Sunday, 27 February 2011


An open letter to Dr Bertalan Meskó

In response to a posting on Conductive World on Tuesday, Bertalan Meskó writes –

Dear Andrew,
Thank you for writing about the Webicina section dedicated to Conductive Education! The resources included in that application were selected manually based on the available author information, blog description, quality of posts, references inside the entries, etc.
We are absolutely open to suggestions and please feel free to tell me your opinion about it so we can improve the service (which is free for everyone).
Best regards,
Dr. Bertalan MeskóManaging Director of 

Dear Bertalan

Thank you for your kind and open response.You undertake an important task and I do not envy you some of the problems and criticisms that you will inevitably meet along the way. I hope that few will prove as tricky for you as those of Conductive.Education.

Formal literature

By this I mean here the 'technical literature' published in professional/academic journals.Webicina has presented some of this at:

The field of 'CE research' is immensely problematical. Much of it would ape empirical evaluation in the medical sciences and, as all systematic reviews confirm, its bulk is methodologically inadequate in these terms. Worse, it is often conceptually unsound too, demonstrating little/no concern for the most basic question: what is the nature of the phenomenon under consideration?

(An example of the latter: you cited a couple of Chinese studies. As far as I can tell, the ever more considerable body of evaluations of Conductive Education in China has been carried out without benefit of a single conductor's ever having worked in that country. What is done in China under the rubric of 'Conductive Education' might be the most excellent work, conferring the most excellent benefits, but what is actually practised and evaluated there is done without access to the traditions of Conductive Education as these have been understood in Hungary and should be reviewed and considered in its own right. And extreme example perhaps, but a telling one)

Methodologically inadequate and conceptually unsound – and even the better ones produce at best inconclusive judgements on the benefits of Conductive Education, and at worst a generally negative impression.

I recognise that none of this is your problem, but conveying this material unwittingly adds to the problems of Conductive Education.

Informal writing

By this I mean here mainly the vast and growing assembly of writing from Conductive Education services around the world – and increasingly now the CE-bloggers, as demonstrated by The Conductive Post:

Webicena has sampled the wider field of informal writing on line at:

Amongst all this are found some of the liveliest and most sensitive writing yet to have emerged about Conductive Education, in the form of both accounts and analysis – and an awful lot of stuff that is just sheer dreadful:

(Again a concrete example: the 'Angels' blog that prompted our correspondence has been a welcome addition to the CE-blogosphere. It presents a conductor's eye view, a vivid, from-the-heart account of a psycho-social process and of its human outcome, complimentary to the blog postings of other conductors. Then Bang! –  it sums up with a form of words, a mantra, that has spread confusion and at times despair in the movement to bring Conductive Education to the world. Could such 'elements' really bring about the processes, the life, the outcomes described? Adopt your own personal plausibility test. Meanwhile, we have the matter in microcosm, in one swoop undermining not only the author's own good efforts to communicate the essential soul of conductive pedagogy and conductive upbringing, but also those of others who struggle against such misinformation.)

Still, vox pop. vox Dei, nowhere more so than on line. I find my feelings on what I read about Conductive Education there tempered by belief in the over-riding principle of freedom of expression – however much I may disagree with what is said. Perhaps the 'wisdom of the crowd' will one day sort all this out, and perhaps what Webicina is doing might hasten that day. I do apologise for having assumed that your site is machine-generated. Good luck with the process of hand-selection, whatever inclusion-criteria you adopt. Whatever your criteria though, I wholly acknowledge your right to chose them.

Again, fundamentally not your problem. Ours.

A question of paradigm

Spastic muscles, athetoid movements, Parkinsonian tremor etc. are reasonably characterised as matters of health and medicine, to be understood and responded on an appropriate plane, within an appropriate paradigm, utilising appropriate concepts, methods, vocabulary and concepts. I wish every success to those who work to understand and ameliorate such problems is this way.

(And yes, I do recognise that the matter is rather more complex than stated here, with systemic effects operating not only upwards but also down, but this degree of complexity is unnecessary to make the present point).

'Motor disorders' cannot be reduced to the level of, say, spasticity, or athetosis or tremor. They constitute the dynamic, systemic sequelae of such biological-level problems, disorders  of development, dislocations of the essential mechanisms linking individuals to their social and material worlds, affecting active learning (and therefore teaching, by whomsoever does it) and consequently the whole development of the human personality).

What in English is called Conductive Education operates on the psycho-social plane – hence in Hungarian the more meaningful terms konduktív pedagógia és konduktív nevelés. The 'Peto method' is distinct from other approaches to motor disorders because it introduces a different philosophy for understanding the situation, for caring and for providing services, and a way of life for everyone involved.  No treatment or therapy this.

This radical paradigm shift the (mostly medical) academic researchers who have stumbled into this field – and it is not always perceived with clarity even by some enthusiasts within. Again, not your problem. Ours.

And, towards the end of an already over-long letter, to introduce a further complication: Conductive Education is a relatively new and still rather unsophisticated field. It is fair that Medicina should communicate this.

What to do?

I merely state such problems. I offer no solutions. Nor do I imply that you should do so for us. Such problems are inherent to the present nature and institution of Conductive Education itself – and its place in the world. Perhaps from those who read this posting someone will come forward with a way forward. I do not hold my breath in anticipation.

Congratulations with what you are achieving with Medicina. Many of us in Conductive Education will envy your success in attracting attention to your site. My best wishes to you for your future work.


Recent postings relevant to this topic


While I was laboriously composing the above posting I saw Norman Perrin's forceful and to-the-point response, to be found as a Comment at the foot of the above postings. Here is how Norman put it –

Bessemer steel; the art of the Victorian sampler; phenomenology: just three searches I have done in the past few days for which's remarkable PeRSSonalized search tool would have been no use at all. Why? Because it is an avowedly MEDICAL tool.
Should I wished to learn about Acne, Aids & HIV or Allergy no doubt it might be most useful
PeRSSonalized, to this non-specialist eye, is an impressive-looking resource.
What I do not understand is what Conductive Education (or upbringing or pedagogy) is doing there as a searchable Category, sitting between Cardiology and Dentistry as a "Medical Specialty". Can we look forward to searchable categories on Montessori, Steiner and other philosophies and systems of education, Swedish Free Schools or American Charter Schools?
I note, by-the-by, that whilst "Autism" is listed as a "Medical Condition" coming after "Asthma", cerebral palsy is not listed.
When will the education and upbringing of children with cerebral palsy escape the clutches of the medical profession?

Ah well, having got so far, I decided to plough my furrow anyway.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

<< “The problem, Norman,” said the Education Officer (SEN), “is that we do not agree with your view of cerebral palsy, so we do not see that conductive education has anything to offer us.”

She added that in making placements at schools, her LEA relied on assessments by paediatricians and therapists.>>

So began an article I wrote for Issue 37 Nov/Dec 2008 of SEN Journal. Says it all really.

Monday, 28 February 2011 at 03:58:00 GMT  
Blogger Berci Meskó said...

Dear Andrew,

Thank you for your entry! The reason why Conductive Education is under the section "Medical Specialties" is because basically we have two sections, one for patients, one for medical professionals. If you think Conductive Education should be under a section such as "Medical Topics", we can make that change.

Also the only way to improve that selection in the free PeRSSonalized Medicine platform is to hear feedback from experts like yourself.

We are absolutely open to create a selection focusing on Cerebral palsy but for this we would need at least a few resources (blogs, journals, news sites, etc.) you consider quality ones in the topic of cerebral palsy. Please let me know if you are interested in such a collaboration (berci.mesko at provides patients and professionals with free platforms, tools and curated medical resources, but for this, user suggestion is the key.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011 at 14:19:00 GMT  

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