Thursday, 26 March 2015

LOST IN AMERICA

Rare CE video recording
A lesson from history

The first US experience of CE happened over forty years ago, in Wisconsin, an extensive collaboration with the then State Institute in Budapest. It resulted in a four-volume technical report, and an article plus a brief communication, in  academic special education journals, but was then largely 'forgotten':


An hour-long video tape had been made for sale and Gill Maguire has been trying to trace whether a copy of this still exists in Wisconsin University Library where a copy was deposited. In response to her enquiry a search has been made there but no copy has been found, a salutary outcome:


Since the State Institute in Budapest was involved in the Wisconsin Project it it possible that a copy of the tape found its way there in 1972, and is still there, but there is no published catalogue of the collection. Just perhaps now there will be one day, under the management of the new PAF:


And of course, just maybe, since the tape was made for sale, copies have survived in private hands. I see, for example, that this recording was made by Judith Sorenson but I also see that there are nineteen Judith Sorensons in Wisconsin alone. I leave that line for others to follow. And there is also the James House line to follow – for a deeper perspective on the project.

Pages i-iii of Volume I of the project report comprise a very extensive and perhaps at times unusually phrased Acknowledgements section. This begins –
The IMCP project has encumbered innumerable debts of gratitude in its short and stormy history. Even the partial list that follows is so lengthy that it dilutes the importance of each contribution far below its real value to the project.

http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED070235.pdf
Such a lot of people mentioned, organisations too. 

A further complication

The tape was recorded before the days of video cassettes so, if the content has not been transcribed to cassette or DVD, it may prove hard to find somewhere to play it (assuming of course that it has been well kept and still playable). And nowadays, when even video-cassette players are beginning to become rare, a machine on which to view a half-inch Sony video tape, reel-to-reel, may prove pretty hard to find.

Towards identity

None of this would have needed saying had not attention been diverted from creating infrastructure to develop Conductive Education as a sustainable body of transferable knowledge, by a headlong rush to expand access to anything that might be called Conductive Education (followed by a sometimes desperate need for financial viability)

An ancient video tape of what was done in Wisconsin all those years ago of course makes only a tiny contribution to fleshing out and identity, no more than one small brick in what ought to be a very big wall. That this recording has vanished is nonetheless cautionary. The essence of Conductive Education remains stubbornly undefined, and becomes ever more fuzzy around its edges. Inevitably this is a vital contributing factor to Conductive Education's uncertain identity – in the United States as elsewhere. But this lost video could at least bear powerful contemporary witness that Conductive Education in the United States is not a recent parvenu.

What might be useful raw materials to go towards constructing a defensible identity for Conductive Education in a fast changing and diversifying world. Here are two suggestions, not of course necessarily exhaustive.
  • Central to Conductive Education's identity is its practice, though this remains largely undescribed. Indeed, though there have been some noble experiential attempts to document conductive upbringing over the last few years, it looks like fewer attempts are being made now to describe and analyse the processes of conductive pedagogy than there used to be, perhaps one reason for which may be new ease of making video recordings. Where will your videos of conductive practice survive in forty-years time, though, and who will have the technology to view them?
  • Recorded practice offers an important contribution to theoretical analysis and theory-building, and to the the R&D (research and development) required to confirm these – though in truth the very nature of pedagogy suggests that 'D&R' might be a more appropriate strategy to help towards better understanding of the nature of the process required at the present stage of Conductive Education's development.
Well-based knowledge of what has gone before is part of the identity of any group, any movement. There is no need to be continually repeating the mistakes of the past and no need to be continually reinventing the wheel. Most of all, at any given point in time, the world of Conductive Education is a tiny one, the efforts of those who have gone before may reinforce the limited resources of today, just as the experiences and lessons of what you are doing now may yet benefit to those who come after.

That is of course if you care to share them at all.

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