Tuesday, 30 December 2014


Patient of András Pető

In 1988 a letter was published in an Hungarian newspaper. It began –
1948 nyarán, mikor még nem volt Salt-oltás Magyarországon, kislyánom, Geiger Julika, 2 és fel éves korában súlyos paralisist kapott és évekig a Pető Intezet páciense volt. Most a mellékelt kép szerint, Ronald Regan elnök nevében a legmagasabb orvosi kitüntetest nyújtottak át neki Washingtonban. Az “év orvosát” 600 ezer orvos közül válaszjak.

This means –
In the summer of 1948, when there was still no Salk vaccine in Hungary, my little girl Juli Geiger, two-and-a-half years of age, was severely paralysed and was for years a patient at the Pető Institute. Now the picture is different, in Washington, in the name of President Ronald Reagan, she has been awarded the highest medical honour. She has been elected “Doctor of the Year” out of 600 thousand doctors.

What a story Juli Geiger might have to tell. In 2008 her mother's letter was republished in Conductive World, as part of a longer item, along with a plea –
Has anyone in the American movement had any contact with her?
There was no response.

Dr Juli Geiger would be about 68 years old now. I have tried again to find her, through Google, but to no avail. Does anyone know Dr Geiger?


Sutton, A. (2008) Does anyone know Dr Julie Geiger? Conductive World, 21 March

Monday, 29 December 2014


American special-education article on CE

Five and a half years ago the first article in the United States to review Conductive Education this century was published in a special-educational journal. As far as I can immediately call to mind, it was also the last (I should be so very pleased to be corrected here).

At the time the article was published on line pay-only. Then for a modest fee it could be read on Docstoc. Now it is available to all, in original journal format, completely free of charge:

The authors were Katherine T. Ratliffe and Cindy Sanekane, of Hawaii. As far as I can tell they have had no subsequent published contact with the CE field.

I have not come across this article mentioned by CE sources in the United States (or anywhere else).

Google Scholar tells me that their article has been barely cited in other publications over the five years since it appeared, and not at all in English. So it is with an awful lot of what is published in 'the journals', not just with respect to Conductive Education of course.

Read the full article and judge for yourself whether in the specific case of this article the world is the poorer because of this – or otherwise.

Be that as it may, as far as the vast field of special education in the United States is concerned, Conductive Education has risen without a trace.

For that matter, it seems some time now since Conductive Education has featured in the educational literature in any country, in any language (again, I should be so very pleased to be corrected here).

Earlier commentaries on this article

Sutton, A. (2009) CE in US special education literature. Rejoice, rejoice, Conductive World, 8 May

Sutton, A. (2012) The great disconnect: CE and special education in the US, Conductive World, 4 May


Ratliffe, K. T., Sanekane, C. (2009) Conductive education benefits and challenges, Teaching Exceptional Children, vol. 41, pp. 68-72

Thursday, 25 December 2014


The same goes for Conductive Education

Easily said but so very, very hard to face up to 

Wednesday, 24 December 2014


Others do too...​
How did it feel like working at the Petö Institute at the beginning of the 1980s? ...It felt like the smell of freshly cut grass infused with a particular ray of sunshine that carried the light of simplicity, reassurance, calmness and clarity. It felt like a clear sense of focus and determination merged with the gentle breeze of everyday life with its noises, textures and feelings. Bringing this magical combination of peace (a kind of knowing), clarity and compassion into our distinctively perceivable three-dimensional world of time and space reality. It felt like purpose with infinite bounds of possibilities and choices, combined with a sense of seriousness and awe-inspiring joyful responsibility...

A plea

Thank you so much, Judit, for this. It would be wonderful if others would share their precious, remembered impressions of how what is now called Conductive Education was actually like in different times and different places. To do this is not just self-indulgent nostalgia (though what is wrong with a little of that?). It also has a more serious potential contribution to make.

A growing collection of short personal recollections would help make Conductive Education more real to those who want to know about it. Some such reports would agree with each other and some would not, but this does not matter since together they would pose questions and raise hypotheses.

Judit, do please continue to share about those far-off days of thirty years ago. Tell us more of the specific happenings and circumstances that made everything seem so fresh and good.

And tell how it all had a bit of a dark side too, such as the fixedness of what was done, and that extraordinary diktat that conductors who left, however talented and respected, could never return. How does that square with those infinite bounds of possibilities and choices?

And not just Judit, not just conductors, but anyone who has something to tell, parents, former children and other clients, anyone with a story to tell, and not just about the Pető Institute and Hungary... There has been a bigger, more varied world of Conduction Education growing out there.

Tuesday, 23 December 2014



A few thoughts, from China –
... the most important problem does not lie in understanding the laws of the objective world and thus being able to explain it, but in applying the knowledge of these laws actively to change the world. (p. 205)
Those experienced in work must take up the study of theory and must read seriously; only then will they be able to systematize and synthesize their experience and raise it to the level of theory, only then will they not mistake their partial experience for universal truth and not commit empiricist errors. (p. 209)
Whoever wants to know a thing has no way of doing so except by coming into contact with it, that is, by living (practising) in its environment... If you want knowledge, you must take part in the practice of changing reality. If you want to know the taste of a pear, you must change the pear by eating it yourself... (pp. 2o9-210)

Knowledge begins with practice, and theoretical knowledge, which is acquired through practice, must then return to practice. The active function of knowledge manifests itself not only in the active leap from perceptual to rational knowledge, but - and this is more important - it must manifest itself in the leap from rational knowledge to revolutionary practice. (p. 304)
If we have a correct theory but merely prate about it, pigeonhole it and do not put it into practice, then that theory, however good, is of no significance. (p. 307)
... the most important problem does not lie in understanding the laws of the objective world and thus being able to explain it, but in applying the knowledge of these laws actively to change the world. (p. 205)

Many people in Conductive Education like to seek instructive principles from China. The extracted thoughts above make a change from those alleged fish, and offer a useful standpoint for examining Conductive Education, its practice and research.

A little red book

I was reminded of this when I found that a second edition of The Little Red Schoolbook has been published this year in the United Kingdom:

But these thoughts do not come from The Little Red Schoolbook. They are from the original 'little red book', Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse Tung, often referred to in the English-speaking world of the time as 'the thoughts of Chairman Mao'.

Once reminded I soon found my red plastic-backed little book from 1966. Tucked into the front cover were a few small sheets of handwritten notes copied out some time in the mid-seventies when I was exploring wider philosophical psycho-pedagogic understandings congruent with those of L. S. Vygotskii and his colleagues. Former schoolteacher Mao (his personal name still Latinised at that time as Tse Tung rather than as the present Zedong), appeared to have a most compatible position on the nature of knowledge and how it should best be acquired and verified.

This position was of course quite contrary to the the post-modernist ideology that was then beginning to invade the academic world of education (and much else in the West) – and soon came to dominate it.

Conductive Education

At that time, what is now called Conductive Education was altogether cut off from the Western world, being locked in an alternative universe in which dialectical materialism held firm, official sway. András Pető's practices were already firmly established in Budapest by the time Mao's writings were sampled and widely published as his Thoughts, and no suggestion is made here of any direct link. But the system of practice that Mária Hári inherited and developed after András Pető died in 1967, swam, stayed afloat and was preserved, in very much the same sea.

Many look back upon Mária Hári's regime in the State Institute as a Golden Age. Dialectical materialism was an important component of the state philosophy under which her State Institute survived.

What an interesting dilemma for Conductive Education today, and tomorrow -- in Hungary and elsewhere alike.


Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse Tung, Peking.Foreign Languages Press

Monday, 22 December 2014


Things change with them
And the more they change...
The more they remain the same


I have just received a very welcome early Christmas present from an old friend in the Antipodes, a copy of the recently published second edition of The Little Red Schoolbook. This was a double surprise because, I have to admit, I had not realised that this book had been republished, indeed I had almost forgotten that it ever had. But oh, the strange thoughts and associations that came flooding back when I held this seemingly innocuous little book in my hands.

The Little Red Schoolbook was written by Danish schoolteachers Søren Hansen and Jasper Jensen. It was translated into English and published in the United Kingdom in 1971. It was very much a book of its time, a time of revolutionary resistance, student uprising, revolution theology, radical this and radical that (I even saw a magazine called Radical Accountant), kiddies' lib and every sort of alternative education, the Permissive Society, 1968... etc., etc. Behind this all, of course, loomed Mao Tse Tung's very real Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution.

This does not mean that it was all Freedom Hall in the West, far from it, as it was also a time of stuffy, determined opposition to change by established regimes, and often heavy-handed oppression of things new, even in the most liberal democracies of the day. It was a time of hotly debated conflict and change – of 'revolution'.

The allusion if this book's title, obvious to everyone at the time, was to the 'little red book' of Mao Tse Tung. When The Little Red Schoolbook began to be distributed outside school gates, there was political and media uproar around the world (well, around the 'free world'). The Pope condemned the book as immoral, the Australian Government nearly toppled, and in the UK all copies were seized and destroyed as being obscene (a decision upheld by the European Court of Human Rights). This was only one of a whole range of repressive actions against free speech – and free thinking – of that era.

The nature and direction of some of the would-be radicalism on display, with its superficial progressivism sometimes masking deeper reactionary positions, was not altogether to my own taste at the time, but my sympathies were wholly on the side of liberation and against the grim forces of oppression and uniformity.

I myself never saw a copy of the first edition of The Little Red School Book, though one could hardly not hear of it at the time. A subsequent, censored edition was a toothless tiger, and but this notorious book soon faded from the collective public memory.

Society got on with the very real processes of social and cultural change that echoed and even exceeded the very positions for which this book had been so condemned.

The present (pun intended)

It has been a strange, dissonant experience reading back and forward through my little gift. What on Earth would anyone under say 40 to 50 find to take exception to in here here? True, some of the stuff on drugs might still appear a little advanced to some, but what is remarkable now about discussing such things publicly? The stuff on sex seems downright mainstream but today's standards. Critical comments of curriculum, school organisation are run of the mill. The book's attitude to teachers and parents as victims of the system in their own right is endearingly benign. The dismissal of fixed intelligence is such old hack... and so on and so on. The whole publication seems so... well, innocent.

At one level this leaves the second edition of the book (nicely annotated to help the modern reader where words, institutions etc have changed) as a nice piece of nostalgia for oldies – and for everyone else, an interesting historical benchmark to indicate just how much society has changed over the last couple of generations.

The struggle continues
(traditional revolutionary slogan

The publishers conclude their introduction to the second edition –
We hope this republication of three original text helps in a small way to draw attention to this largely forgotten book, which we feel in many ways is very relevant today.

In a new Foreword, surviving author Søren Hansen adds –
More sophisticated methods to discipline and standardise children have been carefully been put in place. Children have been placed in a competitive arena. Education is no longer a personal process of forming a child into an adult. Now it is examination, classification, a standardised curriculum, intellectualisation, league tables etc. Gone are the creative subjects. It is 'Beat you buddy'. The pupils are the losers.
 Unfortunately, I still believe this book is needed.
The same may of course be said about the situation of their teachers, and their parents – and the rest of us. Old oppressions and shibboleths may have passed into history, only to be replaced by new unquestionable orthodoxies guarded and policed in new, insidious ways.

At another level, then, the 'revolution' still awaits...


Hansen, S., Jensen, J. (2014) The Little Red Schoolbook (2nd edn), London, Pinter & Martin

Wednesday, 17 December 2014


Financial crisis in Christchurch, New Zealand

The latest established conductive facility to experience hard times and be forced to make a public appeal appeal for help is the Conductive Education Unit at Addington School in Christchurch, New Zealand.
School principal Trudy Heath says an existing funding stream from the Ministry of Education is not enough to keep the unit going past June 2015... it is 'nowhere near enough.'
A story familiar enough around the world, and no doubt the people in Christchurch will make colossal effort and struggle through to fight another day. All the same, this is no way to have to run a railroad...


Napier, A. (2014) Special needs unit in funds appeal, Stuff.co.nz, 17 December

Tuesday, 16 December 2014


That still leaves the wetware problem

One of the many problems faced by Conductive Education (not uniquely) has been that so many people speak and read only one language. Machine translation of written speech is available free over the Internet for many languages and, used sensibly, can offer a remarkable liberation. I know that a growing number or people in Conductive Education are willing to give it a try. It is still far from perfect but it makes a significant start.

But what about oral (spoken) speech. Microsoft recently bought Skype, and Windows 8 provides a somewhat simplified Skype service. You lose some and you win some. Today Microsoft has announced another remarkable step into a technological future once seemingly a matter only of fantasy fiction, instant access to translation of spoken conversation, on line and for free –
Skype Translator is a brand-new experience from Skype, and it’s still learning and improving the way it translates calls. As a preview user of Skype Translator you’ll be instrumental in helping us refine the technology and bring us closer to our goal of overcoming language barriers worldwide. Even the smallest conversations help Skype Translator learn and grow, which can enrich your communication and lead to amazing things.

This is presently available only between English and Spanish and no doubt there will be some hilarious misunderstandings. But another frontier in communication has been breeched and things will surely get better. Not as much fun as sticking a Babel fish in your ear but on the right track. Let's see now what Google comes up with!

Then all that you will need is something to say.

In the meantime, you can register immediately to be a preview user and try this out for yourself:


Monday, 15 December 2014


Well, not exactly

A little while ago a former student of mine reminded me – publicly, I am embarrassed to say – that sometimes towards the end of the twentieth century I had said in a lecture that Conductive Education regards motor disorders as 'problems of learning'.

I have to hold my hand up. I indeed used to say this – a lot  and I wrote it too. I do not know when I first used this sentence or indeed where I picked it up. Maybe I heard someone else say it, or maybe I had read it somewhere. I doubt that I made it up, though maybe I did. Anyway, over the ensuing years lots of people have restated it, and passed it on in writing too, or just spontaneously re-created it up for themselves. It is now part of the unquestioned canon of Conductive Education.

Like the rest of that canon, it merits careful examination.

Over the ensuing years my own understanding of Conductive Education has inched forward too, and it is embarrassing to be reminded of how unquestionably I once relayed this apparently so self-evident formulation. Because it just isn't true. Grand though it sounds, the actual situation is rather more more complicated than that.

A problem of development

Wherever this expression originated, it should heave been received and examined rather more critically for what it means, and for how well this represents what Conductive Education actually does.

To do this one has to begin at the beginning, with what constitutes an appropriate, dynamic understanding of moter disorders as problems of development:
  • human mental and personal development depend upon the outcomes of transactions between active learning and the material and social environment (in the latter case reflexive environments)
  • where these transactions are derailed or dislocated (Vygotskii's terms), then development wil be disordered, and likely to require rather special transactions to get it working smoothly again, back on track, back in joint
  • in the particular jargon of Conductive Education, this is expressed as moving from functioning dysfunctionally to functional orthofunctionally.
Learning and development are far from synonymous:
  • 'learning' refers to acquisition of knowledge, skills, emotions etc, through various means
  • 'development' refers to particular stages attained.
Development is therefore a product of learning that occurs in transaction with all the factors, internal and external that enable or impede its exercise: various forms of paralyses are among potential impedences to successful, active learning, and therefore in turn to development:
  • when learning is affected by problems in directing or maintaining movements to achieve what is intended, then what is learned may not be what was was intended at all – indeed it may be quite to the contrary.
  • unintended learning is unlikely to be restricted to the sphere of attaining goals and developing skills but act to shape the emotional sphere, for example the will to keep on aspiring, and a self-regard built upon too much experience of 'I can't' – developmentally a vicious circle downwards rather than a virtuous cycle upwards.
Indeed, one may review how one conceives of the process of dysfunctional development, and turn it on its head, by saying that the learner does not have a 'problem of learning'. Humans learn, that is what they do, and they learn from their experiences of life. It is not that they do not learn, but that they are at risk of learning the wrong things. The problem here is that those experiences might teach learners some very dysfunctional understandings and attributes. Their continuing learning despite everything, and what they learn from this may create a dysfunctional state that constitutes a major problem in itself.

Learning problems

There is a possible complication. Some of those who have motor disorders also have what modern English usage terms 'learning disabilities':
  • children with learning disabilities do have problems in learning that may vary enormously in manifestation and severity, and serve as the basis of developmental disorders in their own right
  • where a learning disorder develops it will touch all aspects of development
  • where learning disorder coexists with a motor disorder, then it will affect the development of the latter too
  • contrariwise, the motor disorder may act back upon the development of the learning disorder...
Both will of course bear upon pedagogy and upbringing.


Such complication aside, 'problems of learning' are inseparably problems of teaching (be this in home, or at school, or in a wider world) – at least they should be.

One might more helpfully and simply restate the sentence that I have tried to dissociate myself from here as:

Motor disorders are 'problems of teaching'

I think that this covers most contingencies.

Friday, 12 December 2014


Still apparently not settled

New readers start here

Regular readers of Conductive World may recall the problems earlier this year, when the PAF (Pető András College) was still the PAI (Pető András Institute), over the Hungarian Accreditation Committee's not recognising the qualifications awarded for conductor-training:

All this occurred at a time when the Pető András Institute was foundering under a storm of wide-ranging financial and political problems. With respect to the specific matter of accrediting the training, a subgroup of two would go in and report back to the Accreditation Committee to get the whole business cleared up in time for the new academic year. In the meantime, the Hungarian Government addressed wider and longstanding problems of finance and governance, and renationalised the Pető András Institute, giving it the new name of Pető András College – coming into effect on 1 September.

And there matters have rested, mainly outside the public domain.

Accreditation back in news

Yesterday the liberal (and therefore opposition) newspaper Népszava published a leak on the progress of the accreditation question.

As far as I understand it this matter is being fudged. The Accreditation Committee meets today. Will accreditation will be granted, despite continuing legal and academic concerns.?The basic situation remains unchanged and is, if anything, even worse. An example given is one department's having only one member with academic degrees. The visiting accreditation subgroup did not complete its job and its process has been 'stretched'.

Going from previous such storms in the distant Hungarian teacup, what happens now? Presumably other Hungarian news outlets will copy Népszava's story, thought with little extra to add. Just maybe the PAF will issue a counter-statement. Opposition MPs might take this particular problem to enquire more closely what has been happening at the PAF since September. Just maybe Népszava will also leak a document or two on line. Then the whole thing will again vanish from public view, with the wider world of Conductive Education knowing (or caring?) little or nothing about what is happening.


(2014) Ismét terítéken a Pető-ügy, Ismét terítéken a Pető-ügy, Népszava, 11 December


Such a fetish

Here is a 'natural experiment' as bizarre as one may meet in a professional system as unfit for purpose as may be found in the United Kingdom. Harriett Sherman reported this story in the Guardian newspaper last month.

A life

David Hayes is now 58. In 1956, when he was five years old, he was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. He went to special school and the aid of callipers began to walk. At eight he transferred out of special school. He left school at 16 and as a young adult set up his own business. He, married and had two children, but had to give up his work when his hip dislocated at 28. He spent some years of his adulthood using a wheelchair, and in continual pain.

He joined the then Spastics Society (now Scope) and became an active member, rising to Vice-Chairman. He stood down in 2007 when his severe chronic pain became too much for him.
By then, a specialist in London had questioned the original 1961 diagnosis, partly prompted by Hayes’s children, who themselves suffered from intermittent joint pain. Three years ago, Hayes began to undergo a series of operations on his hip, knee and shoulder – the last just 12 weeks ago - that have finally left him pain-free.
The medical consensus now is that he never had cerebral palsy, but a congenital condition that he has passed on to his children in a mild form. 

The place of diagnosis

In the event – for many or most of the important activities of life – what is the prime question, where and how how should it be posed? Surely the question should be directed first and foremost into the domain of what one might be done about given childhood problems, what works to achieve desired results, and what does not.

In this context, medical conditions that may lie at the root of movement problems are of practical relevance where they specifically indicate or counter-indicate some course of action  which in most real-life circumstances they may rarely do (never more so than in matters of teaching and learning).

In other words, act by intervening and steer by outcome (within which, act by teaching and steer by learning).

Doing this might also contribute to the medical problem of determining a diagnosis. Where this happens, then intervention and its effects are contributing towards coming to a diagnosis – not vice versa as is the model behind a model of diagnosis → treatment. Quite reasonably, definite diagnosis may take time but it must be rare that practical action for the benefit of child and family needs wait upon this. More relevant grounds to act upon will usually be nearer to hand

In 2014 his is hardly a revolutionary notion, being reminiscent of the much ignored principle that prime indication for a diagnosis of oligophrenia should be response to teaching.

Had Mr Hayes met a conductor over the course of his childhood or beyond, then how long might it have taken to raise the question that the roots= of his problem lay in his joints rather than his central nervous system? How many minutes?

Mr Hayes' childhood was forfeit to factors that we can only guess – professional incompetence, lack of skills and knowledge, bureaucratic inertia and indifference. Perhaps most of all, however, it was shaped by the mindset, the paradigm, the unthinking preconceptions that prevailed fifty years ago. Surely in 2014 the world has moved on:
  • paediatric and therapeutic concepts have had fifty years to establish new understandings and qualitatively different practices
  • there has been time too for all sorts of new special educational techniques and approaches to have been developed
  • in England (and doubtless soon across the United Kingdom) new administrative structures and procedures are designed to guarantee appropriate 'support' for every disabled child.
Such a tale as Mr Hayes' could never unfold nowadays. Could it?


Sherwood, H. (2014) I spent my life believing I had cerebral palsy’, Guardian, 23 November

Saturday, 6 December 2014


Another initiative reported from Romania

An Hungarian-language newspapaper reports another initiative by the András Pető College formerly the Pető Institute) in former territories of the Kingdom of Hungary that lie in neighbouring countries.

Following a screening visit in July, between 24 November and 12 December conductors from the PAF have been providing a three-week intervention in Miercurea Ciuc Gyergyoszentmiklos (in Transylvania, Romania), for 24 children and 18 adults (presumably from the Hungarian-speaking minority).

The project is run in collaboration with the Gyulafehérvári Caritas charity and reportedly supported by the Hungarian government.

This is the third such initiative reported this year by Hungarian-language newspapers in Central Europe, two from Romania (Transylvania) and one from the Ukraine (Transcarpathia):


Perhaps there are others.


 (2014) Konduktív pedagógia Csíkszeredában és Gyergyószentmiklóson, Magyar Kurier (Katolikus Hírportál), 3 December


I have just had it pointed out that I was pipped at the post on reporting this, by Gill Maguire who picked up the the story and passed it on through her blog the day that it was first broke:


CE's Kremlin-watching is becoming quite a keen business, which makes it a little easier for all those who say that there is never any news! 

Friday, 5 December 2014


So may be the call for the 'conductive'

Coincidentally, two news stories have appeared in the public domain.
These two stories come from different countries, England and Germany, they are very different in style and content, and the specific hopes and aspirations that they express also differ. They have in common that Conductive Education is sought into adulthood and that conductive services are on offer, if only there were money to pay – and there isn't.

Stories such as these (and their coincidence) will be perhaps increasingly inevitable and common as a generation of children and their families who entered conductive programmes years ago find that they might still potentially benefit – but that there may be no way to fund what they would like. 

Some inevitable questions
  • What solutions have families and conductive services around the world come up with to confront this problem over the years, and what has the present generation of conductive providers been able to do to confront this probem?
  • How aware is the present generation of younger families just entering the 'system' with their children, that such a long-term problem may loom ahead?
  • How aware of this long-term dimension are funders around the world, including the uncountable numbers who individuals who donate their personal time and efforts to raising cash for immediate purposes, for children?
  • What measures might the world of Conductive Education be taking to articulate and share such problems and their possible solutions more widely?
  • What conductive associations, centres and services and associations can offer practical, concrete experience and possible models of organisation and action, to open doors to those who might benefit by accessing lifetime Conductive Education?
Long-term, longitudinal

The TV news item mentioned here concerns Dawn Rogers from Nottingham, Here is a pirated video of Dawn, shot twenty-four yearsago, in 1990:

The newspaper report features Nico Wonderle. I have not found an analogous early record of Nico in the public domain.


(2014) Unattributed local TV news report, n.d.

Mamer, M. (2014) Kein Geld für die Therapie, Süddeutsche Zeitung, 3 September

Tuesday, 2 December 2014


Fundraising event in a mall in Budapest

Advent and András Pető's institute have both come a long way

See the video →

Et en France...

Meanwhile, a Conductive Advent in a little centre in Bayeux, in France:

Monday, 1 December 2014


In this case, Surrey County Council
It could be any public body, anywhere

What when enough is enough?

There must come a time when the unspeakable horrors of bureaucratised ignorance, hypocricy, incompetence and obstructionism snap the restraints that bind even the most amenable citizen.

Where the victims are themselves wage-slaves of the system, its own paid help ('professionals' as they like to call themselves in the United Kingdom), then they can take one of the three classic routes through burn out –
  • walk away from the system altogether, abandon their careers and take up something else
  • stay in the job and suffer the physical and mental damage that this will bring, or
  • go over to the other side and join the system, subscribe to its values, and become part of the problem.
But what happens when the victim is an ordinary private citizen swept unwittingly into being a client of the public services – say a parent of a disabled child? After an initial honeymoon in which promises of professional competence and administrative proberty are just what need to be heard, realisation begins to dawn. Bringing up a disabled child may be problem enough for any family, with finding genuinely informed advice and genuinely worthwhile services additional burdens on top of this. Then one may find that much of the proclaimed expertise is hot air and the supposed services Mickey Mouse – and worse, that there is some sort of invisible conspiracy stretching from street-level bureaucrats up to government itself, to pretend that everything is going splendidly in the best of all possible worlds – where is there to go now?

There's no walking away, parenthood is no mere job, it is love's life-commitment. But except for a very few, there is no place in the system for parents. That leaves just one option from the three outlined above, a lifetime of continuing physical and mental damage of which my own country (not uniquely) should be so deeply ashamed.

A scream of pain

Read the most recent posting on Premmediations, the blog written by Mr Boo's Mum, far more telling than anything I could write:
I thank Susie Mallett for drawing this open letter to my attention. I do hope that Mr Boo's Mum will soon publish the local authority's response to what she writes.


What else can she do? HMG and a crowd of running dogs and lickspittles have spent years now, and an awful lot of taxpayers' money, stitching up a largely competence-free net to entangle parents' aspirations and divert energies and aspirations. It is only three months since the latest manifestation of 'special education needs' was enshrined in law. Unfortunately for government, however tricksy the fomulations and however convoluted and weighted the system, the underlying social and material reality endures and will continue to do so: some children have developmental disorders that require special arrangements to ensure satisfactory developmental outcomes both at home and in wider society.

Standing in the way is not fundamentally a lack of money (too easy to say, too glib an excuse), but a much more serious poverty, the poverty of ideas, theories, practical approaches, rational systems required to provide worthwhile concrete help for people on the ground, particularly in the children's homes and their schools. Whence will come the real practical knowledge and people capable of delivering it, and where and how it is needed? And along with the poverty, the poverty of spirit, the lack of moral fibre, the ethical malaise that allows state systems to conspire against their clients and even their own colleagues, in child abuse, social care, mental health, the justice system, special education (now pretty well killed off), wherever there are ranks to be closed.

Unless Mr Boo's Mum and hundreds, thousands like her speak out publicly as she has done, and say 'NO, this is just not good enough, in fact it is rubbish and not worth the fortune spent persecuting me' – and not just in Surrey– then the problem will long see me out, and maybe children as yet unborn.

Stupid is as stupid does

The hopelessness and then the inhumanity of bureaucracies is a complex matter and should not be attributed simply to some straightforward evil within those who comprise them. If you do want a simple human factor that might account for quite a lot of what they do, though, try exercising Hanlon's razor:
In explaining any human shortcoming, the first tool I reach for is Hanlon's Razor: Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

I wonder how they will manage with Mr Boo's Mums cutting irony.


I notice that the blog Special Needs Jungle today posts an item called 'How goes the development of the Local Offer?' . Its author, Tania Tirraoro, ends her review:
I now have to end this post so I can *face palm* myself for the rest of the evening.

In case you do not understand this expression, she provides some useful pictures:

I know what she means. 


I used to work for the council once (not Surrey but a really duff one). I suffered physical and mental damage for a while, then I flipped right out and joined the opposition. 

That was comparatively easy.  I was just one of the paid help.

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