Tuesday, 18 October 2011

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.

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