Monday, 5 March 2012


Suggestion not specific to one country
Exemplifies wider point

On his blog this morning Ralph Strzałkowski recalled an incident in Poland when an eminent professor of orthopaedics made a surprising suggestion about one way to deal with Ralph's spastic legs –

From the first minutes it was becoming obvious that his experience with spastic limbs was limited at best and he didn't really know what to do with me. He wanted to say something just so it wouldn't seem like he was wasting our time and his, which he was. As we were talking, he said, 'You're so highly functional and your upper body is strong, your legs seem to be holding you back. It is just an idea, but perhaps you could walk with prosthetic legs.'

Such an unthinking and ill-informed response is not of course specifically Polish. It reminded me immediately of a daft conversation that I had years ago in the British Houses of Parliament –

In the mid-eighties, shortly after the screening of Standing up for Joe, at the hight of the national CE-fever, I was at some CE-related event at the Houses of Parliament. I was approached by some beamish Sir Bufton-Tufton MP, exuding the desire to say something to indicate his positive, beefy good will.

'What I can't understand though is why, if their legs don't work, they can't just have them amputated and artificial ones fitted...'

Knowledge management

On might understand bumbling lay naivety like Sir Bufton's, and it is relatively easy to deal with. The doctor's is another matter. Ralph comments:

It seems to me that some medical practitioners are hostages to their limited perspective and they are not open enough to try other ideas. The 'I know better' (even if I don't know anything about it) attitude is not only a product of a particular time or location. I also think that resistance to the Peto method is rooted in the same type of sentiment that prevents some to even entertain it as a possible approach. And just by watching my mother interact with the man I realized another deeply rooted thing. Utmost respect for the profession, no matter what. Even if you're dealing with an closed minded  person. We are ready to dismiss things, even if we don't know. Some people will just say silly things. I almost had my legs amputated! On the other end you have parents, who would try anything if it can possibly help. But they don't often have the full information. To my doctor his suggestion made more sense than alternatives that he didn't consider and didn't  know existed. Obviously we didn't go through it, but it opened a Pandora's box of questions I'm too afraid to ask.

A specific, fearful question that immediately occurs is to wonder whether some doctors and lay people have actually gone forward and made such a radical surgical response, somewhere, some time...

But the less acute problem, the chronic but more pervasive one of self-confident, often unquestioned (but all the same limited) professional understandings should be of wider concern. These are not restricted to one country or to any one profession. As Conductive World reported earlier this week, there is expressed concerned about this tendency amongst doctors. Ralph's eminent Polish specialist seems an excellent candidate for knowledge-management. Let us hope that Conductive Education crates effective measures of its own.


Strzałkowski, R. (2012), "Let's amputate your legs", Lawyer on Wheels, 5 March

Sutton, A. (2011) An anecdote from olden time, Conductive World, 15 September

Sutton, A. (2012) A doctors' dilemma, Conductive World, 27 February


  1. "Ralph's eminent Polish specialist seems an excellent candidate for knowledge-management. Let us hope that Conductive Education crates effective measures of its own".

    For this to happen, conductors should start serving as 'knowledge brokers'

  2. Rony,

    Purveyors, brokers, consumers, recepticles, repositories, enhancers, developers, creators, critics, renewers, replacers – dealers in knowledge in every possible way, as a commodity vital to their stock in trade – indeed, 'doctors' in the original, literal sense of the word – that would be wonderful.

    A wonderful vision, Rony, but I am not altogether sure that I should hold my breath. After all, horses for courses: this is not conductors' central role. Some conductors might excel at doing this. Given the very nature of conduction, a 'conductive' knowledge without their contribution is Hamlet without the Prince. Their contribution to the cause should be treasured and cultivated. On the whole, though, I suspect that most conductors are called to their trade for more practical, humane reasons, and their humane practice is what the rest of us pay and respect them for. Just as medical knowledge advances out of more than the contribution of more than just doctors, then so has emergence of the essential knowledge of conductive pedagogy and upbringing depended more than conductors – but where are such contributors now, and how are they to be generated for the future? Knowledge- management again or, to use the excellent old Soviet term, naukovedenie. We do not have it.

    By the way, in the sentence of mine that you have quoted here, I had meant to type 'create' rather than 'crate'. Sorry.