Friday, 7 October 2011

Reuven Feuerstein not awarded Nobel Peace Prize

Oh well, nice try

This year's Nobel Peace Prizes were awarded today, and Reuven Feuerstein was not among the winners. A pity, it would have been nice to see top-level public recognition of the endeavour to transform human development, and who better than Reuven amongst those presently in the land of the living to head the field. No matter, the world's failure to recognise and respect human transformabilty in no way diminished the cause of those few who do – nor does it in anyway lessen Reuven's life-long achievement.


Reuven's nomination came from a group convened by Umberto Margiotta, Professor of Pedagogy at the University of Venice. In January this year, because of my knowledge of Reuven's work and my previous involvement with Reuven, he invited me to write a 'motivation letter' (a testimonial) in support of this. I would have six days to submit this before close of applications and my words would be published on the extensive website, called Reuven Feuerstein: a Man for Peace, already set up specially to bring this application to the attention of as many people as possible around the world:

I did what I could, cleared out as many of my typos and spelling mistakes as I was able to find, and submitted in the nick of time. Jo Lebeer seemed the only other person involved with Conductive Education to have been drawn into this.

I also wrote a posting about this on Conductive World.

I now had time to read a little about the Nobel Prize, its strange origins and the just-as-strange mechanisms through which it is awarded. Along the way I was surprised to see that the rules forbid publicising a nomination, indeed doing so leads to disqualification. Oh well, I thought, what do I know about such things? I am no academic.

I had, however, been a Meccano boy in my youth, and an aeromodeller and a railway modeller thereafter, and I have had a lifetime of D-I-Y and all sorts of electrical and mechanical maintainence. So I am very aware of the deep truth of the old adage:

In the last resort, read the instructions

Sure enough, a couple of weeks later, I, along with others, received a further letter urgently requesting me to remove my posting on Conductive World. Ever wishing to be helpful, I of course complied, and noticed that Reuven Feuerstein: a Man for Peace had been amended to remove all mention of the Prize application. 

Department of Waste Not, Want Not

In the event, since Reuven's application was not in fact disqualified I can but hope that premature publicity by supporters was not a factor in the final decision. I doubt it – his is just an unfashionable and grossly undervalued cause and I suspect that it will be very long time before there will be a Nobel Prize of Pedagogic Sciences.

As there no longer seems anything to be gained or lost, I present below what I wrote in his support, as APPENDIX I. The withdrawn blog posting appears as APPENDIX II.

This is done in case the question of CE as a cognitive intervention should ever arise, somehig that over recent years has seemed progressively more unkikelt. Still, in a new world, who knows?


Conductive Education and Mediated Learning

Ships that pass in the night 

Reuven Feuerstein's life and teaching have proclaimed most publicly and explicitly the principle that our minds are not fixed, destined products of our biologies or circumstances – and demonstrated this not solely from his own practice but also far more widely in the practice of others around the world, for more than fifty years. There could be no greater personal contribution to the peace and well-being of humanity

In the usual course of human life the generation-by-generation creation of the most complex and puissant phenomenon that we know, our very humanity, is routinely and successfully brought into being by ordinary men and women – most fundamentally, by families bringing up their children. When something goes wrong, however, disrupting or distorting the usual social and psychological mechanisms of development, then the problems arising may often seem impossible fix – or even to understand.

Reuven Feuerstein's life and work have been dedicated to understanding and above all to fixing such situations – to transform the development of those for whom the usual mechanisms of parenting and schooling are not enough. His contribution is a complex one, depending first and foremost upon the belief that the development of children – all children – can and should be transformed, then creating special techniques and practices to bring this about, and of course social and organisational structures to provide the base for implementing this.

Cultural and social disruptions, through poverty, war, migration, are terrible enough for adults, and major barriers to peace and security. But their effects may be multiplied and compounded when projected on to the psychological, behavioural, moral and social development of children – with correspondingly grave, long-term outcomes, individual and social. (And, even in the most favourable social contexts, children with damaged central nervous systems present problems often far beyond the range of usual experience and the 'common sense' that comes from this.)

Reuven's long and most practical career has demonstrated again and again that human  transformability can reach far beyond most people's expectations of what may be possible. Moreover, he has gone on to convey his fervent belief and faith in the power of pedagogy in practical demonstration to uncalcably wide audiences around the world, dealing with an extraordinarily wide range of problems, offering his audiences moreover practical tools to do the job and to demonstrate it for themselves, and the structure to back this up.

His theoretical ideas have incorporated much of the best of twentieth-century pedagogy and psychology. They have introduced countless teachers and parents, and others too, to recognising that children can realistically aspire to being so much better than they are. His practical achievements, his writing, research, organisation and proselytisation, serve as inspiration for all of us travelling this sometimes hard road in the twenty-first.

A Nobel Prize? The upbringing and education of future generations is the most vital and humane of all human activity, for upon it rests the humanity of future generations. So often this is taken for granted, while the unfortunate consequences of its neglect are often cast aside, written off, even punished and blamed. Reuven Feuerstein has stood for two generations in the utmost esteem of everyone who takes up the task of transforming children's development through ensuring the means whereby they may become the people they could be. He is the psycho-pedagogue par excellance, a living symbol.

The very public acknowledgement of this Prize would raise the ideals and goals that he has embodied to the much wider public consideration that they deserve.


Blog posting, published on 11 January 2011,
subsequently removed

This morning's item on Conductive World, reporting the possibility of a Nobel Prize Prize for Reuven Feuerstein has been picked up by a few news services, though it has not occasioned an actual story anywhere. After all, the term 'Nobel Prize' is sexy enough to be trawled routinely on the Internet – once this is spotted, however, the name Reuven Feuerstein is unlikely to ring bells. We shall see.

The following list of references does not pretend to be exhaustive but, given limitations of time and resources, will have to suffice. It would be nice if others could contribute further such references (in whatever language they are to be found). It would be very nice to hear from conductors and others in CE, especially families, who have had practical contact with Mediated Learning and experience of working the two systems together. I like to suspect that there may have been rather more happening in practice than is reflected in the printed word.

CE and MLE: brief chronological bibliography

Sutton, A. (1986) Cottam, P., Sutton, A. (eds) Conductive Education: a system for overcoming motor disorder. London Croom Helm, p. 172

Sutton, A., Sharron, H. (1987) Two great educators, Mária Hári and Reuven Feuerstein, Special Children, March, pp. 12-13

Feuerstein, R., Rand, Y., Rynders, J. E. (1988) Don't accept me as I am, NY and London, Plenum Press, p.29

Minnis, F., Paul, A., Sutton, A. (1990) The Transformers. London: BBC Publications

LeBeer, J. (1995) Conductive Education and the Mediated Learning Experience Theory of Feuerstein, European Journal of Special Needs Education, vol. 10, no 2, pp. 124-137

Sutton, A. (2007) Conductive Education and Feuerstein, Conductive World, 21 November,

Sutton, A. (2008) Reintroducting Reuven, Conductive World, 2 January

Feuerstein, R. (2008) Recent Advances in Conductive Education, vol. 7, no. 1, June, pp, 5-8

Sutton, A. (2010) Breakout at the Szalkai Farm, Pálmonostora? Conductive World, 9 July
(I rather think that this initiative has not survived)

Footnotes (7 October 2011)

Reuven Feruertsein was not awarded a Nobel Peace Prize

The Szalkai Farm does still exist 

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