Tuesday, 13 August 2013


This one was accepted straight away

Seeking András Pető
Andrew Sutton 
Background: András Pető created the defining basis of what is currently called Conductive Education, but he attracts scant personal interest. There is a small pool of hagiography but a suggestion that he and his thinking merit serious study in their own right (Sutton, 1992) led to little work to uncover more. Some memoirs and some documentation have been published (Forrai, 1999; Hári, 1999; Maguire and Sutton, 2012). The field of 'Pető Studies', however, remains minuscule.
Shortcomings: Most of the 'history' of András Pető and his associates, indeed of Conductive Education as a whole, comprises reminiscence, memoir, oral account and self-report, along with analysis based upon these. Though all legitimate and valuable in their own right these alone are insufficient basis for historiography. Lacking is a firm framework of thoroughgoing, primary documentary research, and analysis of this.
Personal stories may flesh out a documented framework, but do not alone permit confident historical narrative – and there is more to history anyway than just narrative. Writing the history of AP, and of what his work has become, has hardly begun.
Problems: Just restricting the task of that part of a 'conductive history' to the world of AP, his influences and associates, one confronts immediate problems of language (German and Hungarian, perhaps others) and the need to understand contemporary contexts, social, political and intellectual. There have to be people able and interested in all this, time and demand, a market – and money.
Opportunities: There is documentation, variously accessible, in obvious places in Budapest such as the Pető Institute and Mária Hári Library, the National Archive, various ministries, the Bárczi Gusztáv Pedagogic University, in Szombathely, and of course in private collections. Probably the Party and the Police too. But this is far from being a specifically Hungarian story, either materially or in the history of ideas, so seek too in Austria, Germany, Russia and maybe elsewhere, in public and private records.
Prospect: Further oral material will continue both to fascinate and to create hypotheses but it is time to move on to the higher level of historiography that Conductive Education needs and deserves.
Hári, M. et al. (1999) History of Conductive Pedagogy, IPI 
Maguire, G, Sutton, A. (eds) András Pető, Conductive Education Press 
Forrai, J. Memoirs of the Beginnings of Conductive Education, Új Arányid / FCE 
Sutton, A. (1992) Pető Studies, The Conductor, vol. 4, nos 2-3, pp. 44-45. pp. 44-45
Desperately seeking András

The live show will be in the afternoon of the second day, Tail End Charlie for a long session, comprising six presentations in all, under the broad rubric of 'History and theory'.

The whole session is timed to run from 14:45 to 16:15, ninety minutes in all for six presentations. No specific times are given for the individual contributions and there is no indication of how the time will be allocated. Fifteen minutes each, including, say, five minutes for discussion? Or all the discussion time collected together at the end? Either way, it will take strict discipline to hold the thing on time... and who will suffer it this does not work out as intended? Why, the poor bloke at the end.

By then many of the the punters will be itching for the 45-minute mid-afternoon coffee break. Ghen there is a second session on the same theme of 'History and theory', to which I am also contributing, but that is another story.


I suspect that there will be plenty of conflict of evidence and conflict of opinion, and a few other conflicts too, between the presentations that make up the two 'History and theory' sessions. I wonder how far the time available will offer these much of a run,. It will be a pity if not.

There are some that I would quite like to hear, and some that interest me not at all. When the latter are on, I will be using my time elsewhere, hunting people down and looking for interesting things in parallel sessions. I shall therefore be joining the inevitable scramble for the door at the end of each presentation...

Not yet having the precise time of these between-presentation turn-arounds in the various sessions will make everyone's personal logistics all the harder.

So what will be on elsewhere over that long afternoon? That too is another story.

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