Monday, 4 November 2013


Not what it was
Let us hear more of this

On Thursday, 31 October Conductive World's facebook page published a brief notice linking to the Conductive Learning Centre in Grand Rapids, Michigan, announcing that five new student-conductor had recently commenced their studies.

Three in first year
Five in third year
Read more:

'CLC continues to serve as the lab school setting for students studying to be conductor-teachers...'
This posting evoked a considerable and unexpected flurry of Comments. It seems to jhave touched a nerve, or more tha one. I do hope that people at CLC or Aquinas were not disquieted by this, especially the new students presumably receiving their first blooding in the usually suppressed disputations within Conductive Education..
Commenting themselves, or supporting points made by others, were:
Conductors and non-conductors, young and old, men and women, writing from Brazil, Canada, Sweden, the UK and the US, some usual suspects and some less frequently seen on this page – a sample of fairly broad variability but often people who have put down lasting personal and professional roots in new countries...
The correspondence thread, sometimes a little heated but always civilised, discontinued on Saturday 2 November.
The thread
First topic up had the very small numbers involved, and the lack of funding, public awareness and PR that might underlie this. No grounds for contention there.
Discussion swung to the favourable position of charter schools (in the US) and the question of eligibility for admission was raised but not pursued. Instead the question of competition with therapists raised its head, and unfavourable comparative research results, and then the thread moved rapidly on to its big bone of contention: the quality of conductor-training, to a large degree indexed by the number of practice hours per week during initial training.
In a nutshell (Andi Lozano) –

...conductor students nowadays do fraction of the training and end up with the same degree as Peto trained conductors.

Along the way this got entangled with the question of many conductors' working in contexts where the have to practise in a second language.

Déjà vu all over again

I have been here before. In a way it is comforting to know that people still talk about the same old things. Really, though, the gristle has now been chewed enough by two or three professional generations, all the goodness has all gone out of it, and it is time to find the swallowing mechanism, and move on.

The numbers problem. Yes, let's face up to it and admit the problem. The numbers of conductors trained outside the Pető Institute are pitiably small. This is a problem for everyone, not just the tiny number of training courses. The Pető Institute is financially and political vulnerable and, worse scenario, could just blow away. And anyway the training that it gives is not necessarily best attuned to the diverse contexts in which its graduates practice. So what are those who work in CE, who provide and use CE services, doing to secure their conductive tomorrows. Point to exceptions by all means but the general answer, I suspect, everyone knows. – nothing.

Falling conductor quality. I think that I first came upon this complaint the first time that I went to Budapest, nearly thirty years ago: 'Of course, training is not what it used to be in my day, the new ones come in for the wrong reason and they don't get the practical experience that we used to have to put in...' Have you ever come across a profession or trade anywhere, or at any time, where the same grumbling complaint is not standard issue. 'In my days,' it goes on. And on... And doubtless always will.

This does not mean that the standards of initial professional preparation cannot vary, up or down, and cannot be changed for the better or for the worse. There are real phenomena involved here and material questions that deserve far better evidencing and analysis than they have publicly received in Conductive Education. So let us unpack them. Let the 'trainers' say what they do and why, let this be compared with what is known in other fields of higher education and practical training. Yes, maybe even known on the basis of that 'research' that everyone in CE likes to genuflect to, and let us enquire critically about the relationship between initial and subsequent professional competence, and what might be usefully be done about this.

And yes, 'it all boils down to money', so let' us face up to the possible end result of chronic shortage of financial resources both in training and in the workplace, and its possible effect upon professional status, salaries and future availability of 'conductors'.

There is nothing new in the problems facing Conductive Education. Unfortunately this stretches to there being nothing new in the way they are dealt with. Doubtless, going along as before in this will mean nothing new in the outcome.

We live in exciting times (allegedly)

Déjà vu is not exciting. On the contrary. Of course I welcome that conductors and others take space and time on Conductive World to express their concerns, and yes maybe even some of their anger, at what the world is doing to something that they hold dear. Please do it again. And again.

But this alone is no swallowing (or spitting) mechanism. Just more chewing of the gristle. Please, add some concrete substance, in the form of preferably verifiable facts (oh, for referenced fact-structured statements of those hours per week). Even refer us to the literature on fatigue and quality of learning! There are so many potential ways of substantiating such a debate.

None of this is any longer my problem but I am happy to help those for whom it is to present their positions for public discussion – or at least urge find their own platforms from which to do it themselves.

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