Friday, 8 May 2015


A big wave

I recall an old Russian saying to the effect that a big boat requires a big wave. Launching the good ship CE in the West in a way that would 'stick' – by which I mean convince the worlds of education and disability that Conductive Education contains something of fundamental, world-shattering significance – requires something bigger than a thin scattering of small-scale enterprises and personal practices. Getting it safely afloat requires a pretty big movement of the waters to buoy it up and take it out safely to sea.

Whatever floats your boat

In the mid nineteen-eighties and early nineties Conductive Education was lifted out to sea on a wave of poular, media and political attention. It floated. What specific factors contributed to shaping the wave caught by Conductive Education might be argued, but the fact that it happened in inarguable. Behind the specifics, however, was something more general in the social fabric of the country in which Conductive Education took off in 1986 and the years immediately following.

It was a different country in those years, and the difference might be summarised by the word Thatcherism. Like it or not, it is hard to see what happened with respect to Conductive Education without the circumstances of Margaret Thatcher's Britain, and the interest and actions of her government. And without what happened in Britain, then it is hard to see that interest in Conductive Education would have taken off as it did in the rest of the world as for a time it did. Some small-scale local projects maybe, but not as things once were.

Margaret Thatcher fell from power in 1990, to be followed by John Major's which, in relevant matters, did not at the time feel all that different – just less. John Major's government fell in 1997, to be followed by the suffocating, active disinterest of Blairism, and the attendant institutional opposition to Conductive Education left adrift on a stagnant social sea. Again, with regard to specifics, details may be arguable, but that the wave had subsided is surely not.

A simplistic, glib analysis? Perhaps. What's yours?

Does it matter?

Can Conductive Education ever experience the interest and mass enthusiasm that it once enjoyed? Where is the new wave?

For the last week the United Kingdom has been subjected to a General Election that commentators confidently announce as marking the end of an era (precisely what era, I am not sure). And what might succeed it? Certainly not a new Thatcherism, but something... And that something will have to be open to fairly radical alternatives if there is to be a hope-in-hell's chance to squaring the books, financial and political. Across welfare and education there will be conflict and pain. It could make for a big wave.

So, will Conductive Education have a second chance, the possibility of a second launch? Conductive Education remains potentially a very big boat, and the shortages and shrinkage  of the coming years are going to make some pretty big waves, and as ever nothing will go as promised or planned.

Time for some political nous...

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