Monday, 28 September 2015


Heartfelt, dignified petition to restore mothers' group

Since yesterday a heartfelt petition by parents and sympathisers of the mothers' groups at the András Pető College is being addressed on line to the college's authorities. Petitioners respectfully request a long-term guarantee that this service will be restored:

The mammas' group (mamas czoport) was a service for families from outlying parts of the country where no alternative was available. Mothers brought their little children to the Pető Institute in Budapest and stayed there full time with them for three-week stints, two or three times a year. I recall the service from some years ago, mothers staying with their children, sleeping on plinths in group rooms at the top of the Villányi út building – a little rough and ready perhaps but nevertheless a working means of service-delivery to famililies who might otherwise have remained unserved, and appreciated as such.

(This is rather like the Norwegian 'habilitation' model of service-delivery, but directed specifically towards of the early years of disabled children's lives, and of course considerably less lavishly provided.)

The petition suggests that losing this service excludes certain Hungarian children from access to Conductive Education altogether.

It also indicates that stopping this work will cut off an enormous store of conductive experience and craftmanship built up over many years.

People had thought that renationalising the Pető Institute would secure the future of its services. Parents have been assured that this service will be restored but are not confident now that it will be. They want this guaranteed.

They know that all this costs money but repectively request that their children's needs be prioritised. It is not so long ago, they point out, that this group was part of the tourist trail, for proud display to foreign delegations making the round of the András Pető College.

They petition that the restructuring be quickly completed, so that the accumulated skills of those working there are not dispersed and lost, and that the particular contribution of conductor Kozák-Sólyom Katalin, who leads the group, be retained.

Sign and comment on this petition

The petition opened on line yesterday at mid-day. So far this petition has attracted 146 signatures, most of those who have signed being from within Hungary:

So far there have been four comments:

To sign, and to leave a comment too if you wish:

Reports of three earlier CE petitions


(2015) Ne vegyék el beteg gyermekeinktől a Pető-MPANNI Mamás csoportját! Tisztelt Pető Intézet (MPANNI), Tisztelt Vezetőség és Fenntartó! Petició, 17 September

Saturday, 26 September 2015


Another new parent-led CE initiative in France
The association HELLO HISSEZ-VOUS was born in 2015 out of the experiences faced by two young parents a few months after the birth of their daughter Heloise, with cerebral palsy.
Responding to the disability and the daily challenges that this involves, they have chosen the path of positive action. The association aims to create a support network for solidarity and information, available to all.
To create a conductive school in Alsace: an innovative project
Our project is to set up in Alsace, a structure and welcome for young children with cerebral palsy inspired by Conductive Education, and to deliver practical and educational solutions for their parents.

First steps along the way

They need:
  • a conductor and a director
  • a suitable location, with a kitchen
  • an adapted minibus
  • equipment and educational materials
  • office equipment and hardware
They plan to open in Bellemagny in the new school year 2016.

Bonne chance, mes braves...

Friday, 25 September 2015


Not all sweetness and light

Over the summer I had cause to look again through Mária Hári's History of Conductive Pedagogy. Like much of what she wrote and said it is loosely structured and the line of argument can jump across suddenly to not obviously related topics. The host of minor jumps can then lull one into a certain mindset and as a result a major jump may pass unnoticed

This summer I noticed one such major jump for the first time. Starting on page 38 of the English edition of her history (readers of the German and Hungarian editions will have to hunt their respective pages in their own copies out for themselves but may rest assured that it is there too), Mária expresses something of the frustration and annoyance that she experienced from him over the years.

Under the misleading heading 'Pető's life and writings between 1945 and 1967', from page 18 to 36, she focusses upon correspondence and some personal contacts with people from outside his Institute. Except in the first three to four and the last two of these pages, all these people aeem to be from outside Hungary. The narrative takes the form of her own connective text around quotations (sometimes extensive) from correspondence with people in a number of countries. Very interesting this all is too, both for what is quoted and for how this adds a little to seeing some of the wider context of his life over the years 1945-1967. But Mária Hári offers no synthesising commentary or analysis. And she offers nothing of substance on his life and writings over these years, topics on which she could have made a considerable contribution from a unique perspective.

A touchy topic

Suddenly and unannounced, without linking text or new subheading, on page 36 Mária changes tack and for the next three pages focusses on how awkward and difficult Pető had been and, as much as would allow herself, how this affected her.

This passages (pp.36-39) is quoted here in its entirely, with my own interpolated comments and some explanatory footnotes) –
At home the Doctor got on best with books and newspapers. He received papers from the Israeli embassy, the Party central offices, and the Foreign Ministry. Two thick volumes of Goethe's life, dictionaries and a large pile of newspapers always lay on his desk. Over a whole day he would read something like 20 books. He was unique in his ability to assimilate the content of the newspapers in minute detail,. He was very systematic and arranged his books according to their content. From some books he only kept a few pages. He could locate precisely and pick out these and any other books even in the blackness resulting from a power cut.

So far no surprises, as here she looks to be starting something on how he lived his life, expressed with the conventional approval. As is often the case there are no dates but it seems likely from the circumstances that she is describing here that this paragraph refers to the closing years of his life, though of course who knows?)
The Doctor said that it was always those he loved whom he treated badly. It seems he liked those around him very much, because I can't say he was over-friendly to them. However, despite this, those around him were loyal to him. The Doctor said –
How nice when two people can be with each other and not get on each other's nerves – but he found it difficult to live with people without that happening.
Nobody in his immediate surroundings could be ill because he would get annoyed with them. He was universally querulous if he didn't get what he wanted immediately, This may be why I don't like being too close to anyone. Perhaps we love someone more from a distance than close to. He gave individuals an energising influence so they should have the vigour and self-confidence they needed to act, Despite everything this also applied to his home environment. Those at home also loved him unconditionally, even if they were ambivalent at times. Pető's personal traits influenced many people, and so many people were deeply loyal to him.

This is quite a critical, personal statement, a little sarcastic too, not only of how she saw him but also on how he affected others, including herself. It is not a unique such statement, and is certainly consistent with many small casual remarks that she made over the years that I knew her. It leads into a longer passage that I think is altogether unique in print, in which continues –
Given Pető's views on property, it was natural that as long as he had money he gave it away, and when he had none other people would give him some. It was on this principle that Edward VII and Gombricht's Weldgeschiste found their way from our home library into Pető's library and thus into the Institute. On the same principle he made use of other's people's capacity for work when his own was insufficient. He justified it by saying that he couldn't do without that person, and did everything in his power to ensure that the person wasn't ill and was free to act. He wasn't asking a favour: he thought other people were duty-bound to co-operate – not only for his benefit but also for a cause considered to be right. One of Pető's brothers lived in Amélie-les-Bains-Palada; the other, who was ten years younger and whom he loved very much, lived in Paris and ran the Tokaji restaurant. It was his brother who paid for and obtained the books and other books that he needed.
Again, this is wholly within the range of other remarks elsewhere about how András Pető used people instrumentally Here its context is within a mounting list of what one might almost call complaints –
Pető often said a sentence the meaning of which I only worked out 10-20 years later, or not at all, or perhaps I didn't always agree with him, though mostly it turned out that he had been right. For instance he told me that I am strong because I am a pessimist; optimism is a weakness. I still don't understand that as I don't understand many other things like:
If you say something untrue it comes from your imagination, but if you think something untrue it comes from a guilty conscience. 
He frequently used the phrase tvat tam asi [there you are] which is the basic principle of the Upanishads and Vedanta philosophy. Its meaning is unity with the absolute being, that man is an active participant in the events of the world. I never understood this. Pető said:
Everything good and bad, I am the same too. I am Engländer too, the Lord Jesus too, Hitler too; everything good and bad, I am the same too.
I still don't understand this and can't agree. 
I still don't understand why, when he phoned, he announced himself as Charlotte Corday.

He does not seem to have successfully shared much of his background thinking, with anyone, if it was ever his intention of doings so in the first place, including Mária.

In looking back on that distant time and place it has also to be remarked how so much of what he said could have been considered dangerously subjective and ideologically unsound by the Hungarian authorities. Announcing himself on the telephone as Charlotte Corday (the aristocratic assassin of French revolutionary leader Jean-Paul Marat) was certainly a strange thing to do in edgy Communist Hungary. Mária seems to have found him frustrating, even irritating. Somehow or other he got away with expressing himself in the ways that he did. To Mária some of this may have sounded very risky, not just for him but for those round him too.
There were things that I felt I understood and I could agree with, for instance his statement that there is no I only This. Only the work counts. From a certain viewpoint this seems impersonality. I think about a question that the Boss asked me once: whether I would stay with him if he suddenly became a foundry worker. How can this question be reconciled with impersionality? I think I stayed unconditionally loyal to him because of the Cause and would have had nothing to do with the foundry worker, but is this true? The others who were loyal to him had no such Cause.
It is a great shame that, as far as I know, nothing explicit has emerged to indicate what 'the Cause' was, either to her or to András Pető. I am not aware of her having mentioned it in these terms in any other context. Yet another reason to deplore that her papers remain unresearched.
The Doctor wanted me to go to the outpatient groups too. In addition to going to the hemiplegic group and the resident groups, I had to make notes, allocate duties, study and read, and also work with the Doctor every morning and on evening and on Sundays. This made it difficult for me to perform my best in every area, and I wasn't happy about that. But I had to do it because someone had too. Someone had to build the pyramids. People are capable of building something as big as a pyramid. There were times when I didn't feel very good about this, and once I wrote :
Uncertain, distorted, in an obstinate whirlpool everything infinite comes to an end. The current steers me to finite, correct actions with no desire, and the place where I belong becomes clear without my intervention but not without pain.
As usual Mária gives no citation. Where did she write such a thing? Under what circumstances? Laid out differently on the page, the words can look like poetry.

Whatever... confused, not in control of her own destiny, and distressed. Poor Mária.
Verkedy expressed the same thing differently:
In the end I didn't go to work with Pető. His personality attracted me – but I was afraid for myself I felt that the Institute would suck me in and destroy me, destroy my personal life. And maybe this was true He wanted me either completely or not at all.
This was Tamás Vekerdy, now a respected elder psychologist, reflecting in 1993 upon an invitation made to him when he was young, soon before Pető's death.

(Earlier this year Tamás Vekerdy spoke at the public launch of the Mária's Hári's Memorial Book. What he said has not been reported.)
I adopted may things naturally, or rather wanted to adopt them. Pető's day finished at night when the gates were locked, and every night we made masses of notes. I would go home at 11 or later. For instance, I adopted the practice of writing down points every day, and also certain details of how he arranged things. Someone once asked me whether I had taught the Doctor or the Doctor had taught me how to arrange things, because my desk looked like his. However, the truth is that my order and the Doctor's order are completely different. His order was constant, it never stopped for a moment, even by chance, while mine was exceptional and achieved through great efforts. Returning to writing down points: on one side of the paper he would group tasks or lists of people with whom he had some business or whom he wanted to remember, on the other side he wrote L/T (life and death) by all the things he had to do.

Presumably the gruelling daily routine referred to here did not continue into his later years.

L/T – Leben/Tot (German, as this was important to him).
There was no explanation for this, and I didn't ask for one. Clearly it must have meant that if we are not ill then we should give out our energy, because we could fall ill and then it will be too late, we must always be ready for the final reckoning with death Pető died having left everything in perfect order, and would have noted with satisfaction that he had prepared the ground perfectly for his successor.

Mária had understood and internalised what she could, emulated what she was able, and however difficult and trying the preparation for this, she was ready to step in to his shoes.

A night at the theatre...

Reported five years ago on Conductive World was a night out in which András Pető took and Mária Hári and Ily Szekély to the theatre – the outing being pure theatre in itself:

There are some other scattered observations on the two of them together, and probably others waiting to be found, but how did they really get on together? What did they really think of each other? Who knows?

There was one, however, who was sure that he did.

Another viewpoint

The following is taken from my unpublished fieldwork notes on one of several visits to Károly and Magda Ákos, this one in late October 1992 –
...they assert very strongly that Hári hated Pető. He treated her abominably, for which she never forgave him, and she has compensated by running off with his system.

(They said a lot else too, about her and about the direction taken by the Institute, of which most can stay under wraps, for the time being.

Whatever relationships might have been between Károly and Mária years before, when they collaborated to write that well-known book, by the mid-eighties these were not warm. Bitter and mutually dismissive might be a better way of putting it. The Akoses' remarks as reported here are to be viewed in this light.

A footnote: No I, only This

What did András Pető mean by this? Perhaps it helps (a little) to think in the terms of the conventional terminology of English translations of Freud. 

There is no Ego, only Id.

Or perhaps this only confuses things further!


Hári, M. (2001) The History of Conductive Pedagogy, Budapest, IPI

Sutton, A. (1992) Unpublished fieldnotes, Hungary, October-November

Sutton, A. (2011) Háriana III – a night at the theatre, Conductive World, 8 October

Vekerdy, T. (2012) András Pető The chárisma of a maverick healer: memories of András Pető. In G. Maguire and Andrew Sutton (eds) András Pető, Birmingham, CEP, pp. 107-113

Thursday, 24 September 2015


Journal article by conductor Andrea Benyovszky

Journal articles on Conductive Education have been rare in recent years. So have been journal articles on conductor-training, and articles written by conductors. Here is one that is all three rolled into one and, as a bonus, it is on line, free and open access.

The author is Andrea Benyovszky of the CLC (Conductive Learning Centre) and Aquinas College, of Grand Rapids, Michigan –


During the 1980s, the methodology of Hungarian-created conductive education began its innovation in becoming an international model for working with individuals with physical disabilities. Its prevalence has increased around the world ever since. These international interests stimulated efforts to develop ways in which the discipline of conductive education (CE) could occur abroad and as a result, develop a worldwide network of practice. In the United States the first establishment of this international model of conductive education occurred in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Under the professional supervision of the András Pető Institute of Conductive Education and College for Conductor Training, (MPANNI in Hungarian), the Conductive Learning Center (CLC) was established in 1999, enrolling students to participate in the conductive education model and also serving as the laboratory school for the Aquinas College (AQ) teacher preparation program for earning the endorsement to teach the Physically and Otherwise Health Impaired (POHI). Currently, this collaborative program at AQ provided with MPANNI is unique in North America.

To read the complete article, stay on the Abstract page and click on the button marked Full Test PDF just above its title:

The article gives Andrea's perspective of the development of Conductive Education, in Hungary, around the world, in the United States, and in Grand Rapids. She then describes the structures of the conductor-training course at Aquinas College and the services at CLC.

Some quantification

Andrea reports –
The CLC operates continuous conductive groups for local families during the traditional school calendar year and within the same school year offers a system of intervals of intensive sessions (4-5 weeks long). These sessions are frequently accessed by students and families that do not reside in close proximity to the CLC. There are nine school year sessions that are four weeks in length and additional summer sessions are five weeks long.

Some more figures –
  • over the previous 13 years, more than 60 Hungarian conductors had worked at CLC for one to three four-week sessions, with many returning on a rotating basis at their own request
  • each year the CLC serves some sixty to seventy pupils with various motor disorders
  • between 1999 and 2011, 306 children participated in a least one-four week session
  • the first student conductors were admitted to the training course in 20oo
  • there are no figures given for how many students have been admitted to the training course over the years, and completed it
NB American English. 'Students' signifies pupils.

More on CLC

For another account of the development of Conductive Education in Grand Rapids, see the book Breakthrough parenting for children with special needs by Judy Winter, pages 125-126

See also:


Winter, W. (20o6) Breakthrough parenting for children with special needs: raising the bar of expectataions, San Francosco, Jossie-Bass

Benyovszky, A. (2013) The replication of the system of Conductive Education in the United States, Acta Technologica Dubnicae, vol 3, no 2, pp. 66-72

The open-access journal Acta Technologica Dubnicae is published in Slovakia, in English

Tuesday, 22 September 2015



Conductive Education Press



One third off present prices on all books in CEP's catalogue
(+ post and packing)

Wednesday 7 October

This SALE marks the start of the new academic year
But it's not just for students – everyone can buy

Pető Studies

Original source material for presentations, assignments, dissertations, and private reflection – the only centralised resource yet for exploring who he was, and what he did and said
András Pető
Published 2012
Still the only book available on the mysterious founder of Conductive Education, with some of his own writings including examples of his poetry

CE Quotationary of András Pető and his Conductive Education
Published 2013
307 quotations by and about András Pető – some unexpected insights!

Library of Conductive Education

Contemporary writings from the modern world of Conductive Education, by families, conductors and others, with a broad variety of personal perspectives
Just do it!

Published 2009

Young conductors report their early experiences, working on five continents

Internationalising Conductive Education

Published 2010
First-hand accounts of developing Conductive Education services in eight countries

Intelligent Love

Published 2010
Parents' action for Conductive Education around the world: in their families, setting up services, and in the political arena

Last Year in Hong Kong

Published 2011
Reflectionsupon Oriental Conductive Education, following the 7th World Congress, in Hong Kong

Books are in English

Ordering copies

Click on the above links to see more of each book, and to order copies on line from the printers, for direct home delivery.

Remember, this sale closes

Wednesday 7 October

Sunday, 20 September 2015


The story...

Conductor Lisa Gombinsky has sent me a fascinating extract from Jon Palfreman's new book, published this week, Brain Storms: the race to unlock the mysteries of Parkinson's disease:

The book

Publisher's blurb –
Seven million people worldwide suffer from Parkinson's, with more men having the disease than women. Yet it remains an enigma, with doctors, researchers and patients hunting for a cure.
In Brain Storms the award-winning journalist and veteran TV producer, Jon Palfreman, tells their stories, stories that take on a particular urgency since he himself has been diagnosed with the illness. Palfreman chronicles how scientists have laboured to crack the mystery of what was once called the 'shaking palsy', from the earliest clinical descriptions to the cutting edge of molecular neuroscience.
He charts the victories and setbacks of a massive international effort to get the better of the disease, referred to as one of the best windows into the brain itself. Brain Storms is also a profoundly personal investigation into Palfreman's own struggles and those of others living with Parkinson's. The race is on to stop or reverse conditions like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.
Brain Storms is the long-overdue, riveting detective story of that race, and a passionate, insightful account of the lives of those affected.

I do hope that I never have to know about Parkinson's, but I am pleased to see such corroboration that substantial scientific advance can arise from observation of a tiny population, detailed humane report of what is encountered, and lucid description. Think on't.

Especially welcome so soon after the death of Oliver Sack...


Palfreman, P. (2015) Brain Storms: the race to unlock the mysteries of Parkinson's disease, London, Rider Press

Palfreman, P. (2015) From shaking palsy to Parkinson's: defining a neurodegenerative disease, WBFO News, 18 September

(extract from the above)

Saturday, 19 September 2015


What comes next?

I made the following brief note yesterday for another purpose. Today it seems a lost opportunity not to post it here to see whether it excites comment...
  • Abilities are what one can do now, unaided, without further teaching and learning, at the 'level of present ability'
  • Potential is what one can learn to do now, given optimal appropriate teaching, including teaching positive motivation and attitude, at the 'level of potential development'
The two should never be confused.

Potential can be 'assessed' only by teaching, and thereby starting a dynamic process. What works best to achieve this will be determined only through what is tried. And when that has been successfully incorporated, seeing what can be taught and learned on the basis of these new mental structures.

It is misleading to say 'fulfill somebody's potential' as if potential were existing 'fruit' waiting to be plucked (Vygotskii's allusion). It can be assessed only through intervening, through doing something to teach, and is not ripe till this brings it into being.

Conductive pedagogy is directed to creating the tomorrow of development, not to its yesterday.

Friday, 18 September 2015


Not the versions usually asked for!

From time to time I receive enquiries about where one might find a copy of Standing up for Joe, the 1986 television programme from the BBC that more than any other single event kick-started the movement to internationalise Conductive Education as we know it round the world today.

The BBC spends a lot of money on its programmes and guards its intellectual property closely. This film is not available on line. You will not find a pirated video of either this highly influential documentary, or of its 1987 follow-up To Hungary with Love, on Youtube etc.

I have therefore been surprised this week to stumble upon copies of the three Transformers documentaries on Youtube.

Something else

The Transformers was a follow-up series of three television documentaries made by the BBC in 1990 to broaden the message from the hugely successful Standing up for Joe and From Hungary with Love.

Building upon the enormous public success, and aware of the powerful social consequences of the two earlier documentaries, the intention was to show that transformations of the kind achieved by Conductive Education in the case of children with motor disorders were not restricted to this particular method, or to this particular field of disability – indeed not restricted to disability at all.

I served as technical advisor on making these films.

The TV series took its named from the popular children's pocket toy of the time (only later did this become a film franchise). The series' full title was The Transformers: the art of inspired teaching.

I had already begun using the term 'transformative pedagogy' (sometimes 'transformational') to describe educational processes that resulted not just in progress but also created qualitative change in the lives of those who experienced them. Nowadays the word 'transformative' is found quite often in UK education (maybe elsewhere in the English-speaking word as well), though I am not always sure what precisely it implies in these contexts. Possibly not always metamorphosis as I had intended. In 1990, though, this usage was quite fresh.

The series aimed high, and the BBC invested heavily, with filming in the Soviet Union, Israel and the United States. The BBC also published a  booklet (copies of this are now as rare as hens' teeth) to fill in some of the details, to link it all to Conductive Education, and to make some of the generalisable message more explicit.

A variety of transformative approaches had considered to feature in this series, but logistics, even with a big budget, limited the series to three one-hour programmes. In the end, the producer Ann Paul wanted an episode outside disability, easily generalisable to all children, and I reluctantly let go of Higashi for autism. I think that she was probably right (though I still regret losing this topic).

The three programmes were:
  • The Butterfies of Zagorsk. Soviet deaf-blind education
  • Out of the wilderness. Reuven Feuerstein
  • for six-year-olds. Matthew Lipman

In terms of viewing figures the series did not experience the success of Standing up for Joe and To Hungary with Love, Two of the programmes, however, Out of the wilderness and Socrates for six-year-olds were a little influential in encouraging the movements for mediated learning and cognitive education, at least in the United Kingdom.

Why did this series not take off like the previous two programmes? I could not understand this at the time, though perhaps I see now..

Videos online

Videos of two of the three programmes are currently on line, at least till the BBC's legal department spots them and sends a letter.
  • The Butterfies of Zagorsk. To me the most important programme of the three was the first one. It concerns children at the home for the deaf-blind in Zagorsk (now Sergiev Posad). It is both very moving and intellectually most challenging. Due acknowledgement is given to Alexandr Meshcheryakov but the whole account is framed in the terms of Lev Vygotskii. The correspondence between the work there and Conductive Education is very apparent. Unfortunately (unless you are Portuguese or Brazilian), the copy on line is an export version, overdubbed with a Portuguese commentary and called Borboletas de Zagorsk. Enough of the magic perhaps shines through to suggest what you are missing. 
  • Out of the wilderness. Reuven was a TV natural. On line there is a very grainy pirated copy, running from title to credits. (I do not know how this has not been taken down for copyright reasons).
The second two of these have been each broken up into seven consecutive segments.

Thursday, 17 September 2015


From CE's early internationalisation

I have just stumbled upon this long-abandoned online directory of early Conductive Education services around the world (only English-speaking countries + Hungary listed).

There is no indication of who compiled this extensive list it or put together the quite nice little introductory note –
Conductive Education (C.E.) is a special education, not a treatment or therapy. According to Prof. András Petõ, the Hungarian founder of this rehabilitation system, the main goal of Conductive Education is an orthofunctioning personality. The precise, scientific meaning of the term orthofunction continuously a subject for debate but it is clear that C.E. aims to enable children and adults to change their physical abilities and performance through a guided approach of problem solving (series of tasks). By experiencing success, they discover that they can find their own solutions to many problems of daily living. The conductor offers clear guidance, support and sense of direction, who takes responsibility for all aspects of physical, intellectual, social and personal development of the children with whom they work.

Nor is there a date but it looks like this was done at some time in the 1990s, probably in North America.

Click on the above link to see this listing. What a eery mix of those that have made it and those that have not.


– (n.d.) Conductive Education Schools

Information please

By the way, I found this old list while looking for some information about one of the earliest US CE centers, PACE on Long Island. I just want to know what the acronym PACE stood for in this instance. Can anybody advise?
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