Tuesday, 23 August 2016


For Conductive Education

Something is missing

András Pető left behind no explicit, formalisedtheory for those who carried on on his work. To acknowledge this is not to say that what is presently called Conductive Education does not have powerful implicit principles apparent within its attitudes and activities, largely traceable back to his legacy of practice. Rather it recognised that Conductive Education has had to face to task if identifying and articulating its philosophical positions for itself, of looking to already established ways of thinking that help for the job for it.

Those who agree with Kurt Lewin that 'there is nothing more practical than a good theory' will presumably also agree that Conductive Education is therefore in this respect seriously lacking a vital practical tool, to the point of seriously impeding its ability to proceed further toward the oft-expressed goal of becoming an academic (scientific) discipline and a 'recognised profession'.

At a certain stage in the process of acedemicisation and professional development, emerging professional groups may have to beef up their 'academic' credentials, not least for the purposes of their professional plausibility. Think of the Anglo-Piaget cult in Anglophone teacher-education a generation or so ago ( now largely displaced by the new cult of Anglo-Vygotskii).


Around the turn of the century I was involved with creating a training course for conductors. My own philosophical anchor was in the work of L. S. Vygotskii and some of his associates and successors, broadened with a little Makarenko and co. I hoped that my students would find it interesting and stimulating, perhaps even useful, and also that this would at same time impart a degree of plausibility and even respectability in the eyes of the university, external examiners, and possible academic detractors (of which Conductive Education had more than a few, and possibly still has).

No doubt nowadays the growing range of university-level courses dedicated to conductor-training, and those who teach on them, come to their own accommodations on these matters. Perhaps twenty years later, if I were starting again to create such a course from scratch, I would approach this rather differently myself, in the light both of my own developing understandings and of some of the tectonic shifts on the way services have to be provided – and the wider world that makes this so.

I would probably also try to broaden the number of philosophical anchors, permitting a more 'comparative' approach. At a number of levels, for example the need to explore an important theme in the history of András Pető and the rude reality of marketing my course overseas (out East, to be specific), I should feel obliged to come to a public position about Oriental Conductive Education, and include something critical and concrete about the reported influence of 'Oriental philosophy' at the birth of Conductive Education – and further byways in this modern world

I am glad that I no longer have to face this increasingly difficult task, and can leave it to upcoming generations. Comparative or not, however, L. S. Vygotskii and what he represents remain my own prime candidate and the yardstick for any effective philosophical base for conductive pedagogy and upbringing, setting a very high bar for explanatory force, practical utility, historical context and potentially fruitful hypotheses.

Are any other contenders being exercised out there?

1 comment:

    Philosophy and theory

    I have been becoming increasing uncomfortable over how I have been using the words 'philosophy' and 'theory' – verging on interchangeably

    Yesterday's posting on Conductive World was the last straw:


    So, for what it is worth, for my own immediate purposes, I have come to a personal, operational distinction.

    Theory refers to an understanding of what is happening in reality that goes beyond the simply observational and descriptive, narratives of the mechanisms whereby A leads to B (unless C etc.). It subject is empirical reality, where in the context of human agency it may serve as what Kurt Lewin referred to as a practical tool. Its test lies in reality, and it is a major factor (though not the sole one) in advancing knowledge.

    Philosophy is different, a system of belief systems about how and why the world is what it it, and/or how and it should be. It may depend upon human observation and experience (including experience generated by testing theories, but it it also moral, and possibly also emotional too, so the resulting mix relates to formal rather than empirical knowledge.

    This has probably been already said much better, and contradicted, a thousand times! But the distinction may serve me for a bit... It might even be of use or amusement to others. It will not go back and try to apply it retrospectively, just run with it and see whether it helps.