, would easily find buyers, for rather different reasons.
* British music hall song

Men and angels

Sounding brass and tinkling cymbals

Some recent correspondence on an unrelated matter reminds me that I gave a Keynote Address to the Fourth World CE Congress, in East London in 2001.

My presentation, 'Conductive Education: sink or swim?' is available in full on the Internet, by courtesy of Columbia Teachers College, New York.

Its argument opened –

The initial ‘explosion’ of interest in Conductive Education, in 1986, led to a centrifugal process, outwards from a single source, the mother house of the Peto Institute. We are now, however, in a quite different phase. When the actual transition occurred only future historians will be able to tell but the ‘shape’ of the world conductive community is now very different from what was once a wheel radiating from a single hub. Instead there has developed a network of centres, associations and individuals whose work and direction are characterised by intense local adaptation and development to meet the structural and economic constraints – and opportunities – of new social contexts.

Once local processes are under way a new factor emerges: the work gains personal and institutional momentum. It takes paths that may represent the only way forward in a particular context, and to do so it becomes involved in financial, personal and public commitments that it must maintain or die. Once committed there may be no turning back.

In conclusion, I remarked upon an important mechanism that was already twelve years ago permitting the term 'Conductive Education' to embrace and legitimate an ever-wider range of beliefs and practices, and offered a lifeline, something firm to hold, a potential criterion –
Short-term peace of mind, easy coexistence, make for short-term comfort but, as the years pass and the church becomes broader and broader, we are in danger of losing our identity, of dissolving our essence into a widening pool of activities which, however well-meaning in themselves and whatever their benefits in their own right, hardly advance the central cause of Conductive Education.

What should we say to people who sincerely believe that they provide Conductive Education when they have little or no pedagogy and, worse still, no conduction? I shall misquote the Bible (I Corinthians, xiii, 1)

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not conduction, I am become as a sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.

To be truly ourselves we have to define conduction, in clear, material terms, and when we have done so we shall have no choice, indeed we shall have the duty, to say what is not.


Sutton, A. (2001) Conductive Education: sink or swim? Presentation to the concluding plenary session of the IV. World Congress of Conductive Education Queen Mary and Westfield College, London, 12-14 September 2001
Much water has flowed under the bridge since then... and over.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

On Hári

...and Pető

Emma McDowell writes --

Hello, Andrew

Having read the amusing anecdote about the theatre visit, and also Susie’s wonderings, Mária Hári rises up from the grave before my mind’s eyes, as I knew her. I have often described my various kinds of encounters with her – and yes, I had heard about the briefcases or shopping bags too, and many other anecdotes – but not about her going to see the play Anna Frank’s Diary with Pető, so thank you, Peter Popper.

 I assume you know that for a time in the fifties you had to show yourself as a true 'proletarian'  by NOT dressing up for the theatre. If you did it was 'decadent' and to be seen as 'decadent' was a dangerous thing. We take it for granted that young women just learn how to dress etc. In Hungary in the post-war years when Hári was young because of poverty and anti-bourgeois ideology, this wasn’t necessarily so.

Having said that, she was a 'late developer' and even looked glamorous (well, as far as she needed to be) on some press photographs; I believe that she even changed her glasses to something less unbecoming.

And She COULD produce a warm, lovely smile.

As for Pető, he fits perfectly the image of the Professor in the autocratic 'clinic' system of Hungary of the time, with the female staff (not all!) swooning before the power-image that he managed to maintain within the Institute Thank goodness for that! Not because of the grotesque hero-worshipping that prevailed within a closed system, but because that way he could produce the tangible results that he had believed were possible, and what he later called conductive education.

Best wishes

Important – VERY important

That's what it's all about

From Belgium, parent Fabien Gillard blogs –

A few days ago I was at my stepfather 's birthday party. Surrounded by his friends and family, he was celebrating his 65 years. And when time came for speeches, his wife of 25 years (my mother) took the floor.The content of her speech has no place here but her conclusion has resonated deeply inside me. 'We know that well-being is not the end of the road, it is the road'.

And there you have it, one sentence and it said everything, everything made sense.

I have to admit that I have almost always seen Mano's developments in terms of his acquiring maximum independence. And I have told myself that it is this independence that lies at the end of the road, that this is its objective and its reason for being.
Thinking in this way, however, I condemn myself to be always disappointed and worried by the road still to travel. I condemn myself to seeing only obstacles and difficulties ahead, I condemn myself to sadness that the objective has not been attained.

Today I realised that this view is wrong. I understand now that the 'road' is not to be compared (and then contrasted) with any kind of final objective; I understand that the road, and the very notion of 'being on the road' are actually to be tied to the status quo, to stop. The success and effectiveness of an individual project based on Conductive Education are not to be evaluated in relation to achieving an ultimate objective (for example, the child's independence). The success and effectiveness of such projects are not to be evaluated by the number of things not yet done in relation to an initial situation.

By changing my viewpoint, I have lifted an immense weight from my heart. I no longer say that Mano is still far short of the objective that I have set him; I say to myself that he is already a long way from from the situation at the time of his initial accident.
His road no longer strikes me as strewn with obstacles that are incredibly hard (and potentially impossible to overcome), but one of important victories already gained. I no longer ask myself (less often, anyway) where his steps are leading but rather joyfully to contemplate the steps alrady run. And in this context, the sense is everywhere. Each step is a victory, a joy, an advance, a success.

To put it all this simply: the sense is not to arrive at the end of the road, but to move forward, each at one's own pace, on this one here.

'Important. VERY important' – but to whom?
  • For anyone who seeking to understand András Pető and his Heilung
  • For all those contemplating conductive upbringing for their child and their family
  • For anybody seeking to understand Conductive Education
  • For all those who try to explain it
  • And for all those concerned with 'research'.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Háriana 6 – Obituaries

I marked it my way

In the British weekly magazine Nursery World, on 18 October 2001, a short news item –
In brief... Maria Hari, director
Maria Hari, director of the Peto Institute, which developed conductive education, died at home in Budapest, Hungary, on 6 October. Conductive education for those suffering motor disorders from cerebral palsy, dyspraxia, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, head injuries or strokes, was developed by Andras Peto in Hungary after the Second World War. Miss Hari was chiefly responsible for developing the specialist profession of 'conductor'. Andrew Sutton, director of the London-based Foundation for Conductive Education, said, 'Ten years ago, disabled children and adults travelled to the Peto Institute in Budapest from across the UK. Many will grieve her passing but in years to come, as conductive education becomes more widely available here, many more will have cause to celebrate what she helped to build.'
I just about recall having taken a phone-call from the reporter from Nursery World. I wondered whether there might be more obituaries published in the professional press but by 2001 the popular Conductive Education furore was well over and there were none.

Mária's passing did, however, merit formal acknowledgement in the serious press. Two obituaries were published, one in the weekly Education section of the liberal Guardian newspaper, the other in the establishment medical trade paper, the British Medical Journal.

I wrote both, trying to attune each to what I supposed of their respective readerships. (including in the BMJ's following its tradition of giving the cause of death). The BMJ wanted a picture and we were able to provide one of the nicest photographic images that there is of her. 

Both of these obituaries of course remain on line.

Maria Hari

Advancing Peto's ideas on conductive education
for disabled children 

As director of the Peto Institute in Budapest, Dr Maria Hari, who has died aged 78 of cancer, became the worldwide symbol of conductive education for adults and children with motor disorders, and their families. Her life of singular dedication and determination required extraordinary adaptability, from a childhood under fascism, through Stalinism and goulash socialism, and on into free market capitalism.

At its heart, conductive education manifests the well-known principles that people learn best if committed to their own goals and have confidence in their power to change - best of all if they are taught by people who understand this process.

Conductive education adopted these principles for people disabled by neurological conditions such as Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, stroke and cerebral palsy. Why, it asks, should one assume that brain damage precludes anyone from learning? Appropriate teaching and learning are together the ultimate rehabilitational approach, offering education in its widest sense because learners are led to achieve their own goals.

In 1945, following the Soviet liberation of Budapest, the physician Andras Peto translated these principles into a practice which developed swiftly into the basis of what we now call conductive education, beginning with virtually no resources and reliant upon volunteers to help him. One was the young medical student Maria Hari.

She had been born into a well-to-do, though emotionally distant, family; a sister had a mild disability and spent her life in an institution. Hari herself received a privileged education. Small and spry, she developed an enthusiasm for what she later described in English as "making the gymnastic". A chance encounter with Janos Balogh, the eminent sports doctor, drew her enthusiasm to using movement therapeutically.

If she wished to do motor therapy, however, Hari first had to train as a doctor, something that could not be done until the second world war was over. By now poverty-stricken, she enrolled at Budapest Medical University, worked as a nurse to support her studies, and fell under the spell of Peto, spending more and more time with what was then called conductive motor therapy.

She qualified as a doctor in 1952, hoping to specialise as a rheumatologist. By now, however, Peto's work had been recognised by the Hungarian authorities, which built him the state institute for motor disorders. Peto needed Hari, and she stayed for the rest of her life.

During the 1950s, Peto redefined his conductive therapy as conductive pedagogy. As his health failed in the 1960s, Hari became increasingly involved in the training course that a modernising Hungary required. Like Peto, she followed the honourable tradition of physician-turned-educator and, after his death in 1967, became director in his stead.

Hungary was a most paradoxical people's democracy. A strong national tradition of education, plus a socialist welfare system, allowed Hari to expand Peto's state institute and refine its training programme, though never at the rate that she would have liked. Despite the isolation of working behind the Iron Curtain, she read widely, corresponded and even managed to make a few presentations in western Europe, including two in the UK. 

Like Peto before her, Hari played off party against government, and - as Hungary slowly opened up - foreign interest against internal opposition. In the mid-1980s, she began discussions with a small UK group, whose interest was supported by the British embassy.

As a result, in 1986, there appeared on BBC television a still-remembered documentary, Standing Up For Joe; the creation of a new charity, the Foundation for Conductive Education; a huge influx of families from the UK and other capitalist countries; unprecedented political support in Hungary - and international attention for Hari.

Suddenly, she found herself a star. Her modest mien, self-taught English and confidence suited the English-speaking media - and British politicians - and caught the imagination of those who wanted conductive education. To her horror, Hari became an icon.

These were confusing times for her and her institute (by now renamed the Peto Institute), soon compounded by the fall of the Iron Curtain. The institute was privatised, but a worldwide appeal failed to attract the funds for an international institute. Staff started leaving to work abroad, and the centre of gravity of conductive education moved away from its mother house.

When Hari retired in 1995, she continued lecturing and reassessing the role of conductive education. "Perhaps I was too rigid," she said towards the end of her life, "not enough flexible." She had kept Peto's system alive into a world beyond his comprehension, but she recognised that educational inclusion, new attitudes to disability, the confirmation of brain science and changing economies meant that it was time to innovate and build upon the past.

Her contribution was especially recognised in the UK. In 1988, she was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Birmingham and, in 1994, was appointed honorary professor of education at the University of Keele. She was awarded the OBE in 1990. But to thousands of families around the world, she was simply a small, determined woman who gave them hope for a better life.

Maria Jozefa Hari, physician and educator, born September 26 1923; died October 6 2001.

ria Jozefa Hári

Former director of the Pető Institute, Budapest, Hungary (b 1923, q Budapest 1952), died on 6 October 2001 from spinal cancer. 

Mária Hári brought new hope to disabled people around the world through conductive education. In the late 1980s, following the BBC television documentary Standing up for Joe – the account of a young couple who travel from England to Budapest in the hope of getting their severely disabled child, Joe, admitted to the Pető Institute—she opened the doors of the institute to foreign children and their families. Even though Hungary then lay behind the Iron Curtain, more than a thousand British families and many more from other countries made the journey to Budapest to find conductive education.

Conductive education was developed by Hungarian doctor András Pető after the second world war as a way of seeking to rehabilitate children and adults with motor disorders, such as cerebral palsy, dyspraxia, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, hed injuries, and stroke. Pető claimed that people with motor disabilities could be treated through normal ways of practising and learning instead of through special therapies. Mária Hári worked as a volunteer with Pető from 1945 while she was still a medical student. She stayed with him following qualification, playing a major role in formalising his approach.

In 1967 she succeeded Pető as director of his institute and completed the transformation of conductive education from a therapy to an educational system. When conductive education became the subject of international interest in the mid 1980s she adapted readily to the role of diplomat and served as trustee for the Foundation for Conductive Education in the United Kingdom. 

British people will remember her as a little woman at once self effacing and completely in control. They will remember the firm, confident assertion that a disabled child or adult could indeed learn, followed by immediate practical demonstration that this was indeed so. She had an amazing ability to communicate in self-taught English and a skittish sense of humour.

Pető 's institute occupied her whole adult life, leaving her virtually no time for private interests or existence. She retired in 1994 but continued lecturing there until this summer, still working on Pető 's private papers throughout her final illness.

Mária Hári grew up under fascism, qualified as a doctor under socialism, and steered the institute right through into capitalism. She never married and leaves no surviving relatives. But there are now nearly two hundred places around the world where conductors practise their craft.


Sutton, A. (2001) Maria Hari: advancing Peto's ideas on conductive education for disabled children, The Guardian, 24 October

Sutton, A. (2001) Mária Jozefa Hári, British Medical Journal, vol. 323, 20 October

Gill Maguire collected and bound together a considerable collection of press reports following Mária's death


Provide the means to touch others

Mária Hári's life touched many people's lives..

She was also herself a little touched (in British English the word 'touched' can also mean a little mad) and those whose lives she touched often became a little mad too. Parents, conductors, others,  all might at times have despaired at some of the things that she did or said, and to  have had cause to fear her sometimes arbitrary decisions and actions, but it is rare to find any who do not nevertheless maintain a strong streak of affection and loyalty for her, sometimes very strongly indeed.

I was lucky, I had privileged access, but I was not unique in this. I know that many of the early Brits in Budapest, particularly those there over say the three years from 1985 to 1988 (after which the whole thing began to get out of hand) came away a little touched by her for life. She was no demigod (as neither was her predecessor), but one may still meet parents from that era who held her in awe, who figuratively speaking revered her when she was alive and who are still fervently loyal. I know that there are many more Hungarians who feel the same (slightly differently perhaps, and maybe even more powerfully) and who too remain fervently loyal.

Such fervent followers are not of course a peculiarly British or Hungarian phenomenon -- but they are not on the whole what I refer to below as 'disciples'.

What do disciples do?

Intellectual movements often have their near-mythic originator, the fons et origio of the basic ideas, and perhaps also of the institutions that maintain these. In the case of Conductive Education this was András Pető. Such a Great Instigator has worked with a close, perhaps slightly junior colleague, in this instance Mária Hári. Think of Piaget and Inhelder, Marx and Engels, Vygotskii and Luriya.

Such associates  -- whom I refer to here as 'disciples' -- are characteristically considerable people in their own right, and may go to the take the lead of their field when the instigator has died.

Beyond this, though, no tidy pattern is apparent. The next generation might in turn generate a host of further considerable personalities and intellects, witness the broad band of Soviet psychologists, educators and defectologists who spread, elaborated, developed and enhanced the Vygotskian tradition, or the whole thing might fraction and splinter, even within the life-time of the instigator – think particularly of psychoanalysis. No matter, along the way, disciples will preach, debate, argue, polemicise, dispute, between each other as much as with 'outsiders' to their particular movement. They will teach, recruit and attract new blood, mentor and advise, and thereby in turn generate their own disciples, and their own schools of thought. The ideas of the instigator, however lonely these might have seemed in their day, will be joined and reinforced by the extensive writings of such disciples, and the disciples of their disciples. 

Intellectually such movement spread, develop, and live. Movements, though, also split, witness the different kinds of Montessorians, or Vygotskians, or Behaviourists, or whatever, sometimes at loggerheads one with the other – but is that not the nature of the history of ideas? To think that an idea or a movement can hold together, unchanged and uncontested, as it moves from one society or from one generation to the next, is so naive and unworldly as no reasonable person would ever hold to it...

What about Conductive Education?

András Pető had a good, faithful disciple in Mária Hári. He drove and controlled her, she did his every whim while he lived and later devoted her life to maintaining the order that she felt he would have wished. But he had driven nearly everyone else away from actually working with him, because of his difficult personality and often dreadful behaviour. 

On top of all the other burdens that Mária took up, she tried to build a corpus of writing, but the field required far more than she could provide, quantitatively and qualitatively. It has needed more disciples, and ultimately it has suffered from its lack of critical and constructive dissent. Karóly Ákos might have been one inherited from András Pető, but Mária broke connection, and his tradition has most wastefully withered. There may have been others but, if so, who were they and where are they now?

(Ester Cotton? The tradition that she created has most certainly flourished, but Mária regarded her as not so much a fellow disciple of András Pető's as a heretic)

The Márian tradition?

Conductors who grew up and were formed under Mária Hári's powerful influence have been the leading force in the next generation of 'discipling' in Conductive Education. Loyal, inspired and creative workers in the groups, it is a great loss that their stories are so rarely told. Some have inspired the same degree of respect and awe as did Mária Hári herself, for the sheer brilliance and quality of their conductive practice. And at one level, could there be anything more important for the sake of those most directly involved who have benefited from their work, or to the glory of the system?

At one level there can only one answer to this. They have been a vital, invaluable part of Mária's heritage. But but what will happen in the future?

Putting aside the economic crisis and its possible effects upon Conductive Education's institutional bases around the world (and that includes in Hungary too), where is the formulated intellectual core around which a conductive movement could cohere or – just as importantly – from which splinters might consciously break away to create fresh, new coherent practices? Where is the living, dynamic movement out of which a new generation of disciples can go forth, preach and proselytise?

In 2004 I gave a short presentation in Budapest to a Memorial Day organised by Moira* at the Budapest Technical University, to mark the third anniversary of her death. The title of my presentation was 'Mária Hári, from whom we have still much to learn' (Hári Mária, akitől még mindig tanulunk). But if Mária's work and ideas are to live on to benefit new generations, beyond the direct experience of those who were actually there, they deserve and demand disciples who are also apostles.

Katalin Bíró was one who worked closely with Mária Hári for years.  She has sought to pass down what she learned from this experience:

There may well have been other attempts to analyse and synthesise Mária Hári's contribution, from various hands. But where are they? And if there are none, and none arise... in ten years years' time, what will there be to show and learn from Mária Hári's long, hard struggle, other than can still be provided by the ever dimmer memories of the diminishing band of those whose lives she directly touched..


(2005) Hári Mária (1923-2001), Budapest, MPANNI, pp. 59-65 (Hungarian)

(2007) Mária Hári and her Conductive Education, Budapest, MPANNI (English)

Bíró, K. (2006 ) Fundamentals of conductive upbringingIn fond and respectful remembrance of Mária Hári, Recent Advances in Conductive  Education, vol. 5, no 1, pp. 4-10

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

Saturday, 8 October 2011


From the late, great Péter Popper 
Anyway, I thought that the place [Pető's Institute] was Pető's harem. I think that everybody was in love with him, each in their own way and style. There were lots of grotesque and embarrassing situations.
Ili Székely was in charge iof the conductors there. After Mária Hári she was the second most important person there. She was a great storyteller, and would tell very humorous stories about Pető. She told me a great story about a disastrous visit to the theatre to see the play The journal of Anne Frank. According to her. Pető, who went to the theatre maybe four times a century, heard that it was an excellent play, and bought tickets for all three of them. She told me drolly that great preparations were made.
Mária Hári was told to put on her nicest blouse and was forbidden to come in her belted Loden coat, which she always wore, and she was also asked to leave her briefcases at home. She always carried two enormous briefcases with her wherever she went. What did she carry around in them? All sorts of things. As you'll hear, some very strange things. And lots of books, exercise books that she considered important, and many other things.
But as it turned out, nothing went according to plan. Mária forgot to wear the elegant blouse she had been asked to, and Pető decided that she would have to keep her belted Loden coat on throughout the performance, and so they didn't leave it in the cloakroom. But the ticket collector didn't want to let her in with her coat on, until Pető suddenly shouted 'She's rheumatic, she can't take it off!' and shoved her aside.

The briefcases were put down beside their seats and in the middle of the performance, naturally during one of the lyric bits, an alarm clock suddenly went off in one of them!
It was a big alarm clock, the kind one normally sees in kitchens, she had it because she didn't wear a watch, and so put it on the lectern when she was lecturing students.
So, this alarm clock went off in the dark theatre, and she started frantically searching through the briefcase for it, while the performance practically came to a standstill. Finally, she found the alarm clock and stopped it. The performance resumed, and for at least five minutes Pető didn't say anything, but that was only because he was speechless with rage. At last he recovered his breath and bellowed –
'Out, get out of here.'
Naturally this caused another scandal, because he shouted in the middle of the performance.
An historical point

I myself heard this story several times from Mária personally, as I am sure did many others, and she still giggled at the memory as she told it, but Ili Székely and Péter Popper were far better story-tellers than Mária and I.

I would make only one slight amendment. When I knew her, only from 1984, her most apparent fashion accessory was not a briefcase but a scruffy old shopping bag – still stuffed with all sorts to do with her work (she did not do much 'shopping') – and it was such a bag that featured in the story when she herself told it to me.

A petty point, but illustrative of a fundamental problem in assessing retrospective oral history (personal recollections shared, in conversation perhaps, many years later), seeing 'then' in terms of what we and others see now.

There is a lot of this in Conductive Education, some of it relating topoints that are not so petty. 


Forrai, J. (1999) Professor Péter Popper, Memoirs of the beginnings of conductive pedagogy and András Pető, Budapest and Birmingham, Új Aranyhíd and Foundation for Conductive Education, pp. 103-117
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