Tuesday, 23 December 2014



A few thoughts, from China –
... the most important problem does not lie in understanding the laws of the objective world and thus being able to explain it, but in applying the knowledge of these laws actively to change the world. (p. 205)
Those experienced in work must take up the study of theory and must read seriously; only then will they be able to systematize and synthesize their experience and raise it to the level of theory, only then will they not mistake their partial experience for universal truth and not commit empiricist errors. (p. 209)
Whoever wants to know a thing has no way of doing so except by coming into contact with it, that is, by living (practising) in its environment... If you want knowledge, you must take part in the practice of changing reality. If you want to know the taste of a pear, you must change the pear by eating it yourself... (pp. 2o9-210)

Knowledge begins with practice, and theoretical knowledge, which is acquired through practice, must then return to practice. The active function of knowledge manifests itself not only in the active leap from perceptual to rational knowledge, but - and this is more important - it must manifest itself in the leap from rational knowledge to revolutionary practice. (p. 304)
If we have a correct theory but merely prate about it, pigeonhole it and do not put it into practice, then that theory, however good, is of no significance. (p. 307)
... the most important problem does not lie in understanding the laws of the objective world and thus being able to explain it, but in applying the knowledge of these laws actively to change the world. (p. 205)

Many people in Conductive Education like to seek instructive principles from China. The extracted thoughts above make a change from those alleged fish, and offer a useful standpoint for examining Conductive Education, its practice and research.

A little red book

I was reminded of this when I found that a second edition of The Little Red Schoolbook has been published this year in the United Kingdom:

But these thoughts do not come from The Little Red Schoolbook. They are from the original 'little red book', Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse Tung, often referred to in the English-speaking world of the time as 'the thoughts of Chairman Mao'.

Once reminded I soon found my red plastic-backed little book from 1966. Tucked into the front cover were a few small sheets of handwritten notes copied out some time in the mid-seventies when I was exploring wider philosophical psycho-pedagogic understandings congruent with those of L. S. Vygotskii and his colleagues. Former schoolteacher Mao (his personal name still Latinised at that time as Tse Tung rather than as the present Zedong), appeared to have a most compatible position on the nature of knowledge and how it should best be acquired and verified.

This position was of course quite contrary to the the post-modernist ideology that was then beginning to invade the academic world of education (and much else in the West) – and soon came to dominate it.

Conductive Education

At that time, what is now called Conductive Education was altogether cut off from the Western world, being locked in an alternative universe in which dialectical materialism held firm, official sway. András Pető's practices were already firmly established in Budapest by the time Mao's writings were sampled and widely published as his Thoughts, and no suggestion is made here of any direct link. But the system of practice that Mária Hári inherited and developed after András Pető died in 1967, swam, stayed afloat and was preserved, in very much the same sea.

Many look back upon Mária Hári's regime in the State Institute as a Golden Age. Dialectical materialism was an important component of the state philosophy under which her State Institute survived.

What an interesting dilemma for Conductive Education today, and tomorrow -- in Hungary and elsewhere alike.


Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse Tung, Peking.Foreign Languages Press

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