Thursday, 1 September 2011

Small and warm-blooded

Towards identifying a new way

Ever since Conductive Education expanded out of Hungary (and maybe even before that) there have been conductors who have worked on their own, or perhaps with a single colleague, and with minimum administrative superstructure. There are different reasons for doing so from personal preference to personal necessity, and many circumstances in which this has been done. The resulting practices have turned out rather different from those of conductors who have found employment in existing organisations and fitted in with the ethos and ways of working of already established patterns of work, and they also vary considerably between themselves, but such small individual practices seem to have one factor in common – they are very personal.

Some conductors have been working continuously in this way since the early internationalisation of Conductive Education and have built up years of personal experience. Others are setting out only this summer, going straight from initial training into individual practice. In general 'the literature', such as it is, has taken scant notice of this strand of conductive practice. Though Judit Szathmáry, Susie Mallett and others have been redressing the balance through their blogging, the general characteristation of Conductive Education in writings in less dynamic contexts remains largely untouched, not least in failing to include appropriate account of the personal/ inter-personal nature of conduction – a 'human element' that appears much to the fore in small-scale practice.

Some small things this summer

Here are some postings/links on my Facebook page from over the months of July and:August:

All link to small personal practices of one or two conductors, working sometimes with others, adapting to establish themselves in very different ecological niches. Nothing new here, or straws in the wind? Who knows? Keep watching developments.

A Darwinian perspective
Here is a brief extract from notes for a lecture, given in December 2008, on the possible future of Conductive Education in a world of financial crisis.

Who/what will survive (not just in Conductive Education)?
again, think positive
for example, think Triassic-Jurassic extinction
the dinosaurs almost all disappeared (leaving a few alligators, some turtles and a lot of birds)
     ...but also leaving the mammals to inherit the earth!

Now is the time for little bunnies to look to their potential strengths:

adapt and evolve
find comfortable ecological niches
adapt and multiply
and take over the world
And here are the notes for its third, concluding part
3.    So… whatever next?

Conductive Education may not be able to survive intact in the now familiar forms of its international stage
And there will be no time to redeploy and reconstruct to resolve its internal contradictions for itself
External forces may impose such change upon us
     ...more and faster than might be wished
     ...if, to put it simply, the money dries up.

That need not necessarily mean curtains for Conductive Education and the heritage of András Pető
What are our evolutionary advantages (and disadvantages)?
What are the triumphs/failures?
What are the strengths/weaknesses of world-wide Conductive Education?
These may be vital factors in what happens next:

Triumphs/strengths. Demonstrable adaptability; geographical spread and diversity (in practice and structures); continuing parental enthusiasm; a continuing implicit identity (but see next paragraph); a mass of barely realised potentials yet to be elaborated/demonstrated; an as yet barely realised generalisability to a wider range of applications/conditions;vdemonstrable potential for adaptation to new theatres (Internet, developing world, others?); long, often productive experience (by some) of attack, shortage, stress and endurance; a tradition of survival against the odds despite severe shortage and adamant opposition (András Pető again, and also many of the international pioneers of recent years); some very idealistic and altruistic people. As a result, conductive pedagogy has been successfully implemented, in all sorts of situations. What else?
Failures/weaknesses. No coherent, agreed explicit account of the system; therefore all sorts of would-be emulations; no effective representative bodies (employers, employees, users); so no unified positions/actions; little culture of collaboration; no obvious allies in existing systems; no political support, no leadership, or 'followership'; poor communication, internal and external: some 'weak links'. And with rare exceptions, conductive upbringing, CE's potentially strongest card, has been largely set aside. Er… that's enough failures and weaknesses for now!

Remember the mammals. Can Conductive Education's evolutionary advantages be utilised to outweigh its evolutionary vulnerabilities? Exciting times for the small and warm-blooded! The prospect does rather remind me of the spirit of twenty years ago.
To read the whole lecture (with recent annotations) go to:

Small is beautiful (an economic perspective)

A long time ago now, around the time of the 'energy crisis' in the early nineteen-seventies and after, one heard much of the British (initially German) economist, E. F. Schumacher. His term 'intermediate technology' has entered the language but his ideas were swimming against the stream, against what later (and still?) might have been generally thought to be the tide of history. He died in 1977, though perhaps the last laugh may still be his.
The expression 'Small Is Beautiful' was not his originally his own, but his book of the same name did much to justify and popularise its tenets. These include:
  • Small appropriate technologies empower
  • Workplaces should be above all dignified and meaningful, and only secondarily efficient
  • Consider the most appropriate scale for an activity (bigger is not of itself necessarily better)
Taking conductive pedagogy as a pedagogic technology, then E. F. Schumacher's economics and philosophy (and his 'Bhuddist economics') may ring powerful bells for progressive forces within Conductive Education, and help argue for small conductive practices in both the developing and the declining economies.

If you do not believe that economics can be human – and funny – then see some of these short video snippets:
With respect to Conductive Education's present inner dialogues, also consider his 'three stages of development' of how people think of things:
  • The first leap was the move from stage one, primitive religion, to stage two, scientific realism.
  • Most people nowdays are at stage two.
  • A few move to the third stage and see something beyond fact and science.
  • People stuck at stage two, may see stages one and three as much the same (how dialectical!) and may therefore regard stage-three people as falling back into childish nonsense.
Stage-two people will probably maintain their thinking for as long as they can regard themselves part of a secure, authoritative social consensus. And how secure is that?

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