Friday, 29 September 2017


Anniversary coming up...

Mária Hári
Usually around this time of year the once Pető Institute announces a forthcoming ceremony to remember Mária Hári on the anniversary if her death, 6 October 2001. And usually other CE institutions worldwide do not. So it goes.

Anyway, here are a few words from myself, from this day in 2010 –

This time nine years ago I was flying back and forth to Budapest, visiting Mária Hári during the closing weeks of her life. She died on 6 October 2001 (I have extensive notes on this and really ought to write them up and publish them...)

Villányi út

The ceremony will be held at the Pető Institute's site in Villányi út. This building too has a story crying out to be told, from its construction by Communist Stakhanovites to its later rebuilding financed primarily by UK money authorised by Margaret Thatcher as part of the end game of the Cold War.

Suffice it here to recall that the rebuilding was done on the original foundations, so the  ground plan of the modern building seen there today echoes the plan of the original (one hopes with greater structural integrity!) So, for those who knew 'the old Villányi út', to walk round inside the ground floor of new building is to walk around inside the ghost of the old.

Here inside the front doors is the entrance hall, where Mária first greeted me in 1984. Turn left and walk down what despite its modern mien, is the same corridor, down to where Mária had her little office on the left. Further down, on the right, is the from of the office where András Pető worked – and died. In the mid eighties this was a bare meeting room where I met 'four big ladies' (conductors who subsequently followed remarkably divergent career paths). His wooden chair was still there and on the wall looking down on us was that well-known snapshot of András Pető himself, with a disabled child and a young woman in a white coat Who she was, Mária was not saying).

Remember her...

Those who knew her certainly do: the bad as well as the good. Like the little girl in Longfellow's poem, Mária was a contradictory character:

There was a little girl,
And she had a little curl
Right in the middle of her forehead.

When she was good
She was very, very good.
And when she was bad
She was horrid.

Just how contradictory, how good and how bad, I have outlined briefly elsewhere, in English and Hungarian. Others could doubtless offer far more telling examples.

Those involved in Conductive Education who did not know her personally must by now far outnumber those who did. They too, however, have cause to remember her. Everybody 'remembers' András Pető, though hardly anyone now involved in Conductive Education ever met him, there is no reliable picture of who he really was, and he wrote almost nothing to pass on his thinking (nothing certainly that most people have ever read). His name, however, is ritually invoked in almost every account of Conductive Education. 

Mária was a 'real' historical character, but she remains a shadowy figure in most modern accounts, if she appears at all. In part of course, she had herself to blame for this balance, belittling or denying her own contribution and surrendering credit for everything to her own cult of Pető. Disentangling what in Conductive Education is 'Pető' and what 'Hári' may throw considerable light on the development of the konduktív pedagógia and the konduktív nevelés (conductive pedagogy and conductive upbringing) that evolved during the exclusively Hungarian period in the history of Conductive Education, and  enable rather clearer discussion of the theortical bases of Conductive Education round the world today.

Text from:

Obituaries of Mária Hári

From the Guardian and the British Medical Journal:

(Both of these obits are of course in English. I have not found any Hungarian obituaries)

Thursday, 28 September 2017


Should one be confused?
Should one care?

In November 2015, apparently acting in a private capacity, Beate Hoess-Zenker submitted a Petition to the European Parliament. The Parliament made its public reply in April 2016. The Commission understood this Petition's purpose as follows –

The petitioner asks the European Parliament for support for the introduction of the profession of conductive educator

In response, the Commission concluded –

...the Commission considers that the introduction of the profession of conductive educator is a matter for the Member States. The Commission is therefore not able to intervene on behalf of the petitioner.

Here is what the Commission published, in full –

European Parliament

Committee on Petitions



Subject: Petition No 0278/2015 by Beate Hoess-Zenker (German) on the introduction of the profession of conductive educator for the teaching of people with medical problems  

Summary of petition. The petitioner mentions the existence in Hungary of the profession of conductive educator. The field in which such people work is interdisciplinary, comprising elements of pedagogy, medicine and therapy. According to the petitioner, conductive educators perform very therapeutic work for people with disabilities and illnesses. The petitioner says that attempts have been going on for more than 20 years to introduce the profession in other EU countries as well and to organise the appropriate training there. These attempts are not supported by professional organisations in the fields of physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy and pedagogy, because financial support from health insurers would reduce the budgets for practitioners of the ‘traditional’ professions. Universities and colleges are also displaying little interest, and are not introducing courses because it is unclear whether conductive education (CE) can be funded. The petitioner notes that the CE method is recognised in Germany but not eligible for funding by health insurers, and the introduction of this method has been blocked for five years. The petitioner asks the European Parliament for support for the introduction of the profession of conductive educator.

Admissibility Declared admissible on 20 November 2015. Information requested from Commission under Rule 216(6). 

Commission reply, received on 29 April 2016. The regulation of professions/professional activities is within the Member States' competence. Every Member State can decide, within the limits of Union law and more particularly proportionality, whether or not to introduce a profession/professional activity in its legal system and how to regulate it. Member States can therefore choose how to regulate the level and content of the training required to exercise the profession, whether or not to make the membership of a professional organisation obligatory or decide if the service is eligible for reimbursement by the national social security system. In doing so Member States need to ensure that regulation is justified by on overriding reason of general interest and that it is proportionate to achieving this objective, in particular with a view to the fact that regulation of a profession impacts on access to this profession and mobility between Member States. 

There are rules agreed at EU level and laid down in Directive 2005/36/EC1 to facilitate the recognition of qualifications obtained in another EU Member State, in case a profession is regulated in a given host Member State. The so-called general system of recognition2 under this Directive applies to a holder of the qualification of conductive educator if the professional asks for access to a regulated profession in another Member State. According to this system, the host Member State assesses the equivalence of the professional qualifications of the applicant against its own requirements to exercise the profession, taking into account any evidence related to study, training and professional experience. The host Member State can impose compensatory measures in case there are substantial differences  of qualification of the applicant and its own system.


In view of the above, the Commission considers that the introduction of the profession of conductive educator is a matter for the Member States. The Commission is therefore not able to intervene on behalf of the petitioner. 

This document is of course available in all 24 official languages of the European Union

And now...

On 10 October there will be a public meeting in Brussels, a short afternoon event initiated from Hungary. Its sponsors are jointly the Pető Kar of Szemmelweis University (formerly Pető institute/College) and the European People's Party (specifically Adám Kósa a Fidesz MEP with concern for disability rights).

From Germany, the BKF (Bundesverband Konduktive Förderung – German Conductive Association) announces as follows–

...this is a meeting on future recognition of the profession of conductor

The programme comprises a series of ten-minute presentations with 20 minutes at the end to pull things together. Perhaps one or both of the hosts will be publishing all this after the event, for public consideration. Or perhaps not

  1. What is the particular purpose of the forthcoming event in Brossels and how does this tie in with the Commission's decision last year reproduced above?
  2. What in a fast-approaching future will this have to do with my own country, the UK, and vice versa. 
  3. What coherent unified understanding of Conductive Education is the audience (who they?) being asked to back?
Should I care one jot about any of this? Should anyone – here, there, anywhere?

In all this flurry of Euro-action there seems to have been no public word from its proponents of how efforts directed in this direction might benefit anyone, for example in comparison with expanding similar energy on something else. If this does not demonstrably benefit the punters, the people who might benefit from Conductive Education, then cui bono?




Rerun of a contemporary report

Jean Piaget and András Pető 
met briefly in 1964

This all-too brief report of the encounter between András Pető and Jean Piaget, in 1964, appeared in Conductive World six years ago, since when it has attracted 481 views. It seems worth giving it further exposure for today's readers.

Piaget realised that the results that he saw at the Movement Pedagogic Institute were reached through the use of psychology... Piaget was most interested in the upbringing, because as Piaget this teaching/ upbringing needs to be complex with many parallel lines / ways, directions... As Piaget said goodbye to Dr András Petö, he parted with the wish to read, as soon as possible, printed material about the work of the institute, its observations, and experiences. 

Follow the link below for the full Hungarian original, with its English translation appended as a Comment:

Wednesday, 27 September 2017


'Death by indifference'
Never be starry-eyed about 'professionalism'...

Connor Sparrowhawk

'...what happens when public services lose their heart and forget that they exist to serve... '

Not just deaths of course, but lives lived much less than they should be, or even in ways that are actively pernicious, not just for individuals but for whole families, not just in the presence of one disability but many, not just in institutions but in the vaunted 'community', certainly not just in medical or state agencies but across the board, and for all I know not just in the UK...

Technical failings, not knowing what to do: moral failings too, not caring. Not 'challenges', but problems systemic and endemic, needing to be honestly faced and sorted out.

Meanwhile, a parent's account of refusing to let it be brushed over... Thank you Norman Perrin for notifying of this book's publication today:


Ryan, S. (2017) Justice for Laughing Boy: Connor Sparrowhawk – a death by indifference, London, Jessica Kingsley  

Monday, 25 September 2017


Perhaps it is wrong to discern connections
Perhaps it is careless not to

Image result for "walking with the enemy"

Blogger has reminded me that four years ago I was posting items on the context in which András Pető was living during the siege of Budapest. Specifically it reminds me of one posting about how very close András Pető came to being murdered by the Arrow Cross (Hungarian Fascist militia).

That in turn made me think of a further reminder of those days, but one never explicitly mentioned – András Pető's address from shortly after the end of the War up until his death in 1967. He had take over the flat of the Brody family on the corner of Béla Stollar utca and Balassy Bálint utca (there is a commemorative plaque on the side of the building to commemorate his residence there). A small ceremony is held in front of this plaque each year, on the anniversary of András Pető's birthday.

Stollar Béla utca is named after Béla Stollar a young Hungarian anti-Fascist who was killed in another apartment further along the street, on Christmas Day 1944, in a gun battle with the Arrow Cross:

Every mention of Stollar Béla u. should serve as a reminder of the vicious campaign to exterminate András Pető and his kin, and how close his own escape had been.

I sometimes wonder whether we outside Hungary who have dealings with Conductive Education have much understanding of how horrifying were the circumstances out of which it emerged, the sensitivities that can surround these, and their continuing salience today.

They might consider that, in yesterday's General Election in Germany, second place after Angela Merkel's governing Christian Democratic Union Party has been taken by AfD (Alternative for Germany), a right-wing nationalist party, with 12,8% of the vote.

The next Hungarian General Election will take place in or before Spring 2018. The most recent opinion poll there shows support for Jobbik (Movement or a Better Hungary) standing at 19%, in second place and to the right even of Viktor Orbán's governing Fidesz party.

And the UK is struggling to disengage and clamber out of Europe

Nothing to do with Conductive Education?

Heading picture. This is a still from the film Walking with the Enemy, a clumsy and Hollywoodised account of what happened to Jews in Budapest in 1944-5, but a rare opportunity for even a glimpse:

Saturday, 23 September 2017


Hungarian special-education's brain-drain...

Increasing numbers of Hungarian special educators prefer working abroad. Their union states that they are very under-paid at home but receive a decent wage in Western Europe, mainly in Germany.

Train as a special educator in Hungary, the teachers' union says, and expect poor working conditions, at the bottom of local authorities' priorities.


Includes video of news report on Hir TV:

Friday, 22 September 2017


Next step: public presentation

Following publication of the new edition of the works of Anton Makarenko, the next big step will be its public presentation.

This will be under the title of 'Basic directions in utilising the new collected works of A. S Makarenko in developing the contemporary theory and practice of upbringing'., and will take the  form of a round table, to be held in Nizhnii Novgorod on 7 December, at the Kozma Minin Pedagogic University.

Thank you Elena Ilaltdinova for this.

Previous posting on this topic

Thursday, 21 September 2017


In case it be forgot...

Image result for ferrari spastic forms
p. 91

...the CNS's ability to increase the sensory system['s] receptive capacity by modifying the functional setting...  without which it would be more difficult to reach an adequate perceptive attention level. is often impaired in CP children...

And in Conductive Education, what can happen, and how...?

Five years later it seems worth reminding of this again for those who wish to argue Conductive Education's in relevant scientific terms:

Wednesday, 20 September 2017


Motor learning

Message: pp.237-248

In the last few weeks of her life, already confined to her bed, Mária Hári said to me – 
I was too rigid,' she declared, unbidden.

You, Mária? Rigid? Never!'

– See, it is all there, she said, indicating a heavily over-scored chapter in David Legge's collection of readings on skills, on learning to fly, to type, to ride a bike...

As often when chasing a particular line she rather overstated her case. It is not all there but, stripped right down, much of the motor learning involved in CE is.

Anyway, this was a message that she wanted to leave with me and I am pleased to pass it on here to those who care about such things...


Miller, G. A., Galanter, E., Pribram, K. H. (1970) Motor skills and habits, in D. Legge (ed.) Skills (Penguin Modern Psychology Readings), London, Allen Lane The Penguin Press, 1970, pp. 237-248


One of Hungary's Great Little Railways

What lies beneath?

Five-km narrow-gauge line between Alcsútdoboz and Felcsút.

So very unlike the home life of our own dear narrow-gauge lines elsewhere in the world...

Such PR and lavish graphics, such capitalisation, such a nerve.

They do things rather differently there, in all sorts of ways. It looks terrific, but it is not really the same sort of institution as we know.

The Vál Valley Narrow Gauge (in three languages)


Co-founder dies

Traueranzeige Babsi Schwarz

FortSchritt Düsseldorf mourns our Babsi Schwartz who died on Friday aged only 70.
It was Babsi Schwarz who, with her husband Dieter, brought Conductive Education to Duesseldorf in the mid-nineties. After the founding of our association, she served as its first chair until 1998. This time also saw establishment and opening of our first facility in Hilden. Babsi Schwarz was our association's engine. Without her there would no option for Conductive Education in Düsseldorf.
We owe her much. Our sympathy goes out to her husband Hanni and son Heiko.
We shall keep Babsi Schwarz in honourable and grateful remembrance.

Forschritt Düsseldorf:

Tuesday, 19 September 2017


Ralph tells it rather well

Ralph Strzałkowski

It is always a pleasure to find a pretext to quote Ralph Strzałkowski again. Four years ago Ralph blogged this – 


A friend's sister who has cerebral palsy ended up in an ICU [intensive care unit] again. As I'm in shock and in fear of what may come next I can't stop thinking how lucky me and my family were to have been spared all of this. Every few months I hear about these young people. Bed-ridden. Much younger than me, didn't really to experience much in life – their condition more extensive – facing life-threatening conditions. Nothing left to do but pray.

As much as I don't want to turn this into a discussion on theory of cerebral palsy's origins, I can't but stop to wonder. What is the difference between us? On the books we have the same disability. A few seconds, a few millimetres, a few more dead brain cells? Why am I here and they're there? Is it all random? Why was I spared?

That's why you will never hear me complain about my disability. What do I have to complain about? I feel blessed. I'm alive. I get to explore the world and meet people. I get to move around. I see, I hear, I speak and I talk. I open my arms and experience the surroundings with all my senses. I have my plans. I have big dreams. Not for myself, but for the things I can do for others. No sir, I have nothing to complain about.

So people give me odd looks on the street. Should I even care? So some are more likely to prejudge and dismiss me. So it's harder to do some tasks and I need help with others. So wheeling is not as fast as walking. Big deal. So I don't look graceful in my chair. So what? I don't get to climb stairs or tango, and getting a date is not as easy, I will never become a painter or a dancer. Who cares? Life is precious and I love mine.

When I ask why me it's not out of frustration for being in a wheelchair – it's why am I doing better than people who have the same thing. And whenever I feel sorry for myself, because I have those moments just like everybody else, I think here's nothing that puts things in perspective quite like this.

Yes Ma'am! I'm blessed. I have everything that I need.. And I should give back more to pay back this huge debt I owe the universe.

At the time I commented on this posting, in the immortal words of the Sex Pistols –
'Never mind the bollocks', this is what it's all about

Ralph's CE writings

View Never, never quit by Ralph Strzałkowski
Book of a blog
What, you haven't yet read Ralph's book? On his growing up with cerebral palsy, his life as a pupil at the then Pető Institute, and starting a new, independent life in America? Why ever not? The world of Conductive Education is desperately lacking in the perspectives of adults who have grown up under the aegis of CE.

His book Never, Never Quit is a rare bird indeed. You can preview it, and order a copy, here:

The book was taken from Ralph's blog, Lawyer on Wheels. His blog continued beyond the book's publication and remains on line.
Ralph no longer blogs about Conductive Education. He has moved on.

Sunday, 17 September 2017


Yes, you did read that right

Over a couple of days rather a lot of people have looked at Friday's posting on Conductive World, on the topic of research and practice:

For myself, it has again had me turning over in my mind the notion of 'evidence-based practice', an excellent concept in general terms but not so far fruitfully applied in the area of Conductive Education. For all the effort that has gone into researching conductive practice, I wonder whether any conductive practice can yet be described as 'evidence based on the basis of evaluations of the outcomes of conductive practice.

It would be interesting to know why this is so.

One line of thought, my own, is that outcome-evaluations of Conductive Education do really merit being problematicised in their own right. In other words, if they really are important, then they too should be researched. As far as I know, this has not yet happened. Research the research, why not? There is no reason to regard 'research' as sacrosanct, a Holy Cow with models, methodologies and practice above critical questioning and empirical investigation.

Come off it, pull the other one. Read the scientific press. Read the academic literature, all the way up to Nature and Science. Look around you and see the world as it is. To recognise that the people or institutions involved in research, their ideas and their practices, are potentially fallible is not to disrespect scholarship and science. It is merely to recognise that this sector can be like any other area of human activity, and for much the same reasons. It is not contrarian to question research and researchers. If the topic matters, as it has done in the case of Conductive Education, it is not just responsible to do so – it is vital.

On Friday evening, taking up again the phrase 'evidence-based practice'. I turned it over to see what is underneath, and wondered about its obvious antithesis: 'practice-based evidence'.

Nice one, I thought, and at once started thinking of how footling outcome-evaluations of conductive practice might measure up from such a perspective. I immediately realised, however, that the notion of practice-based evidence is far too obvious not to have already occurred in the wider world of research, in spades. A click across to Google and... well, you try it.

Practice-based evidence is already becoming a trodden field, with different ways of construing it, and a growing academic literature... Oh well, as ever, original ideas are hard to come by!

'Conductive Education research' is not presently a hot issue. Who knows, though, it might yet again have its day. Come that day and PBE – practice-based evidence – could prove a useful critical tool to have available in Conductive Education's armamentarium (tool kit) for interrogating future evaluations, while they are still at the stage of being planned if you have the chance, or for examining them after the deed is done if you do not.

In the meantime, you might also find that PBE offers another slant on the qualitative qualitative question...