Friday, 31 July 2015


One hot July's day in the Crimea
Yalta, 1960

The quality of the image is poor, due to the nature of the original Soviet newsprint – a cheap and controlled press but sometimes cheery for all that, as here gently mocking the stuffy pomposity of official proceedings 
Если б студенты всей земли...
Семинары 'Студенты и разoрyжение', 'Студенты и мировая культура', 'Культура и национальная независимость' вызвали оживленные споры. Но вывод, в сущности, один: лучше договориваться, чeм воевать; лучше убеждать, чем стрелять.
...Может быть они yстали от дискуссий и экскурсийй? A может быть им просто захотелось побыть вдоeм?
Фотоочерк М. Трахмана

If students of all the World...
The workshops 'Students and disarmament', 'Students and world culture', 'Culture and national independence' evoked lively debate. But the conclusion is essentially the same: better to negotiate than fight; better to convince than shoot.
... Maybe they had tired of discussions and excursions? But maybe they just wanted to be together?
Photostory by M. Trakhman 
Mikhail Trakhman, then a well-known Soviet photo-journalist (d. 1976), had been a pervasive presence that hot July at the International Summer School held at the Artek Pioneer Camp in Gurzuf in the Crimea.

For the record they were just tired, the Livadia Palace was too much.

Amazingly, I have just found that an organisation in Greece has recently put on line the programme for this event, along with a list of all the participants: 

The whole shebang cost me £27, which my local education authority agreed to refund me.


Trakhman, M. (1960) Esli b studenty vsei zemli..., Literaturnaya gazeta, 14 July, vol. 32, no 83 (4208), p. 3
My thanks to Colin Jones of the University of Birmingham Library Information Office for tracking down and retrieving me this hard-copy news item.

Wednesday, 29 July 2015


A German tradition of Romantic Science

An early posting on Conductive World, in March 2008...
Dear Andrew,
I somehow believe that Pető’s thinking was, quite naturally, also influenced by – among others – Goethe’s Faust, where at the end of Part II there is a line or two evoking the type of things that happen during PROPER Conductive Education, which contains among other things love – intelligent love – charity, intuitiveness, ‘contact’, all that. It is its essence.
The very last line, Das Ewig-Weibliche – Zieht uns hinan, would really confuse someone who hasn’t studied Faust.
The basis of the relevance – as I see it – is that impossible things can be done, are being done, if the necessary ingredients are there, the most important of which is das Ewig-Weibliche ('the eternally female') – generally understood as equaling love, charity, intuitiveness, belief and faith, hope etc., something seelisch in Goethe’s Faust.
No, you won’t understand the German Pető without „the Germanic” in us educated Hungarians of a certain age (and class).
Anyway, to what extent is it necessary as far as practicalities are concerned? Remember old Ákos Károly’s memories of Pető? That he really wanted to be a poet, a philosopher, anything but the Director of the Institute? Goethe left poetry for us. Pető created the system of Conductive Education.
As ever,

Practice and theory

'Old Ákos Károly' and his wife Magda had been regular weekly dining companions of András Pető. They published the first edition of their important book
Dina in German, during the first flush of popular (parental) enthusiasm for Conductive Education in Germany (Ákos and Ákos, 1988). The book’s epigraph was taken from Goethe’s Faust, II:
Doch gibt’s ein Mittel… Die Mütter sind es!

In the subsequent English edition, this is translated as:
There is a way… the mothers!

I would give a positive reply to Emma’s concluding question on the place of theory in practice: ‘…to what extent is it necessary as far as practicalities are concerned?’

I share Kurt Lewin's view that 'there is nothing as practical as good theory and nothing as theoretical as good practice', and would advance the very practice work with mothers and their young cerebrally palsied babies, described in great detail in
Dina, to exemplify how a robust theoretical position can help frame a powerful model for conductive practice (and the contrary relationship, advanced in the second half of Lewin’s aphorism).

Goethe left more than poetry and plays. He was also a philosopher of science. His scientific views, such as on metamorphosis (itself an expression with a place in the history of Conductive Education in Germany), might throw interesting light on what little we know of András Pető's. In the modern-day parlance of Conductive Education, read 'transformation' for 'metamorphosis'. As for how this all squared with the later overlay of a Vygotskian psycho-pedagogy, that will have one day to be the subject of attention in its own right.

Notes and references

German and English editions of Dina

Ákos, K., Ákos, M. (1989) Dina: eine Mütte praktiziert doe konduktive Padagogik Education (Pető System). Ulm: Alabanda Verlag

Ákos, K., Ákos, M. (1991) Dina: a mother practises Conductive Education (Pető System). Birmingham and Ulm: Foundation for Conductive Education and Alabanda Verlag

A little more on Emma MacDowell

From 1972 Emma has been a ‘conductive mother’. She is also a Germanist, and a Hungarian.

And a little something on Goethean science


Since 2008 Conductive World has made numerous mentions of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) and to Romantic Science – the usual search engines will oblige – and in 2012 I made a presentation at the CE conference in Rosenheim, called in English 'Pető, a man in his times', that in a German context and to a German audience explicitly pointed to András Pető's Germanness. Conductive World has also dwelt of the compatibility of conductive pedagogy and upbringing with the work of L. S. Vygotskii, A. R. Luriya and their school, and more widely still with the school of Reuven Feuerstein.

Newly published on line is an article by Australian Marxist Andy Blunden elaborating upon the frequently remarked correspondence between the ideas of Goethe, Hegel and Marx. He opens thus –
It is hardly controversial to point to a rapport between Hegel’s philosophy and Goethe’s scientific work. Indeed, Hegel repeatedly praised Goethe’s Theory of Colours and cast himself and Goethe as comrades in the fight against Philistinism. Goethe’s naturalistic Pantheism, his emphasis on development, his antipathy to Newtonian natural science and his holistic approach are widely recognised as attributes shared with Hegel... a reappropriation of Hegel’s Logic suggests itself, highlighting the continuity of Romantic Science extending from Goethe through Hegel to Marx.

And then on very explicitly in the work of A. R. Luriya, and thence to the much admired, contemporary Anglo-American neurologist Oliver Sacks...

And along the way perhaps András Pető too...

History of ideas

Back in 2008 I had blogged –
As for how this all squared with the later overlay of a Vygotskian psycho-pedagogy, that will have one day to be the subject of attention in its own right.

Perhaps when seeking to locating András Pető's pedagogy and healing in the history of ideas, in the Zeitgeist of the place and the times, this may prove a more fruitful and practical line of enquiry than searching for some Holy Grail of 'where he got his ideas from'. At one time there was a considerable interest in that question. If it continues, perhaps German-speakers may find themselves with considerable advantage over the rest of us in pursuing this line further.

Some further references

Blunden, A, (2005) Goethe, Hegel and Marx,

Sutton, A. (2008) Goethe and Conductive Education, Conductive World, 29 March

Sutton, A. (2012) Pető, a man in his times, Petö und Inklusion, Dokumentation zur Kongress, March, pp. 231 – 236 (In German, Petö und seine Zeit, pp. 236-241)

Tuesday, 28 July 2015


In the tiny world of Conductive Education

There is no way really to know what you the readership of Conductive World really want to read about here, or what you you like of what you find on this blog. Conductive Education receives very human little feedback on its contents, virtually zero in fact. In absence of qualitative data one is thrown back on the quantitative.

New blog postings on Conductive Post are always notified on its Facebook page, along with a short trailer or taster of what they are about:

Given all sorts of qualifications, if numbers of visits to blog postings are index of interest in a topic, presented below are some higlights the last two-hundred postings on this blog (going back to September 2014), drawn from routine data provided by Blogger.the system that provides this site.


The numbers of visitors to Conductive World are small over a given time. From such visitor-data as are available it looks like new postings attract a flurry of initial interest then settle down to a period of quiescence. After that some are relatively ignored or never visited again. Others, however, enter a long steady process of attracting more and more visits, long after they first appeared, presumably in most cases through Internet searches. Slowly over the years (Conductive World commenced publication started in 2007) this 'backlist' racks up a considerable score of hits far in excess of postings' first wave of interest, thousands for some postings.

Against this longer-term dynamic the number of visits recorded at particular stages in the process may not be much of an index of anything. In other words, an important factor in how many visits are received by a particular posting may largely depend upon how long go it was published, over which time there may have been shifts in what concerns people anyway. These data are, however, all that I have that is concrete and quantifiable. As for what concerns people now, this is sometimes predicatable (e.g. anything mentioning jobs nearly always attracts a flurry of immediate attention, anything that mentions Mária Hári attracts solid interest) – and sometimes it can be wholly unexpected (e.g. the high interest, as measured in immediatevisits) in an item with its title in Ukrainan, СВІТЛЕ МАЙБУТНЄ ДІТЕЙ.

Even granting the small number of people out there in the real world who have an even passing interest in Conductive Education, the numbers of visits received do accumulate.

I take some grain of comfort in the hope (possibly unjustified) that these numbers include significant players, present and future, in CE's Great Game.

Recent highlights

'Recent' is defined by the last two-hundred postings. Note that even over this short period the above-mentioned time-dynamic already operates in that for the moment some postings continue to attract visitors by whatever means, while others lie in Cyberspace dormant or apparently totally dead.

'Highlights' are defined here as having so far attracted a hundred or more visits. This is an entirely abitrary threshhold but this figure has the umparallelled advantage of being instantly visible in the table provided. The figures may not be a lot in the great scheme of things, but this is presumably a boutique site and that's about the size of it in the tiny world of Conductive Education!

In reverse chronological order, this is the number of visits achieved at the time of writing, by postings that have crossed this threshhold, out of the last 200 poatings.

From last 100 postings

From the 100 before that

153 WC9 AHOY!

Out of the most recent 100 postings, 25 have passed the 100-mark. Out of the hundred before, 33 have now reached that level...

So what kinds of topics have attracted most visitors over the last nine months? You will have to draw your own conclusions. And do bear in mind, an unknowable readership might come from outside Conductive Education altogether.

There is another way...

Even better than these dry and perhaps dodgy statistics would be a few hunman responses, positive or negative, pro or con, pus or minus. Even comments to say why you don't comment...!

Monday, 27 July 2015


A necessary challenge

For the second time I have taken one of Ralph Strzałkowski's blog postings and posted it here re-edited to suit the style of Conductive World –

A little girl in a wheelchair 
On Wednesdays I usually catch the later screening of a movie at the Hippodrome Theatre. 
The usher rolls out the seats in the front row for me that double as the wheelchair area, but that day I was running late. As I entered the dark cinema I noticed that something was different. There was a wheelchair parked next to the screen. Whoever used it obviously preferred to transfer to a regular seat. I used to do that until it was a hassle. 
The back suggested it was a TiLite – a high-end wheelchair brand popular in America. I wondered who it belonged to. I couldn't quite make it out in the dark, but the frame looked small. We were watching a Japanese cartoon, so I assumed it was a child. 
As I was leaving I was proved right. It was a little girl, most likely not older than 12, out to catch a flick with her parents. As they were walking she led the way. She was fast, smooth, determined and elegant in her moves. At times she turned around and circled round the adults as if to get them to hurry, like she played tag with them. If she wanted to, she could have easily left them behind, but she would stop, turn around, go back or let them catch up if she got too far ahead. She had one of those things on her front wheels that lit up as she rolled. She was being playful. 
They left the theatre as I observed. They forgot something and they went back. The daughter was leading again. She was first on the ramp and they followed her across the street. She was animated, they were talking, they were walking, they were rolling, she was having fun. 
It may have seemed strange that I – a grown man – decided to stay behind and watch this scene with people I didn't know, but at the same time I guess they didn't think much of it. I was just another person in a wheelchair. It was amazing to see how natural a person this young girl was in her wheelchair. It was just a tool for her. Something that enabled her mobility and allowed to express her personality. And she had a pretty good hang of it and exercised control. To her it wasn't scary or intimidating. It just was. She didn't seem to have any hang-ups about the wheelchair or her circumstance like many adults would. 
Welcome to the new generation: wheelchairs can be fast and light and fun and light up like a Christmas tree. And here's my hope: that the disability perception that I try to educate people about through my non-profit is something the adults of tomorrow will accept as a fact of life needing no explanation. I was brought up with the sense that wheelchairs are bulky, scary and final, and meant loneliness, abandonment and despair, and I always felt I that I had wasted a lot of years before I embarked on my journey to independence. But she wasn't. And kids like her are not like that. 
And to me that's amazing.  
A couple of years ago I edited Ralph's collection of autobiographical sketches Never, Never Quit, extracted from his blog Lawyer on Wheels. A particular aspect of this book is the window that it opens on to his upbringing as a child, including his three years as a weekly resident at the then Pető Institute in Budapest. The book carries over naturally to Ralph's adaptation to living in the United States (Florida) and to his life and reflections as an adult there.
His continuing blog takes the story forward. Just how does the world look to someone whose parents wanted and worked and sacrificed so much for him to achieve the goal of motor independence, and who has observed conductive upbringing at 'the Pető' from the inside? His is so far the only such account of its kind that I know and provides some unique and sometimes discomforting insights.
These may not always be reassuring but the questions that they raise need to be articulated and resolved if it is wished to develop understanding of the long-term purposes and effects of Conductive Education, and some proponents' very values and priorities.


Strzałkowski, R. (2013) Never, Never Quit, Birmingham, Conductive Education Press

Strzałkowski, R. (2015) A little girl in a wheelchair, Conductive World, 27 July

Sutton, A. (2015) Stairs, the final frontier, Conductive World, 14 June


Starts with jumping out of an aeroplane
At about two miles up

Two very bold conductors, Judit Szathmáry and Mandy Elliot, are looking to raise £1.5 million for a permanent home for Project Stand by Me.
They hope to find a building that can be extended to incorporate living quarters for students, as well as space for art, sports, teaching rooms and a swimming pool.

'It needs to include everything that a human being would need to feel nourished, and be rehabilitated' – Mandy

(Lymington Gazette, 25 June 2015)


To sponsor Mandy's jump:

Project Stand by Me

Project's website:

Earlier posting on Project Stand by Me

Some background to this project:

Sunday, 26 July 2015


Another new micro-centre proposed in France

An open letter on Facebook, from Julie Soulié –
Hello you readers,
I am pleased to share with you our project to open a Conductive Education Centre, on the horizon in September 2016.
This project stems from our experience in several Conductive Education centres. Emilie has had the opportunity to lake part in several two-week sessions in Bayeux and Nîmes. The changes were significant and recognized by health professionals who follow her.
Thinking about this, we have several options. Either we are move to be close to one of the six Conductive Education centres, all located more than three hours from us, or we abandon the idea of Emilie's taking advantage of such a method... or we create a specialised centre here to offer Conductive Education as an alternative method. Our choice has been to enable other children and families to benefit from this possibility. And it is from this perspective that we have created an association to run the Conductive Education centre of Emilia's association. 
A road well trodden around the developed world – joined especially in France over the last year or so:

The House of Little Steps

All official now:
The Conductive Education Centre of Tarn
Objective: to provide help at financial, social, educational and/or therapeutic levels for children, adults and/or families affected by lissencephaly, West syndrome or cerebral palsy or multiple disabilities in general, whatever its origin.!vjXCpYJ8J3LpmD*YOnc!15OpaIK2GsO9NLsS8SuhcSjn5QIZlmcdpMNN8IuP58I3!39aD9bBhVAtFOTIplJSaUYX6B4LilqH8kGZ8xzkKCfZ6a8dHjIAC3ksRLSg_&cref=%2B15212475335345619516/_c=%2B16794694978206952180&ACTION=refine&JTY_ID=ASSOCIATION/CREATION

Bonne chance à vous tous!

Friday, 24 July 2015


For the children's bright future

Cerebral palsy in the Ukraine

A recent television news report from the Ukraine states –
В Украине почти 30 тысяч детей с ДЦП. При этом заведений для специализированной реабилитации очень мало. Поэтому, родители детей, не дождавшись помощи государства, взяли инициативу в свои руки.
[There are nearly 30 thousand children with cerebral palsy in the Ukraine. There are few specialized rehabilitation facilities for this need. Parents of children have therefore have taken the initiative into their own hands ,without waiting for help from the state.]

Projecting the arbitrary, conventional incidence figure of 2.5 on to the Ukraine's population of 47 million offers a figure of 1403 new cases of cerebral palsy per year (no allowance made here for the present situation in the Crimea and the Donbas):

Even granting special circumstances such as Chornobil' and the breakup of the Soviet healthcare system, the prevalence figure of 30 thousand children living with cerebral palsy may seem a little high, the figure seems quite close and any difference may be accounted for by diagnostic criteria and definition of the upper age of childhood, as well as objective factors. Specifics aside, as in most places in the world, there is a deep well of unmet need.

Conductive Education?

The PAF has been encourageded by its government to run some small pilot schemes in Hungarian-speaking areas of Transcarpathia, just across the border, in conjunction with international aid organisations, for example:

And some Ukrainian parents and their children have stayed at the PAF as part of its 'health tourism' schemes, for example:


Now another small-scale venture has appeared, of a kind well familiar around the world: parents have inaugurated and run their own one-week summer camp, in the capital Kiev.

A year or so ago a group of parents of young children with cerebral palsy in Kiev banded together to form Світле Mайбутнє Дітей – Children's Bright Future. Their first major venture was to arrange sessions with the Feldenkreis method. Their second has been to employ the services of a conductor, Ida Igra, for a week. On Facebook, a parent reports 

Rehabilitation of children and adults with cerebral palsy.
Report on the work of a summer camp for children with cerebral palsy according to the Pető system
I would like to share my impressions about our first experience of a summer camp for special children. Fortunately, the first pancake was not lumpy [i.e. it went smoothly for this first attempt]. Everything came together, we were able to organize time and space satisfactorily for our children, and not to lose face in front of our Israeli specialist in the Pető system – Ida Igra.
There were six children in our group, aged from two to seven years. Classes were held every day from 10.00 to 14.00, over 10 days. One can say that on all these days the children went to kindergarten and did everything that typical children do in kindergarten. They learned for themselves how to to eat, sit, stand, draw, shape and bake pies, walk in the children's playground, ride on the swings.
It seems like everything is simple but unfortunately, without certain 'plain' furniture, it is almost impossible. Our brains just can't understand how very simply and easily you can let your child be independent. Before our camp, for many mothers this seemed impossible. Many were the discoveries but for all of us the biggest has been that our children can and do know how to communicate with each other, and how they do not get enough. For them socialisation is as necessary as air. Relating to each other, not just with their parents, they start talking, sitting and walking much faster, and this became apparent to everyone who saw the children on the first day of he camp and on the last.
Our longer-term plans include opening a full-fledged kindergarten. In the immediate future we will bring children together twice a week, and of course continue to be engaged with the Feldenkrais method and the Pető system. Let us join together.

TV report

The next step: find a conductor

The group is now looking to employ a Russian- or Ukrainian-speaking conductor to run a full time service:

Good luck!


(n.d.) Родители детей с ДЦП организовали специализированный реабилитационный центр,

 (n.d.) Отчет по работе летнего лагеря для детей с ДЦП по системе Петьо, Реабилитация детей и взрослых с ДЦП, 23 June