Monday, 30 November 2015


A bit of a summary
I cannot hope to offer my own summary of Andrea Zsebe's speech of welcome:

This is far too long and complicated for my limited Hungarian. Anyway, since 'international embeddedness' (nemzetközi beágyazottság) is apparently to be a cornerstone of future development at the PAF, then one can surely assume that important statements on position and policy will also in future be made in languages other than Hungarian – in German or English at the very least.

Early days yet. We shall see.

Meanwhile, in the absence of my own summary, here is somebody else's, from Rádió Lánchíd. Do I have it right? There are still some rather difficult words and sentences –
There will be a stronger international presence for the Pető method
Attention is also required to the PAF's societal and sustainability requirements.
The new Rector, Dr Andrea Zsebe said that a novel and innovative approach is needed for development work. In her view Conductive Education is known internationally yet there is a need to include new approaches for new methods of inclusion. She cited the example of the development of college education, and for the college's also strengthening its international embeddedness. According to Dr Andrea Zsebe the chancellor system and the academic area now stand integrated side by side. Thus, the Chancellor's area is trying to find resources for ideas for professional development. The Rector noted that the work being done both in public and in higher education requires additional funding.

I found it particularly interesting to read this only a couple of weeks so after returning from the conference in Nizhniii Novgorod. The overall topic there was reform of the education system of the Russian Federation, with special emphases upon teacher-training and participating fully in educational globalisation, with a look-in for inclusion too.:

Coincidence? My own selective perceptions? Common policy memes at work here? Fascinating...


– (2015) Erősebb nemzetközi jelenlét járna a Pető-módszernek, Lánchíd Rádió, 30 November


Sunday, 29 November 2015


A pleasant announcement and an urgent reminder

Honorary Conductors (candidates)
  • György Benyovszky
  • Patricia Herbst 
  • Emma McDowell
  • Jolán Vecsernyés

Submission dates

(300-word abstracts for lectures, posters, videos, DVDs) 
  • Deadline for submission of abstracts: 10 December 2015
  • Notification of acceptance: 10 March 2016 
  • You therefore have less than two weeks

Saturday, 28 November 2015


A video
More research is surely needed

Another example of learned human psychomotor performance through exercise of an algorithm awaits scientific evaluation:

It looks miraculous.

The human miracle, no more than the human mind

There is no particular miracle here, however, just an appropriate algorithm and good old-fashioned learning.

There is of course more than one possible algorithm for solving the cube, and none is 'correct'. Like everything else, it's easy when you know how, and you will learn this the better if you want to learn, and if someone explains it or, better still, helps you find out how – in the best way for you. Then its a matter of practice...

Just as examples:

People in and around Conductive Education presumably know all this already.

Meanwhile, for the awkward squad

What is shown happening in this video is altogether outside my own limited experience and imagining, and the information now available is no more than anecdotal and wholly unscientific.

I therefore consider that this young man's achievement requires urgently disproving and rubbishing.

More research on the basis of what I and people like me already know and believe (not a lot) is clearly needed. All research grants will be gratefully received.

Or perhaps instead I could altogether ignore the obvious fact that both the cube and the algorithms are culturally created tools and instead spend somebody's money looking to the Holy Grail of a neurological explanation of everything.

Yes, I know, the lowest form of wit. Still, whatever Oscar Wilde said, I find it helps:

Friday, 27 November 2015


Conductor Andrea Zsebe

Sparse report so far

Long-awaited appointment announced on line a few minutes ago by the newspaper Népsazva –
Kinevezték Dr. Tenk Miklósné Dr. Zsebe Andrea konduktort, főiskolai tanárt a Pető András Főiskola rektorának - közölte az intézmény csütörtökön.
A közlemény szerint az új rektort pályázat útján nyerte el a Pető-módszeren alapuló intézmény vezetését három évre.

The process has taken three years, says this report.

Confirmation from PAF website

Sparser –

No further details yet in Népsazva and no reports apparent elsewhere in Hungarian media. Doubless we shall hear more,

Meanwhile best of luck to Andrea Zsebe in her new job, and congratulations to Franz Schaffhauser on his retirement.

More anon...

Updates through Facebook:


Thursday, 26 November 2015


Always lots happening in God's Own

I – Canterbury

New overview video
Conductor Liza Gombinsky does the honours

See the video

II – Taranaki, on the road

Parents' long struggle to create a CE service in the Taranaki area, rather than make the long drive to Hamilton, is a step nearer to paying off, with establishment of the Taranaki CE Charitable Trust:

Earlier mention:

III – Survey: free copy of report on effectiveness

The report on the Canterbury survey (83 respondents) on the perceived effectiveness of Conductive Education has now been published and is now freely available –
This report was prepared for the New Zealand Foundation of Conductive Education by 180 Degrees Consulting Canterbury. The purpose of this report was to investigate the experiences and perspectives of key stakeholders of Conductive Education, parents with children who have motor disorders, in order for NZFCE to develop a marketing plan to increase enrolments....
Survey participants were overwhelmingly positive, with many anecdotes to develop an effective marketing image around.
Summarily we could see a number of issues facing Conductive Education, the main issue being the lack of public and governmental understanding of the Conductive Education process.
(From the Report's 'Executive summary' (n.p.)

To get your FREE copy of the complete report, write to:

More perhaps on this anon...

Wednesday, 25 November 2015


In Russia

Extract from interview with Oleg Khitryuk

Made for Minin University student news service, Studencheskaya Pravda:

Filmed at the Modernisation conference held at Minin University, 10 November 2015:

From the distant archive

Only previous record in Russian media:


Хитрюк, O. (2015) Интервью с Эндрю Саттоном, СП ТВ, 25 ноября

Tuesday, 24 November 2015


What next?


Leticia Búrigo Tomelin Kuerten was a pioneer in bringing Conductive Education to Brazil, opening a small centre in Florianopolis to serve her own child and other children back in 2006, and writing the world's first conductive blog, Educação Condutiva  com amor

Having a technological and managerial background, as well as being a conductive mother, she has always been most concerned with understanding the 'why' as well as the 'how' of conductive upbringing.

Since 2013 she has been involved with projects for inclusive education.


Now she has published her first book, Vou Brincar Agora ('I'm going to play now'):
Vou Brincar é um manual de ideias simples e criativas, que buscam o estímulo sensorial, intelectual e imaginativo! É entretenimento inteligente!
I'll Play is a manual of simple and creative ideas, seeking sensory, intellectual and imaginative stimulus! It's smart entertainment!
Further information

Saturday, 21 November 2015


The question of upbringing

Much has been written on the remarkable life of Arthur Kavanagh (1831 - 1889), an Irish aristocrat born with no arms below the lower third of his upper arm, and no legs below mid-thigh –therefore neither hands nor feet. As an adult, in place of legs –
..he had about six inches [c.150 cm] of muscular thigh stumps, one being about an inch [c.2.5 cm] shorter than its fellow, while his arms are dwarfed to about four inches [c.100 cm] of the upper portion of those members, unfurnished by any approximations approaching, in the remotest manner, to hands.

Notwithstanding, he wrote well and drew, he fished and was a keen yachtsman, he rode well, including to hounds, was a good shot and hunted tigers in India – and was a womaniser before marrying, when he settled down and fathered seven children. He travelled extensively and sometimes adventurously, first with his mother to France and Italy, and in Egypt and the Holy Land, Setting out from from Norway, he rode across Russian from Saint Petersburg to Nizhnii Novgorod east of Moscow, then down the Volga, through Persia and Mesopotamia, to India. Back in Ireland, still only 24, he succeeded to the family estates and became a reforming and philanthropic landlord, a politician and Member of Parliament, before dying of pneumonia aged 58 in his London house, slipping away with his family around the bed, singing Christmas carols.

He had lived an extraordinarily full life, by any measure.

The nature of his limb deformities is not known. In the spirit of the times they were attributed to a peasants' curse upon his mother for removing two Catholic statues from a local Catholic chapel, or to her taking too much laudanum (alchohol + opium) during pregnancy:

Of greater interest, to educators, however, is the question of how he grew to be so dextrous, determined, independent and adventurous. What possibly relevant factors are discernable in his personal history?
Following his death, his cousin Sarah Steele published his biography. She wrote
It was manifest that his upbringing must be different from that of other men, born, as he was, without limbs.
The New York Times's detailed review of Sarah Steele's book was most critical of how it was that he turned out as he did, and puzzled why this question was not addressed –
It is the singular fault of this record of his life that we do not how a human being thus afflicted was able to do these extraordinary things... The sole direct reference to this matter is contained in this sentence following a statement of the year and place of his birth: 'From the outset it was obvious that his upbringing must be different from that of other men, born as he was without limbs'. Having learnt of this fact, the reader is constantly reminded how he could ride, hunt fish, shoot down wild beasts in India, and bring grasping Orientals to terms at the muzzle of his rifle. One is simply left to the exercise of [one's] own imagination, and this helps out very little.

More than a century has passed. His strength of character, even as a boy, has been mentioned frequently, but how did this come about? What factors were active in his upbringing, what pedagogic principles might there have contributed to bringing this indominable person into being? This is still not a contemporary question in our society. Usually it suffices to say, as does the Dictionary of National Biography, something like –
Kavanagh nevertheless, by indomitable resolution and perseverance, triumphed over his physical defects, and learned to do almost all that the normal man can do, better than most men.,_Arthur_Macmorrough_(DNB00)

The following sketchy account derives from several sources.

The mother
Arthur Kavanagh was a descendent of the ancient kings of Leinster, and born into one of the wealthiest families in Ireland.
The story has it that his mother thanked God that he was born to her because she was wealthy and could give him a normal life.
...Lady Harriet Margaret Le Poer Trench, seems to have been a lady of redoubtable character, and she not going to see her son miss the opportunities that others had.
She devoted herself to Arthur’s welfare and upbringing and, along with his nurse, Anne Fleming, raised a young man who was marked by a gritty determination to achieve whatever he set his mind to.
...Lady Harriet, seems to have been a lady of formidable character, although not really tested until Arthur was born. She was no simpering maiden and devoted herself totally to this limbless child. Her elderly husband was uninterested in the little cripple, disinterested even...

The upbringer
[Lady Harriet] had employed a special nurse to look after Arthur, and to her must go much of the credit for his dogged spirit. Her name was Anne Fleming, and she had a remarkable talent, an insight into the little boy’s mind in all sorts of ways. She would place toys just beyond his reach so that he had to wriggle towards them, ignoring his screams of frustration. She showed him the potential of his short arm stumps, and encouraged him to try to get them to meet across his front.
Nurse Fleming would place toys just out of his reach and encourage him to wriggle towards them. She persuaded him to try to get his stumpy arms to meet across his chest. Through long hours of practice he was able to train his tiny arms to perform as well as any able-bodied person.
He could often be seen, even as a baby, lying on his back and trying to get them to meet. He would be given a toy to hold, a big one at first, and as the toys became progressively smaller, so his reach became longer. It made him rather round shouldered, but that was a small price to pay. The tips of his arm stumps became so supple that they could be used almost as fingers, and perform all sorts of tasks. Over the years he was to keep up his painful practice until he could get a tight grip on a cane, a pistol, even the hilt of a fencing foil.
As he grew older and reached the age when a normal child would have walked, Anne arranged for pads for his leg stumps and taught him to balance on them, then hop. Later he would hop from the floor up the stairs, to a sofa or to a chair. When he was two years old, instead of taking him for walks as she would a normal child (and did with the older children), she arranged for a small pony with a built up saddle, rather like a small bucket, into which he was strapped. Anne was to stay for years, and Arthur became very attached to her.
The following aperçu, no more than an aside in a holiday blog by 'Becky', is the only hint that I have read so far of the possible role of upbring in his developing personality, and its link to a wider world of special pedagogy
[She] sounds similar to Anne Sullivan, Helen Keller’s governess.
Who was Anne Fleming, where did she appear from and where did she go to? Did she take part in any other such special upbringings? A pioneer figure for whom history has made no place.

The doctor
When he was about four years old, a new influence came into his life, and a most important one it was too – Doctor Francis Boxwell. A recently qualified young gentleman, he came from a landed family at Butlerstown in County Wexford, and was very much at home with the Kavanaghs at Borris. He was an old family friend, and in 1835 when he arrived, his qualification papers from Glasgow University were only weeks old.
He developed an instant rapport with young Arthur, and indeed with his mother. He visited almost daily, and with keen intelligence realised how important it was to be  consistently friendly, but firm. He lectured Lady Harriet on the vital necessity that Arthur should be instinctively self-sufficient if he was to have any hope in life, and how he must be proud of his family heritage – how he must be, limbs or no, a man.
Dr Boxwell wins good mention here, gaining credit for Lady Harriett's goals for her son and (below, from the same source) for getting Arthur Kavanagh on horseback.

Riding a horse came as naturally to Doctor Boxwell as breathing, and one of his first actions was to replace the leading reins on Arthur’s pony with real ones. This he managed by having a harness made for Arthur’s torso with straps and buckles, and the reins were attached to these. He also redesigned the bucket in which he sat, turning it more into a sort of saddle chair, and indeed one of them can still be seen in Borris House today. So equipped, by turning his shoulders or pressing down on one or both reins with a stump or stumps as required, he could turn a horse or stop him as well as anyone.
It was a brainwave, and combined with the new saddle into which Arthur was firmly strapped, it gave him immense and hitherto undreamed of mobility.
Arthur had a natural affinity for horses, perhaps increased by his dependence on them. He would talk to them, and they with a soft whinny would sometimes talk to him, too. And this applied not just to his own stable. Often abroad, forced to ride half-trained animals over often precipitous passes he would encourage them just by talking to them in his deep, mellow tones, sympathising with their difficulties and sometimes even with their terrors.
Ripping yarns and derring do

The account of Arthur Kavanagh's upbringing presented above is a composite of selections from biographic materials available on line. The particular intentions and the veracity of the various sources quoted is unknown.

What Arthur did with his life, both as a traveller abroad and later as a politician in Ireland and at Westminster, is a tale of Victorian can-do and grit:

Rupert Taylor has recounted a brief anecdote (possibly apocryphal) –
...he visited a friend after a long absence and said 'You know, it's at least ten years since I was here and the railway station master recognized me.'

Granting Arthur Kavanagh's most favourable social background, he was brought up to be a characteristic hero of his time.


(1867)An extraordinary Member of Parliament, Warwick Argus and Tenterfield Chronicle (Queensland, Australia), 8 February, p. 2

(1891) Born without arms and legs. New York Times (Book review)

(2012) Disability history month: Arthur MacMurrough Kavanagh, BBC News Magazine, 6 December
He does not fit comfortably into the contemporary British disability narrative: 'In the story of disability politics, he is an outlier rather than a trailblazer'.

(n.d) The limbless lord, Wizzley (writers' blog)

'Becky' (2013) National Country Fair, Borris, 2013 Ireland, 5 August (holiday blog)

Bunbury, T. (n.d.) The incredible Arthur Mcmurrough Kavanagh, (1831 – 1889)

Igoe, B. (2012) Arthur MacMurrough Kavanagh – the limbless landlord, The Irish Story, 21 December

Steele, S. L. (1891) The Right Honourable Arthur MacMurrough Kavanagh: a biography, London, MaMillan
Online facsimile

Whyte, N. (20o8) The lives of Arthur MacMorrough Kavanagh, From the heart of Europe, 5 August
Critical review of four biographies

Further bibiography

Kavanah. A. (1865) The cruise of the R. T. S. Eva, Dublin, Hodges, Smith & Co.
Reproduced on line in full. I have seen it written that the illustrations are by Arthur Kavanagh, as well as the lively text. I cannot confirm this. I gather that he wrote and drew with the pencil in his mouth, directing it with his arms.

Rigg J.M. (1891) Mrs. Steele's Arthur MacMorrough Kavanagh, The Lancet, 14 March, Online, behind pay barrier (book review)

Rigg, J. R. (2012) Kavanagh, Arthur MacMorrough, Dictionary of National Biography, vol. 30 (1885-1900)

Whyte, N. (2008), The lives of Arthur Kavanagh, Live Journal, 5 August

Critical review of four biographies of Arthur Kavanagh

Wednesday, 18 November 2015


Meeting a great
Making a connection

Forty-odd years ago I was taking my first astounded look at Soviet pedagogy, with Anton Makarenko featuring very large in my consciousness, and I became aware of the name A. A. Frolov amongst the huge Russian-language literature on upbringing (vospitanie, воспитание).

It was therefore  a pleasant surprise to find that I should meet Anatolii Arkadevich in person on my visit to the Minin State Pedagogic University in Nizhnii Novgorod, where he is still actively at work at the A. S. Makarenko Social Pedagogy Research Centre, in an emeritus capacity.

I met a lively, energetic man of 88, dressed in a formal suit bearing the ribbon of a veteran of the Great Patriotic War on his breast. Greeting me warmly, before anything else he wanted to indicate the medal and his service, and to tell me that he had marched in the Victory Parade in Red Square in 1945. And then to tell me that his daughter is a medical scientist in Leeds.

Then came the acid test. As opener he asked me what I thought of Makarenko. As best as I could remember I quoted a few words that I had written (actually, with respect to Conductive Education) back in the mid-eighties –
Perhaps the art of education is conveyed only by a work of imagination. *
He stood up, leant across the table and shook me heartily by the hand. I seemed to have passed muster.

I wish that I could recall more of our conversation, including something else that I said that prompted a standing handshake, but I was too excited to remember. He sent me off with the task of finding something more of minde to send him. I hope that I can.


Meanwhile this meeting, with a major figure from the glory days of Soviet education, presented me with a paradox that epitomises a vital contradiction within the present development of present-day Russian pedagogy – and is important for the potential relationship of Russian education and education in the West.

I was given a lot of written material while I was in Nizhnii Novgorod, one item being the fourth edition of a little book called 'The pedagogy of A. S. Makarenko: fundamentals of the methodology (in comparison with other concepts of pedagogy)', written by A. A. Frolov and E. Yu. Italtdinova (of whom likely more anon).

This brief text concludes as follows –
Not long ago, in September 2012, at the International Investors' Forum in the city of Sochi, Ichak Adizes, an American management specialist of global standing, speaking of Russia's cultural contribution to the world's heritage, said –

...a book that I read at the age of ten was Gaidar's Timur and his Squad. And a book that I still know almost by heart today is Makarenko's Pedagogic Poem. It is these two books that made me who I am.
Surely time will soon come when our leadership, people in education and pedagogy, political scientists and sociologists, will be able to come closer to the necessary level of understanding and appreciation of the heritage of A. S. Makarenko.
(Frolov and Italtdinova, 2013)

A. A. Frolov epiomises a powerful tradition in Russian education. Management theory is a powerful international twentieth-century meme. The two are not irreconcileable. Indeed, connections can be made at the highest level. The Russians are on to this. Education in the West, for a large part I suspect, is not.


Frolov, A. A., Ilantdinova, E. Yu. (2013) Pegagokika A. S. Makarenko: osnovy metodologii (v sravnenii s drugimi kontsepsiyami pedagogiki), fourth edition, Nizhnii Novgorod

Sutton, A. (1986) The practice, in Ph. Cottam and A. Sutton (eds) Conductive Education: a system for overcoming motor disorder, London, Crom Helm, pp 27-86

*   In full, what I had written was –
Educational practice is hard to describe. An observer inevitably selects, directing attention to this feature or that according to what seems personally significant or interesting or expected. Moreover, the process has a temporal dimension. What is observed at one moment of a process moves towards the attainment of long-term goals. Statistics can confirm the spoken or written word, still photographs can capture an image and documentary film or video provide a powerful impression. Combine all the available media, however, and one may still fail to capture the essence of an educational process. Perhaps the art of education is conveyed only by a work of imagination.
Unfortunately, Conductive Education still awaits its Makarenko….
(Sutton, 1986, p. 27)