Monday, 19 June 2017


Where do you want to go?
Then you know which way

The 320 ft (98 m) Clock Tower (also known as: Saint Stephen's Tower)housing Big Ben is one of the features that makes the Palace of Westminster (Houses of Parliament) such a familiar landmark. The bell (Big Ben) chimes on the hour, and the tower is home to the largest clock face in the country. The ...

A different kind of lesson from history

The direction that Conductive Education takes, now, in the past and in the future, depends on a thousand little decisions, made for a thousand advantages, to meet a thousand individual purposes. This is nothing unique to Conductive Education. Nor is it unusual for such individuals decisions, advantages and purposes to remain hidden, unstated.

It is hardly surprising therefore that, publicly at least, fundamental questions of principle appear not to have featured in the current pivotal decision about the future direction of Conductive Education in Hungary – especially so as Conductive Education carries with it so few intelligible principles, theoretical statements of its own essence from those entitled to have their voice heard.

András Pető's might have been one such voice. Unfortunately, he bequeathed so very little to his followers in the way of an elaborated theoretical statement.

Another such voice is Mária Hári's.

Mária Hári

'What would András Pető and Mária Hári have thought of the incorporation of the Pető Institute into the Semmelweis Medical University'? There can of course be no meaningful answer to this question. The best one can adduce as a pointer is what one of them, Mária Hári, Hungary's (and the Pető Institute's) greatest articulator, considered relevant to determining the direction of Conductive Education at the highest level.

In the United Kingdom twenty-nine years ago, concerted political action had brought Conductive Education to the forefront of public and media attention. Which way would it go? Resolution of this question would be a major factor in the future development Conductive Education both in that country and in the wider Western world

As part of the coordinated campaign on behalf of Conductive Education Mária Hári came to the United Kingdom where on 5 July 1988 she spoke to Members of Parliament and Lords of the All-Party Parliamentary Disablement Group at the Palace of Westminster. Her aim was to brief the Committee on what Conductive Education was about. She rose to the occasion and, speaking ex tempore from notes, gave the most succinct and accessible account of this that I ever heard from her. Here is some of what she said
Pető worked during the twenties and thirties with chronically disabled adults. He developed a whole-life guiding [conductive] system that was indifferent to the particular chronic illness, and the first step of which was to stop being passive, lying about and begin to lead an active life. What is new in Conductive Education is that we work this way with central nervous system dysfunction
Previously one treated such people as someone who is ill, but a treatment is a passive thing. It is always essential to see the person behind the symptoms, most especially so with central nervous system disturbance as the central nervous system itself needs integrating. If one treats the separate parts separately, then where is the coordination?
We teach and educate the integrating mind that has to lead every action. It is not a treatment – we teach. The person learns how to live, not just move or function or perform but to solve problems… Our aim is not to teach functions, muscle movements, but to educate how to live, to solve problems.
The person is active and wants to solve problems and structure his own method. The teacher leads, catalyses, helps the activity, ensures success and a good direction.
What is learned from eight o'clock to nine o'clock is used throughout the day. Education extends throughout the whole day. The goal of Occupation A then becomes the means of Occupation B.
It is like in Alice in Wonderland. If one asks ‘Which way should I go?’ then one answers: ‘Where do you want to go? Then you know which way.’
The goal is not to teach functions or movements. It is the person and the personality that is the most essential and everything else is included in this.
When one learns a function or activity the question is not what but how to do it. One does not learn a mechanical, physical function – it is also a cognitive function, in which emotional and moral factors are very important.
Therefore it is active learning, education. Children only learn if they want to. The role of the conductor is to make joy, harmony, interest, everything that is a precondition of active learning.
These [task series] are not exercises but models of how to solve problems. One gets feedback only from the outcome of an action. If one cannot achieve the whole action then, to learn coordination, one must provide little goals and make them interesting.
(Extracted from a presentation to the UK Parliament's All-Party Disablement Group, London, Palace of Westminster, 5 July 1988)
Important: terminology
Integrating. This is used here in the original sense of combining parts to make a unified whole.

Mária Hári did also use this in the sense of motor co-ordination but more usually with respect to creation of a harmonious, unified developmental process.

These two senses, and how they relate to each other, should be clear from the above text.
Previous iterations
This extract has already been published here on Conductive World.. A good thing cannot be said too often, and anyway many present readers may have missed it previously.

Sutton, A. (2009) Mária Hári at the Palace of Westminster: some of what she said, Conductive World, 31 October

Sutton, A. (2011) Mária Hári in her prime. A teacher! First, last, always! Conductive World, 7 October

Sutton, A. (2016) Play it Again, Mária: great leap forward, therapy to pedagogy, Conductive World, 17 June

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