Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Another physicist advocates a broader picture

Isn't that what CE is meant to do?

I just stumbled by chance upon the following thought. It came from Murray Gell-Mann, who received the Nobel Prize in physics in 1969 –

Unfortunately, in a great many places in our society, including academia and most bureaucracies, prestige accrues principally to those who study carefully some aspect of a problem, while discussion of the big picture is relegated to cocktail parties. It is of crucial importance that we learn to supplement those specialized studies with what I call a crude look at the whole.

A cogent, effective whole cannot routinely be built from agglomorating chance-assembled parts.

A particular case: the 'multi-disciplinary'

The statement by Murray Gell-Mann quoted above illustrates how the woods-for-the-trees problem, perhaps inevitable from too much bits-and-pieces thinking, is experienced across the whole spectrum of enquiry.

In contemporary practice (not just in rehabilitation by a very long chalk) great respect is frequently expressed for 'multi-', 'trans-' and 'cross-disciplinary' practice. I have never been convinced of fundamental, substantive difference between these It is the 'multi' words that has widest currency, with 'multi-diciplinary' often thrown into documents and discussions as a warm-fuzzy and unquestioned indication of virtue, in all sorts of contexts. Usually a concrete statement of actual mechanisms and advantage would be far more helpful but invocation of multi-disciplinarity all too often seems to require no justification. The agglomerative approach may indeed have its virtues but one would like to hear their being cogently and practically argued, or to see empicrical demonstration of its relatively beneficial outcomes. Perhaps there are those out there who might educate me on this.

What do the Cochrane Reviews say about the outcomes of multidisciplinary interventions in contexts in which Conductive Education might potentially be involved? Not a lot:


One of the great attractions of CE, practically and intellectually, is how it attends to the whole, leaving specifics to a large degree implicit. From the provider's/practioner's point of view, this makes for a job that is do-able. Rom the users' point of view it presents a sittuation that is socially 'natural'.

I contrast this with ever-more detailed attention to nuts and bolts (speech therapists seem particularly adept at such molehill-mountaining), providing detailed knowledge that all too often seems to have nowhere to go. Above all, there is no way of integrating such bits and bobs into a practical, meaningful whole, either with each other or into something wider.

In CE one 'conducts' disfunctional learning/development, i.e. brings it together into a correctly functoning whole through a seemless process of social-psychological transactions. 'Crude' this might be compared with some of the sophistication diected towards answering specific questions, and where it is then it should certainly be improved. In the meantime, one has an interesting choice to make, between:
  • poor examples of an a priori relevant process, and
  • good examples of a poor (and potentially dysfunctionalising) one.
'Disciplines'? 'Multi-'?

'Multidisciplinary' as ideology asserts that it is a good thing to bring all sorts to the developmental party. Whose benefit might this ideology serve to benefit. Cui bono? – now there's an interesting question. This ideology overlaps with another current fad – 'teamwork' – which even HM The Queen was lauding in her Christmas Day radio broadcast this year.

Ideologies offer no stopping and standing back, and certainly no questioning of fundamental and often unspoken tenets. When it comes to 'multi-disciplinarity' in the field of rehailitation, two obvious questions arise, with riders:
  • What 'disciplines' are actually involved?
  • How many does it take to be really 'multi-'?
Ask how many there could or should be.

And then how could such a collection of people possibly communicate to create a coherent understanding of the whole.

Finally, consider specifically and explicitly, what might be lost or gained by dispensing with all these people as the default arrangement, and instead provide primarily according to a unidisciplinary model.

So it goes...

Murray Gell-Mann won his Nobel prize over forty years ago, he made the statement quoted above thirteen years ago. He is, I believe, still alive.

I am saying nothing new here. Nor was he then.

People still carry on doing what they do and saying what they say, regardless. So it goes.

Now there's a matter for future consideration.

Gell-Mann, M. (1997) The simple and the complex, paper presented 'Presentation to Complexity, Global Politics, and National Security', a symposium co-sponsored by NDU and the RAND Corporation, Washington, DC, National Defense University November.



Blogger Rony Schenker, OTR, PhD, Tsad Kadima, Israel said...

This paper can elaborate more on part of you have discussed in this blog:
King, G., Strachan, d., Tucker, M., Duwyn, B., Dessertud, S., and Shillington, M. ( (2009). The application of transdisciplenary model for early intervention services, Infants &Young Children, 211-223

Tuesday, 28 December 2010 at 15:58:00 GMT  
Blogger Andrew DSutton said...

Thanks Rony, that looks from the abstract like just the sort of thing that people in CE ought to be reading.

I have only a couple of days left to me but I shall try to fit it in.

Those who would like to form their own judgements can read the whole, in full, AND FOR FREE, at:


You really ought to start your own blog...


Wednesday, 29 December 2010 at 12:33:00 GMT  
Blogger Rony Schenker, OTR, PhD, Tsad Kadima, Israel said...

"I have only a couple of days left to me" - as pessimist as always, aren't you??
so here is a nice one for you and for your readers, before December 31st threat comes true:
"In my next life I want to live my life backwards. You start out dead
and get that out of the way. Then you wake up in an old people's home
feeling better every day. You get kicked out for being too healthy, go
collect your pension, and then when you start work, you get a gold
watch and a party on your first day. You work for 40 years until you're
young enough to enjoy your retirement. You party, drink alcohol, and are generally promiscuous, then you are ready for high school. You then go to primary school, you become a kid, you play. You have no
responsibilities, you become a baby until you are born. And then you
spend your last 9 months floating in luxurious spa-like conditions with
central heating and room service on tap, larger quarters every day and then- Voila! You finish off as an orgasm
I rest my case"

Woody Allen

HAPPY 2011

Wednesday, 29 December 2010 at 17:38:00 GMT  
Blogger Andrew Sutton said...

Thanks for the high point to end on.

I don't smoke, else I guess that we'd now have a cigarette.

Thursday, 30 December 2010 at 01:31:00 GMT  

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