Tuesday, 1 May 2012


It will have to be stated to be earned

This posting refers to a critical comment posted on yesterday's Conductive World:

This concerned a well-intended and friendly piece from a student newspaper in the US. This is what I quoted –

...transforms the lives of families with children who have cerebral palsy and other severe motor disabilities. Program assistants... work methodically with these children throughout the day, combining physical and educational methods to help the children find alternative ways to complete motions like sitting, walking, standing and feeding themselves. Each class is conducted by occupational therapists...a holistic approach... aspects such as walking from room to room with sliders and ladders, using the restroom on a time schedule, practicing stretching techniques and educational activities. ...conductive education is based on the theory that the central nervous system in children with motor disabilities has the ability to form new neural connections, despite neurological damage... opportunity to achieve new movements and greater independence. ...an occupational therapist consultant... incorporated sensory motor techniques into the program...  etc.

Why, I ask myself, does it look so implausible? What would I think if I myself had come across this account, as a naïve outsider?

My interest and sympathy would have been immediately seized by the promise of transformation in the opening sentence. Then, however, I would have failed to see how the account that follows might achieve this by other than the important secondary mechanism of families' and children's meeting, perhaps for the first time, enthusiastic people working in an optimistic enthusiastic agency. This effect is not to be discounted, indeed it should be explicitly remarked more often but that is not what is being said here.

What might have been said instead, using the same explanatory framework, changing the actual words of the original as little as possible but transforming what they say?

...transforms the lives of children with cerebral palsies and other motor disorders, and those of their families. In a conductive school conductors... work imaginatively with the children throughout the day, using every pedagogic means to teach children that they can and will create their own ways to sit, walk, stand and eat for themselves. Classes are run by conductors who integrate every aspect of the school day ... such as walking from room to room in the best ways that they can, using the restroom [lavatory, I guess] within a structured programme, as well as curricular activities. ...conductive education is based on the fact that all human beings learn, including all those with disabilities of any kind, but may need a special pedagogic approach to ensure the best possible developmental outcome in all aspects of their living... a conductor is needed to infuse a conductive approach into every aspect of the school day... etc.

Is this more plausible? I find it so, as might many (not all) thoughtful psychologists and (not all) thoughtful special educators. Nor would it be necessarily be pooh-poohed by thoughtful doctors and and thoughtful therapists (not all of them anyway). I hope that many people in Conductive Education might also recognise what it says. A plausible notion of something 'conductive' might then stand better chance of working its way into the culture to win the reputation of being at least 'a contender'.

(By the way, I presume that there are conductors working at this centre. If so why are they not mentioned? How very, very strange.)

I am sure that I could have done a better rewrite, especially if I had broken out of the 'school' framework, and introduced the notions of conductive upbringing and conductive lifestyle. Others I know can (and do) do it better still. More should give it a try.

More plausible, less aversive? Maybe. But whether the world out there wants to hear this sort of stuff, now that's altogether another matter.


  1. A challenging exercise for us all, Rony!

  2. Wouldn't it be nice if all those hundreds and hundreds of people around the world responsible for centre websites, blogs, information pages, and other kinds of sites, were to sit down with their various informants, associates and other sources, and have a really hard think about what they are saying to introduce CE?

    Even if they cannot manage a simple student exercise such as this one (if not, what are they doing 'explaining CE?) they could still act positively by simply erasing the harmful intellectual clutter that they currently broadcast for other, equally well-meaning people to pick up and pass on.

    The news item that sparked this interchange, by the way, has already been picked up and passed on in all good faith by a disability newsletter in another state


    and on the websites of a large law firm


    There may well be others to come. This seems to be the sort of stuff that people want to read.

  3. "I am sure that I could have done a better rewrite, especially if I had broken out of the 'school' framework, and introduced the notions of conductive upbringing and conductive lifestyle".

    Please do...