Friday, 7 October 2011


A teacher!  First, last, always! 

When I first came into Conductive Education the talk was ever 'Dr Hári-this' and 'Dr Hári that'. She was, as she very much wished to be, András Pető's living representative on Earth, unquestionably the chief articulator of his ideas and heritage.

The contemporary iconic image of Conductive Education that has been handed down and broadcast to the contemporary world has owed perhaps as much to her long tutelage and advocacy as to her predecessor's. Once she died, though, it could seem almost as though her cartouche had been struck from the monuments.

Her most principled pedagogy

It may therefore be that many who have come into CE over the the last ten years, may have neither heard nor read what she said. Here, for those who seek them, are some really pedagogic 'principles of Conductive Education' 

Pető worked during the twenties and thirties with chronically disabled adults. He developed a whole-life guiding system that was indifferent to the particular chronic illness and the first step of which was to stop being passive, lying about, and begin to lead an active life.
What is new in Conductive Education is that we work this way with central nervous system dysfunction.
Previously one treated such people as someone who is ill but a treatment is a passive thing.
It is always essential to see the person behind the symptoms, most especially so with central nervous system disturbance as the central nervous system itself needs integrating. If one treats the separate parts separately, then where is the coordination? 
We teach and educate the integrating mind that has to lead every action. It is not a treatment – we teach. The person learns how to live, not just move or function or perform but to solve problems… Our aim is not to teach functions, muscle movements, but to educate how to live, to solve problems. 
The person is active and wants to solve problems and structure his own method. The teacher leads, catalyses, helps the activity, ensures success and a good direction. 
What is learned from eight o'clock to nine o'clock is used throughout the day. Education extends throughout the whole day. The goal of Occupation A then becomes the means of Occupation B. 
It is like in Alice in Wonderland. If one asks ‘Which way should I go?’ Then one answers: ‘Where do you want to go? Then you know which way.’
The goal is not to teach functions or movements. It is the person and the personality that is the most essential and everything else is included in this.
When one learns a function or activity the question is not what but how to do it. One does not learn a mechanical, physical function – it is also a cognitive function, in which emotional and moral factors are very important.
Therefore it is active learning, education. Children only learn if they want to. The role of the conductor is to make joy, harmony, interest, everything that is a precondition of active learning. 
These [task series] are not exercises but models of how to solve problems. 
One gets feedback only from the outcome of an action. 
If one cannot achieve the whole action then, to learn coordination, one must provide little goals and make them interesting. 
This was Mária Hári addressing Members of Parliament and Lords of the All-Party Disablement Group, Houses of Parliament, London, 5 July 1988. Her star was very much at its peak, and so was she!

The above passage was originally published in 2009, part of a longer commemorative item in Conductive World:
  • brief introductory materal and commentary
  • an important caution about what she meant by the word 'co-ordination'
  • comments by László Szögeczki, Gill Magiure, Rony Schenker and Susie Mallett.
Apologies for recycling but there are well-stated fundamentals in there that cannot be stated too often.


This posting is one of a short series of daily items on Mária Hári being published here on Conductive World.

Tomorrow, a little light relief: a rare view of Mária Hári with András Pető together, to make of what you will.


Sutton, A. (2009) Mária Hári at the Palace of Westminster: some of what she said, Conductive World, 31 October

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