I first noticed the work of Reuven Feuerstein in the early 1970s when on the lookout for practical and theoretical approaches to transforming human mental development by means of education. There was little published by or on him at the time in comparison with what was to come later so I wrote and found him a generous sharer of his unpublished materials. As part of the long intermittent correspondence that followed I wonder whether it was me who introduced him to the obvious parallels with the work of L. S. Vygotskii and his theoretical and defectological school. When from the late seventies onwards we began meeting from time to time at conferences, he was rather younger than I am today – and he already looked like Methuselah.
After that I met my Nemesis, Conductive Education, and by and by was able to introduce Reuven to that too as a parallel school. We hoped for some sort of coming together of the two approaches, both in theory and in practice (see for example Reuven's Foreward to the book András Pető, pp. xiv – xii). This was not, however, to be.
I suppose that I made a small contribution to spreading word on Reuven's work and his mediated learning theory. Around 1984 I suggested to journalist Howard Sharron writing a popular-science book to explain both Reuven and his approach to a wider public. The result, Changing Children's Minds, is still as far as I know the best general introduction available, in the English language. It is also essential reading in a comparative study of Conductive Education. Then, following the extraordinary social impact of Standing up for Joe and From Hungary with Love, I suggested to TV producer Ann Paul the series The Transformers as a suitable way to follow up on this success, with Reuven as one of subjects. That the resulting series did not meet with the resounding success of the earlier two TV programmes reflected neither upon Ann nor, with respect to 'his' film The Prophet from the Wilderness, upon Reuven. Perhaps the very success of the earlier two had paradoxically 'immunised' British society in some way against documentaries about transforming the development of disabled children...
Reuven and I have not physically met now for some years, not since Tsad Kadima's notable 20th anniversary conference in Tel Aviv, in 2007, though I did lend a bit of a hand to the unsuccessful bid to nominate him for a Nobel Peace Prize a couple of years ago.
His work certainly does make an excellent contribution to seeing Conductive Education in the wider context of determined pedagogic intervention in developmental disorders of any kind. This applies not just to its theoretical basis (mediated), its span (invoking family and society) and its practice (intelligent love), but also to its essential humanity, its historical origins, its social history in the West, and its philosophy.
I was prompted to write this posting by seeing an on-line photograph of Reuven Feuerstein. He was sitting next to a boy in a wheelchair, ruffling his hair. Reuven was in a chair too.
I am ashamed to say that I did not note the URL. I think that it was on somebody's facebook – can anybody help.
Feuerstein, R. (2008) Conductive Education and Structural Cognitive Modiﬁability, presentation to Throughout Life with Cerebral Palsy, Tsad Kadima's 20th Anniversary Conference, December 2007, Recent Advances in Conductive Education, vol. 7, no 1, pp. 5-8
Feuerstein, R. (2011) The matchmaker, foreword to András Pető, Birmingham, Conductive Education Press, pp. xiv – xii
Forwards available on line:
Sharron, H. (1984) Changing Children's Minds, London, Fontana
The Author's foreword and the first couple of chapters are available on line: