Friday, 21 August 2015

A DUCK AND SOME ELEPHANTS

Multi- and transdisciplinary logic

This is the first and probably last allegorical duck to be introduced on Conductive World. It is not the first time, however, that I have led elephants into the ring to illustrate a point when discussing Conductive Education – some of these new ones are blind.

The duck test

Here is the 'duck test' as expressed in its modern (American) form –
If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck
In the specific context of Conductive Education:
  • if people understand motor disorder as a physical disability
  • if they assume that disability requires therapy
  • if they unquestioningly accept the historically defined roles developed by therapists
  • if nothing in their experience has helped them towards seeing and understanding motor disorders as being psycho-social, developmental, pedagogic, requiring the historically defined contributions of education, pedagogy, upbringing
...then think of applying some form of the elephant test.

The 'elephant test'

Everyone has surely heard this ancient, geographically distributed parable. Imagine blind men trying to describe an elephant –
In various versions of the tale, a group of blind men (or men in the dark) touch an elephant to learn what it is like. Each one feels a different part, but only one part, such as the side or the tusk. They then compare notes and learn that they are in complete disagreement.
The stories differ primarily in how the elephant's body parts are described, how violent the conflict becomes and how (or if) the conflict among the men and their perspectives is resolved.
In some versions, they stop talking, start listening and collaborate to 'see' the full elephant. When a sighted man walks by and sees the entire elephant all at once, the blind men also learn they are all blind. While one's subjective experience is true, it may not be the totality of truth. If the sighted man was deaf, he would not hear the elephant bellow.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blind_men_and_an_elephant
This rather jolly Wikipedia article looks at some of the variants of the old tale, and some of the logic problems that they demonstrate, with charm and wit.

And Conductive Education...?

Thus primed I have tried to look at the historical transition from Conductive Education to multi- and trans-disciplinary practice in a logical way.

Imagine meeting an unfamiliar practice and becoming aware of immediately obvious features like wooden furniture, what seem like exercises accompanied by rhythmical speech, and beneficiaries working alongside each other ('a group'). There is no intelligible explanation to light up the darkness and reveal ev erything that is there: one is in the dark.

In such a situation one might be aware of no more than extraneous features, perhaps understood in terms of the already familiar, but this may be of little help in determining the essence. Then, if one wishes to re-create this practice,there is an immediate logical trap. In all good faith one may be tempted into believing that what has been perceived may indeed be to believe that what had been perceived are 'principles' of the whole, and that practice constructed on their basis, blended into existing practice, will create something that will do the same things as the original – be that original an elephant, or Conductive Education,

Belief, however strong and sincerely held, does not make things so but it needs deeper undertanding of what to do and how to act if it is to change the world,, Compare Mária Hári's love and intelligent love –
Love is not enough here. It must be intelligent love(Mária Hári, Standing up for Joe, 1986)
Consider too her interesting comment (highlighted below) at the Brussels conference in 1981 when addressing the same theme –
Conductive Education is much more that a method. The system of education is open to many methods, it is the structure, the organisation of the work, the 'conduction' in the teaching that are its principles – and its result, social integration, is its fundamental characteristic...
Her warning appears not to have been heeded. Perhaps a few ducks and elephants might have helped get her message through. But perhaps by then it was already too late.

Imagine a somewhat different situation, in which a new set of people, with similar defining characteristics as those who have fallen for the duck test, as defined by the duck test at the start of this posting, see a practice designed and implemented on the lines proposed above by the elephant test. The elephant that they perceive is not necessarily the original, but a simulacrum, lit up in part by an ever-growing range of articulated principles and all sorts of other explanations. It is now easier for them to go forth and re-create their own further practices.

Doing so they may find authoritative assurance that what they do is Conductive Education. Or 'working towards' it, or some such formulation. They may well then also accept that this is indeed so, and who can blame them? They have worked hard, with high hopes to achieve what they have. Elephants seem on the whole docile beasts, and no one has much of an appetite for requirement for public dispute.

Parthian shots

As a bonus consideration, look out towards the end of this Wikipedia entry for how men are described by blind elephants:


And remember, as it also reminds us, the observation of German physicist Werner Heisenberg
We have to remember that what we observe is not nature in itself, but nature exposed to our method of questioning.
That goes for all of us, in whatever context, and it is no disrespect to evoke it from time to time.

Two recent postings on this topic

1 comment: