Sunday, 29 June 2014


Trying to understand Central Europe

Conductive World, the blog, commenced in 2008 – its associated Facebook page the following year. From the outset a theme in both has concerned social and political trends in Conductive Education's homeland – Central Europe in general and particularly Hungary. From time to time there appear postings on Hungarian politics, addressed primarily to Hungarians who have followed Conductive Education to work abroad, and to non-Hungarians who are their employers, colleagues and clients.

Mentioning Hungarian politics and its rightist tendencies soon attracted sharp comment along the lines that only a Hungarian could possibly understand all this and that non-Hungarians should stay well out of it. I have some sympathy with this position and for a bit tried to avoid trespassing. But to consider Hungarian society without mentioning Jobbik and other right-wing tendencies in Hungary really is Hamlet without the Prince and just can't be done – so, as mindful as I can be of sometimes conflicting sensitivities, I have gingerly continued to tread this path. With minimal feedback I cannot judge how successful I have been, either in my original intentions or in my softly-softly approach. Apologies if I offend.

Central Europe, from the outside

I am aware that an outsider can form at best unnuanced understandings, and that Brits and other Anglo-Saxons may clod-hop insensitively into the world of Europe. Simon Winder, in the Introduction to his sweeping (and very funny) historical panorama of the Hapsburg lands, makes this point more tellingly than can I –
In October 2009 there was a football match in the UEFA Champions League between Chelsea FC and CFR Cluj. Chelsea fans flying into Transylvania for the game thought it would be hilarious to dress up in capes and plastic fangs and duly got off the plane lurching around, flapping their arms and putting on funny accents ('Ach, the cheeldren of the night – I hear their call' and so on). In an interview on a British radio station the next day, a memorably outraged Cluj disc jockey spluttered in perfect English (albeit – fair play – with a slightly funny accent) about how this was a national disgrace, an insult to his people, how Dracula had been 'merely the invention of some Irish novelist' and how vampirism was quite unknown in Transylvania.
All this was true enough, but the interview has hung in my mind ever since because of my own severe anxiety that I am myself merely a Chelsea fan with plastic fangs stumbling off the plane. The former Hapsburg lands are places where a principal battlefield has been the interpretation of history. Indeed the very idea of the study of history has been fuelled by animosities and fantasies about ethnic, religious and class privileges, For me, to enter this highly charged arena is, I am fully aware, foolish. It is very easy to be contemptuous of someone else's nationalism and unaware of one's own. The extraordinary toxic legacy of the [Hapsburg] Empire's obsession with linguistics, archaeology, ethnography, sigillography, numismatics, cartography and so on makes me feel, in my darker moods, that the spread of these subjects and the use to which they were put was nothing but a disaster for Central Eurpe and that academics more than anyone else are (with help from some priests) some of the greatest villains. Indeed, in comparison with the academics, the politicians and military men were mere puppets, with even Hitler simply a disgusting by-product of various poisonous Viennese nationalist and scientific teachings.
The stakes have been so high because each linguistic group has obsessively picked over its past not merely with a wish to entertain itself with fancy-that facts about ancestors, but to use it as the key weapon in establishing its ascendency over other groups. While the Hungarians poured resources into charting their grand ancestry to somewhere out on the Asian steppe and in 1996 celebrated the thousandth anniversary of their arrival in Europe, Romanian academics in parallel scoured excavations for evidence that they were themselves the true owners of the same region, the descendants of soldiers and settlers from the Roman army (even inventing their country's name to make this point). What should have been harmless, indeed loopy antiquarianism became instead the motive force behind terrible events, the least harmful being the abuse shouted by Romanians during anti-Hungarian rallies, 'Go back to Asia?'...
(Danubia, pp. 5-6)

The passage quoted above moves on to the force of ideas, especially here their negative, destructive force. Conductive Education manifests a cluster of simple ideas (positive ones and no less powerful for that!) We Brits are not good on explicit ideas, as our education system and much of our science testify, making the message of Conductive Education particularly difficult to 'get across' in our country and similar ones. I was brought up to think that this particular characteristic of our culture indeed makes us, er, particularly civilised. Maybe so, maybe not. I do like to think, though, that it has spared us some unpleasant trouble over the years.

Simon Winder's highly acclaimed history is frequently laugh-out-loud funny, a Monty Python tale of bizarre twists and funny foreigners, manifesting another supposedly defining British national characteristic. If there are traces of this tendency in Conductive World, then again apologies if it offends – but perhaps this does make some difficult things in life just a little easier.

So, I shall keep on trying. Perhaps in the grand scheme of things this might help bring together Conductive Education's specific past with its more international future, whatever that might be. If this process does not always meet with approval, then that is how things can go.

And as in all human affairs, a bit of reciprocity would be nice – and if at times this should offend a little in return, than so be that too.


Winder, S. (2014) Danubia: a personal history of Hapsburg Europe, London, Picador

Saturday, 28 June 2014


I'll give you five
This posting was originally published on Conductive World on on 27 October 2010, and is republished here along with the comments that it attracted at the time.
This morning, Norman Perrin wrote –
Good morning Andrew.
This morning's Telegraph has a piece 'Best brain science books from Daniel Dennett to Oliver Sacks: five of the best books about neuroscience, psychiatry and the brain, as selected by Tom Chivers.'
It led also to some interesting-looking further suggestions in the comments.
The piece prompted me to wonder what 5 books you might recommend to the common reader, such as myself for instance, with a strong interest in conductive education/upbringing – given the impossibility of assembling 5 books about CE.

Sometimes, Norman, I think that in CE all readers are uncommon.

I do not know what student-conductors are expected to read nowadays, if they are anywhere, to introduce them to wider questions of upbringing. I can only offer you the sort of things that I used suggest to students when I was involved in conductor-training.
  • Kick off with Urie Bronfenbrenner's little book Two worlds of childhood: US and USSR. There are plenty of bargain copies floating around on the Internet. You may not need more than a couple of quid. You might even get away with less. If there is a choice, go for the Penguin edition: it's prettier. You may also find copies in local second-hand bookshops. No educated person with a view on fundamental questions of how to bring up children should have failed to have read and considered this (a good test, this!)
  • Go on from here to the first volume of A. S. Makarenko's classic Road to life. A pedagogic poem. An epic of education. This is a rollocking good read, and a fundamental text in the story of twentieth-century education. Again, there are lots of copies available on line. You might find yourself owning one in a nice old Soviet binding (nice smell too!).
  • For the next generation on this line of thinking go to V. A. Sukhomlinskii [Sukhomlinsky]. You can make a start through a free (yes, free) ebook of Each one must shine: the educational legacy of V. A. Sukhomlonsky, by Alan Cockerill, at . And you can go on from there to splash out from there on Sukhomlinskii's own I give my life to children. As the titles imply, these are rather less rollicking in their style...
Yes, a rather Soviet-oriented selection but I do not think that many Anglo-American writers will give you are looking for. Anyway, of the three listed above, one is a critical comparative text from the United States and I see that the other two are now being hailed in their homeland as great works of Ukrainian education.

You asked for five and so far I have offered only three. If you want something from the Jewish tradition, from Poland, dive into Janusz Korczak, of whom English-speakers seem disgracefully to have heard next to nothing (just like for the most part they have never heard of pedagogy!). And for someone who has been influential in French-speaking CE (that's 'EC' of course), dig into Françoise Dolto – rather  too psychoanalytic (and too French) for my personal taste, but bearing a bracingly refreshing message about saying No.

How's that for starters?

You can find plenty more of course on all the above books, and on the people who originated these ideas and their related practices, as well as further reading, on the Internet.


And yes, as ever go easy on that 'brain-science' stuff!


          Susie Mallett, Wednesday, 27 October 2010 23:51:00 BST

    It is late, long past my bed time, but I wanted to leave you a comment and a thank you for this posting.

    Perhaps a little snippet or two might encourage a few more people to become CE readers.

    About Janusz Korczak:

    'In the orphanage, Korczak studied the secret depths of the child’s soul, and it was in the orphanage that he made practical application of his educational ideas. Korczak called for an understanding of the emotional life of children and urged that children be respected.

    'A child was not be regarded as something to be shaped and trained to suit adults, but rather as someone whose soul was rich in perception and ideas, who should be observed and listened to within his or her own autonomous sphere.

    Every child he maintained has to be dealt with as an individual whose inclinations and ambitions, and the conditions under which he or she is growing up, require understanding.'


    Encyclopedia of the Holocaust. Macmillan Publishing Company, New York, 1990

    In The Warsaw Ghetto – The Memoirs of Stanislaw Adler, published by Yad Vashem, Jerusalem 1982
    The Warsaw Diary of Adam Czerniakow

    And from Sukhomlinsky:

    'Children's spiritual life, their outlook, their intellectual development, the soundness of their knowledge, their faith in themselves, all depend on their joy in life and their energy.'
    That last bit describes well what was happening in my work today and most days with the children, there was certainly much joy and energy, and faith around us this afternoon.


    And the others...?

    Andrew, you ask 'What about the others?

    I had no time to mention more when I wrote the last comment, but you can read about my own enthusiasm for Makarenko, and my enthusiasm for his methods of upbringing on my blog.

    And also coming soon will be what I think of Bronfenbrenner, when I have finished reading The Two Worlds of Childhood.


Friday, 27 June 2014


USA and Hungary, young and old
Two lists on the same day

Ten lessons from Conductive Education...

Jalyss Zapf, newly qualified American conductor, lists on her blog –

See the bigger picture. 'Holistic' is a bit of a buzzword in Conductive Education. Despite appearing heavily motor-based, CE is actually an integrated, holistic system that aims to facilitate cognitive, social, emotional, and physical development... it goes beyond individuals and their disabilities, taking into considering the family and community environment, culture, and social structures around them.

Aim high. Expectation is massive. Across the board conductors expect more. It will be hard, it will take time, but progress will be made... Humans have incredible abilities to adapt to difficult situations, often we just need someone else to expect it from us, to believe in us.

Be outrageously positive. Seriously positive... Be realistic, but be extremely positive... If there is a positive angle to find, a conductor will find it.

Look for small victories. It matters! Something may look small, but it’s a big deal. Huge moments may sometimes look pretty average.

Be careful with language. Use negatives, not positives... Be very specific, to help people link what a movement is and what it feels like... draw attention back to what they are doing and how it feels.

Not ability but potential. This is not just semantics... CE chooses to concentrate on the cans rather than the can'ts, trying to overcome a deficit.

See everything. See what is important... Conductors don’t compartmentalize, CE is about everything, all the time. But you’ve got to look for it.

How not to care. Conductors care about those they work with, but are not there to care for them. Instead, they enable. If they struggle, offer encouragement, don’t offer to do it for them... It is the conductor's responsibility to give people opportunity to have responsibility for their own lives.

Plan. Every tiny detail.... Being forced to put that level of detail down on paper helps one start to think in that kind of detail. Thinking in that kind of detail helps one focus and makes for a more effective educator.

Manage time. Plan to use the time available to its full potential, not wasting a minute

Twelve questions about the Pető Institute

Hungarian Member of Parliament Timea Szabó has tabled twelve written questions to Zoltán Balog, Minister for Human Resources, about that happens now over the Pető Institute. In summary, these cover the following –
  • remediation of problems over the accreditation of the Peto Institue's degrees, and what she regards as the insufficient actions of the Hungarian Accreditation Committee
  • involvement of the health-care system with the Pető Institute's work
  • integration with special education training
  • medical supervision of foreign children served by the Pető Institute, both in Hungary and abroad.

A new world dawning?

I do so hope that the future of CE can now lie increasingly with fresh formulations from young individuals rather than in questions to old institutions. It is encouraging to see over on Facebook that mention of Jalyss's 10 points is notching up approvals:

Another world still

The title of this posting evokes the late Urie Bronfenbrenner's little book, Two Worlds of Childhood: US and USSR. This wasby far the best thing that he ever wrote (and yes. I do know about all that 'ecological' stuff!), and essential reading for anyone concerned with the pedagogy of upbringing.

My ancient copy appears to have been nicked. No problem nowadays, as there are plenty out there going for a song, for example:

I have just ordered a replacement copy for just one penny!

For those who do not know it (most people nowadays, I should think) this jolly little book should raise some interesting questions about placing (and developing) conductive upbringing in the contemporary Western world.


– (2014) Mi lesz a Pető Intézettel? Népszava, 25 June

Bronfenbrenner, U. (1970) Two Worlds of Childhood: US and USSR, NY, Basic Books

Zapf, J. (2014) 10 things Conductive Education has taught me, Hop, Skip and a Jump, 25 June

Thursday, 26 June 2014


A link with András Pető

The most interesting things to be found on the Internet are not necessarily what is searched for but what has been stumbled upon wholly by chance.

I have just accidentally discovered that the venerable Hungarian German-language newspaper title Pester Lloyd is still published in Budapest, now as a weekly magazine that appears wholly on line.

András Pető and Pester Lloyd

One of the turning points in András Pető's life occurred after he matriculated from his Catholic gimnasium (grammar school) and went to Vienna University to study medicine – at least that is the bald story as one usually hears it. Dig around, however, and things are not quite that simple.

This nodal point offers one of those few specific instances in the life of András Pető of which there is more that one account. Hardly surprisingly, these accounts, written down years after the event, differ slightly one from the other. Moreover, very rarely indeed, in this instance readily accessible documentary evidence made at the time is also available.

Here is the barest framework of what happened:
  • in 1911, András Pető finished gimnasium (grammar school) and began to work for Pester Lloyd in Budapest, the newspaper offered or obtained him a scholarship to study journalism, he went to the University of Vienna, and studied medicaine.
From the archive of the University of Vienna:
  • He began his medical studies in Semester 2 of the academic year 1911-1912 (i.e. in the first half of the calender year 1912) – Semester 1 having been spent at the University of Budapest.
Precisely what happened for him to change courses, and cities, and societies, when exactly and why, are not known – nor how his sponsor took this and what happened to the scholarship.

Pester Lloyd does not feature again in his life story as has been handed down.

Pester Lloyd

Pester Lloyd had already by hen had a long and illustrious history as a progressive and liberal newspaper, going back to the years immediately following the failed revolution of 1848 when the mercantile entrepôt of Pest was reinventing itself as as the commercial heart of what was hoped would one day be an independent Hungary. It was written, published and read in German, Central Europe's language of trade and industry.

If the young András Pető hankered to be a German-language writer in Hungary there could be no better newspaper for him to begin on.

After András Pető moved on Pester Lloyd remained in continuous publication till 1945 when for obvious reasons it ceased to exist. It was reborn in 1994 as a weekly magazine Der Neue Pester Lloyd. The title reverted to Pester Lloyd in 1999 and in 2009 the paper edition was discontinued. Pester Lloyd continues to be published on line, billed as Tageszeitung für Ungarn und Osteuropa:

I recently hit upon the modern Pester Lloyd through an archived news article from last August when opposition politicians were accusing the Hungarian Government of trying to set up a shady deal over the financially floundering Pető Institute's real estate. Pester Lloyd's report on this had gone unnoticed amongst the storm of Hungarian press coverage at the time, not least because it had not occurred to search for news of these events in German (to date, Pester Lloyd seems to remain the only German-language newspaper to have covered this topic. For the record, this is that specific article:

This appears the only item that Pester Lloyd has run on the Pető Institute..

I wonder whether Pester Lloyd is aware of its own place and role in the prehistory of Conductive Education. I wonder too whether it keeps old staff records...


(2013) Schritt für Schritt... Steht das Pető-Institut in Ungarn vor der staatlichen Übernahme? Pester Lloyd, 28 August

Tuesday, 24 June 2014


Brief, delayed notice in The Times

Reuven died on 29 April. Today, nearly two months later The Times has granted him a brief notice (244 words) at the end of its obituary pages. I take the liberty of reproducing this in its entirety 
Reuven Feuerstein
Reuven Feuerstein, psychologist, was born on August 21, 1921. He died on April 29, aged 92.
Children with disabilities should be integrated into society as much as possible, argued Professor Feuerstein – especially when it came to education. The psychologist helped young people across the globe, including this with Down's syndrome and autism, to develop their cognitive functions and feel comfortable in classrooms.
His philosophy was simple: regardless of special needs, no one was unteachable. The Feuerstein Institute which he founded and directed, is an international education, treatment and research centre that helps both children and adults overcome psychological and social difficulties. It trains therapists and teachers in the 'Feuerstein Method' now used in more than 80 countries.
Born in 1921 in Romania, he was one of nine siblings. After the war he worked in youth villages, helping to educate child victims of the Holocaust. He completed degrees in general and clinical psychology at the University of Geneva. In 1970 he earned his PhD in developmental psychology at the University of Sorbonne. His wife Berta predeceased him. He had three sons: Raffi, a rabbi who is now the chairman of the F Institute, Aharon and Dani, and a daughter, Noa. 

Obituaries in The Times are published unattributed.

It is interesting that Reuven earned this late, small notice in the United Kingdom. Immediately after his death the Jerusalem Post published an informed an passionate feature by Hannah Brown, and there was a further personal tribute written by Rochel Sylvetsky in Arutz Sheva, and there was a formal obituary in Jewish News. I published an informal appreciation in Conductive World but the English-speaking media appear not on the whole to have marked his passing. An item in Actualité Juive has called him 'Un géant de la pensée'. Over forthcoming months professional and academic journals around the world may come up with something better to index the esteem in which he is presently held outside of the Jewish world.

It is an odd, bald little notice in today's Times, and I wonder why it was done. It renders Reuven's work and achievement inconsequential and uninteresting, and his ideas unchallenging and without significance –
...children with disabilities should be integrated into society as much as possible... helped young people... including those with Down's syndrome and autism... develop their cognitive functions and feel comfortable in classrooms... regardless of special needs no one was unteachable... overcome psychological and social difficulties...

Er, that's it... damned with faint praise within in under 250 words. No revolutionary ideas, no revolutionary spirit, no implications. You could say as much about your local SENCO. Surely that is not the measure of his public reputation and esteem in the English public domain....


(2014) Professor Reuven Feuerstein, 93, Winner of the Israel Prize (obituary), Jewish News, 1 May

(2014) Reuven Feuerstein (obituary), The Times, 24 June, p. 52

Brown, H. (2014) Professor Reuven Feuerstein: A personal remembrance from a very grateful mother, Jerusalem Post, 30 April

Scemama, Y. (2014) La succession du professeur Reuven Feuerstein sera assurée par son fils, Actualité Juive, 2 June

Sutton, A. (2014) Reuven Feuerstein (2014) Some reminiscences of the past, some hope for the future, Conductive World, 15 May

Sylvetsky, R. (2014) Op-Ed: walking with greatness: Prof. Reuven Feuerstein, z"l, Arutz Sheva, 4 May

Saturday, 21 June 2014


21 June 1944
Yellow Star Houses in Budapest

Seventy years ago
Interactive map
Today's commemorative programme
Detailed chronology

Friday, 20 June 2014


Do record it

Ups and downs in the governance of the Pető Institute, but life goes on. This includes a day meeting there next week (27 June) celebrating 50 years or conductor-training.

The morning's topics
  • the emergence of conductor-training
  • milestones of conductor-training
  • foreign relations of conductor-training
The afternoon
  • round table on practice-training and changes in conductor-training
Roll call

Zsebe Andrea, Biró Katalin, Deák Adrienn, Lukovics Erzsébet, Horváth Dezsőné. Szabó Éva, Babos Zsuzsanna, Klein Anna, Őrfalvy Katalin, Schäffer Katalin

'Pető films'

Screenings over the course of the day
Programme to be announced on the day

For posterity

This event is billed as an 'academic meeting'

What interesting and important historical witness of an era, from some of those those who actually took part.

How especially important it is at this a time of change, that these unique personal contributions be recorded, written down and published.


(2014) Tudományos ülés, 2014. június 27., 19 June

Previous item on this Anniversary

This posting has attracted far more hits that any other item published on Conductive World over 2014.

Thursday, 19 June 2014


Feuerstein in God's Own

An eponymous brand?

Do I detect a couple of trends?
  • The conscience emergence of a 'brand'. At least in the popular domain the name Feuerstein appears now to be beginning to be used to indicate the approach, the package, bequeathed by Reuven Feuerstein – cognitive modifiability in general, and Instrumental Enrichment and dynamic assessment inparticular – in much the same way as has the name Pető? This transition has been eased by how Reuven Feuerstein's position as the head of his Institute has been passed seamlessly to his son Rafi. Feuerstein, the father, Feuerstein the son, Feuerstein the brand – for the purpose of the present posting the names Feuerstein and Pető will be used the sense of the 'brands'.
  • Brains. Like in the world of Pető, brand Feuerstein seems to feel the need for a theoretical base at a different order than psycho-pedagogy, appealing to the distant world of brain?
Perhaps I am wrong on both counts. This week Feuerstein was doing its thing in New Zealand. Perhaps one should not make too much of one episode but reading the just published report of last week's event in Auckland, New Zealand by conductor Lisa Gombinsky I suspect that I am not.

Strong marketing

Aotearoa, is the Maori name for God's Own Country, the Land of the Great White Cloud, lying at the furthest ends of the Earth from where I sit. Furthest ends or not, Feuerstein was certainly pulling them in in the way that it has not done for years in the United Kingdom and, if this is part of a marketing drive, it looks to be a powerful one.

In the past of course Pető has made personal marketing drives in New Zealand. Two come to mind; the visit of Mária Hári and others in 1991, organised by the then PACE (NZ) Inc. (there is a fascinating video), and the nodal Kozma-Balogh visitation of about ten years ago. Whatever similarities and differences are to be seen in how these three visits were structured and presented, there is a very real difference in the model of the product being sold. Pető was selling the idea of a service deliverable only by initiates (conductors). Feuerstein sells ideas, knowledge, processes, training, at a mass level.

These two approached are not of course mutually exclusive, and to a limited degree the training-others model has been attempted within Pető (though without the extensive written component of papers and programme that characterise Feuerstein). And there are other potential models for dissemination. Perhaps radical change at the Pető Institute might open the door for their exploration, there and elsewhere.


Lisa was impressed by the following –
...the Feuerstein Institute is able to brag papers totalling well over one hundred thousand research papers

Was this really said? Unchallenged? Whatever is meant here by the flexible term 'research papers', does this really sound plausible? Lisa suggests that I check the following webpage.

I have, and very impressive it is too (would that Conductive Education could produce the like).As I already knew, an awful lot has been written about Reven Feuerstein's approach and work derived from it. Much of this is descriptive and practical, and is none the worse for that. But 'one hundred thousand research papers', especially in the light of what many might hear this to mean – pull the other one.

Maybe the apparently precise figure means much the same as the Anchient Egyptian numeral represented by the name of the god Hey – perhaps best rendered into modern English as 'an awful lot'.

Just keep telling it how it is. Feuerstein has a powerful story to tell and astonishing human achievement to record, without recourse to figures that at face value look spurious (what Mária Hári uses to call 'making the statistic'. There is no need to wreck a good case unecessarily. Please, Pető, correspondingly lose the unthinking cachet 'world famous' (it isn't). And please, both, take it easy on unnecessry talk about brains when there is such substantive relevant knowledge to document and proclaim.

Feuerstein and Pető

I have no doubt that the Feuerstein road-show will continue to roll around the world. I hope that it will trawl more Pető people as it goes, both for its substance and for what might be learned from seeing how it markets its product. Hope springs eternal...


Gominsky, L. (2014) Feuerstein on Aotearoa, Conductive Magic, the Phys. Ed Studio, and Me, 19 June