Sunday, 27 April 2014

MUCH LIKE US – AS YET

The Russian trade – III

If the last few weeks' events show anything it is that, even though you need no longer expect the Spanish Inquisition, you should certainly never forget Russia!

With respect to China, the diversifying world of Conductive Education features a major and undeniable division between Western and Oriental Conductive Educations, raising some important questions that few seems keen to address. A further important question for the future development of Conductive Education might be whether Conductive Education might also develop in its own ways in the lands of the former Soviet Union to become more than just another manifestation of the ever-more disconnected international practice outside Hungary – with a third major disconnected strain's mutating and developing in Russia and its 'near abroad'.

At one time everything seemed so simple:
  • Conductive Education was Hungarian
  • Hungary was behind the Iron Curtain
  • Hungarian was therefore Communist
  • ergo, so was Conductive Education
  • according to preference and prejudice, one could then speak of Vygotskii and Luriya, repetition and regimentation etc. etc., and make other assumptions too
Each of the above points is at least problematical and open to discussion. So one should not be surprised that, with the exception of some patchy activity in Poland, CE had not been 'taken up' in the territories of then former Soviet Union and the former 'fraternal republics' as it has been in various countries of the West.

But the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States – the lands of the former Soviet Union) is a big, big place. There area lot of people there, a lot of money, some very different social contexts, and a lot of crying need. In so far as I know it, knowledge of CE and concrete contact with it is scattered and disparate. The following instances come to mind.
  • There was just a little a academic contact between the Soviet Union and the then State Institute (now Pető Institute) in the days of Socialism. In the mid seventies an explanatory visit was made to the State Institute in Budapest on behalf of the Institute of defectology in Moscow, reported in the journal Defectologiya. In the early eighties Maria Hari gave a presentation at an international conference in the city of Suzdal', and published an article in an important Soviet medical journal. Neither appears to have been followed up and Soviet defectology appears to have take no subsequent interest in conductive pedagogy. Nor has Conductive Education taken interest in defectology.
  • A Russian translation of Dina was published in Moscow after the fall of Communism. The publishing house that produced it, Uliss, appears to have vanished without trace.
  • One article about Conductive Education in the West appears to have been published in Russian, and a short German book (Annette Fink's) has been translated.
  • The CIS appears to have been largely spared the 'principles of Conductive Education'.
  • Two separate groups of Russians were trained as conductors at the Pető Institute, in the nineteen-nineties (on non-state funding). After qualification they went their ways, and a few are still working as conductors is such contexts and in such ways as they can, in Russia, in Western Europe or North America. There appear to be no conductive groups staffed by a group of conductors.
  • A few years ago Moira had a training scheme going with a rehabilitation centre in the Komi republic in the Arctic Circle.
  • There was talk a few years back of establishing a centre in Moscow for conductive children's services and professional training, but there has been no recent word of this.
  • Russian conductors have not published, and Russian work, wherever undertaken, appears not to have been presented at CE conferences/congresses. There is no known programme of academic involvement.
  • Families who can afford and arrange to have found ways take their children to specially composed Russian groups at the Pető Institute in Budapest.
  • This has been enough for health-tourism companies to be involved.
  • There is extensive Internet activity from parents on chat rooms but no sign spotted yet of conductive blogging.
  • No sign either of the emergence of a co-ordination movement, associations for example.
  • The interest shown has been predominantly in children with cerebral palsy.
  • The CIS has the advantage of pedagogy in its cultures (and defectology too), which should greatly advantage understanding CE over attempts to understand it in the West, professional and public. The notion of conductive upbringing seems yet to arrive.
  • No doubt there is much else too to mention too.
  • Little or none of the above seems connected
I am very aware that the above impressions are personal and fleeting and may not be at all representative.

Приглашение – Invitation

I should be delighted if people would write in and correct or augment what is noted above.

Indeed, I am happy to extend an offer to anyone who would like to write a substantiated overview of aspects of conductive pedagogy in Russia or the wider CIS. If you have something to report or to say, in whatever language, then please do so and I shall help you publish it on line.


Divergence or convergence 



A perennial question of the old field of Soviet studies was 'Are Soviet and Western economies (political systems etc.) converging,or diverging? Well, 'Are are present-day Russian and Western Conductive Education systems converging, or diverging? One might open a seminar on this question with a list or (uncertain) facts such as I have presented above... 

From these one might consider that the situation of Conductive Education in the former Soviet Union is not all that different from that of Conductive Education in the West, though perhaps rather reminiscence in some respects of the Western scene some years ago. Or one might be left wondering whether geopolitical reality will combine with specifically national features (otechestvennye) within the territory of the CIS for something new and distinctive yet to arise.

References


Hári, M. (1981) Presentation to the Symposium of the Socialist Countries on Child Neurology, Suzdal’, 5-6 October 1981 [English translation, with a short English commentary, in ‘Out East’, Chapter 5 of G. Maguire and Andrew Sutton (eds.) (2004), Mária Hári on conductive pedagogy, Birmingham, Foundation for Conductive Education, pp.73-80]

Hári. M. (1982) Meтoд кондyтивнoгo воспитания и eгo poль в coцильной адипций детей c церебрльными праличaми, Журнал невропaтологии и псхиаитpии им. Корсаковa, 82/10, pp. 1501-1510

O'Hare, J. (2002) Deputy Director of St Petersburg Early Intervention Institute on fact-finding visit to Birmingham..., Russian London, 23 October

Semenova, K., Mastyukova, E. (1974) O кондyтивнoм воспитании детей c церебрльными праличaми в Венгрской Народной Реcпублике, Дeфектология, 2, pp. 93-95

Sutton, A. (2013) From Komi with love, Conductive World, 27 March


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