Tuesday, 18 August 2015


On multi- and trans-practices

A posting in Conductive World last week concerned multi- and trans-disciplinary practices provided in the name of Conductive Education:

This excited a little discussion of Facebook, not all of it on the central point of this topic but, as usually happens, this soon petered out:

Multi- and trans-disciplinary understandings of Conductive Education are an important topic, but a sensitive one that one no seems willing to take far in the public domain. Compromise seems the name of the game.

Excuse me...

I has not always been thus. Mária Hári offers the strongest reported public instance of tackling this matter head on. The year was 1981 and she was at a conference in Belgium billed as 'Study days on the Pető method'. Indeed she was the conference's 'President of Honor'. The morning of the first day was taken up with presentations on the Bobath method, French 'therapeutic education', the Vojta method and the neuropaediatric approach. Only following this would she be able to speak, knowing that the second day of the conference would then be devoted to 'various experiences of integrated education... influenced by the Pető method – from Poland, Japan, Holland, Belgium and England.'

I presume that, as President of Honour, she would have been seated in a prominent position in the hall, bemused and angry at what was being presented under the name of the system to which she had devoted her life, but impotent to do anything about it.

When the time came for her own prepared presentation she appears to have abandoned most of what she had originally intended to say, along with much of the film that she had brought to show. Instead she extemporised upon the fundamental point that Conductive Education is not a bundle of methods easily picked up on short courses – but an adaptive, dynamic, pedagogic system requiring extensive and careful professional training. The unknown scribe of the French transcription of what she said underlined certain passages, presumably to mark emphasis. Capitalisation, I guess, indicated VERY STRONG EMPHASIS INDEED.
I was surprised when I read Conductive Education emphasised in the programme... Excuse me for beginning this lecture by opposing myself to the title of the symposium 'The Pető method'. First, as one sees in the programme, other things will be spoken about; secondly, Conductive Education is much more that a method. The system of education is open to many methods, it is the structure, the organisation of the work, the 'conduction' in the teaching that are its principles – and its result, social integration, is its fundamental characteristic...

So you must understand that what is called Conductive Education or the Pető method at this symposium is certainly not it!

Conductive Education is as complex as education itself... the angle of attack is not the musculature, nor the reflex mechanism, nor some part of the nervous system that we know remarkably well but not well enough. The angle of attack is the personality, the morale...

CONCLUSION OF THIS SYMPOSIUM is that if one wishes to have the results that we have, it is necessary to learn conduction.

The above quotation has been excerpted from an earlier posting on Conductive World, published some three-and-a-half years ago. This relies in turn upon my own English translation of what Mária had said that day, published in the collection Mária Hári and her conductive pedagogy. The book's content suggests that the conference in Brussels provided a pivotal point in her relationship with those who, like Ester Cotton, seek to generate Conductive Education by bringing together the practice of existing staff in existing institutions, to implement the 'principles of Conductive Education'.

The brief formal report of the meeting was published in the journal Motricité Cerebrale. Remember, the event was called 'Study days on the Pető method', she was widely acknowledged as the living world leader in the field, and she was 'President of Honour' of this conference. The anonymously authored conference report made no mention of Mária's urgent message, or her proposal of what ought to be the event's 'only conclusion'.


(1981) Journées d’études sur la méthode Petö, Motricité cérébrale, Motricité Cerebrale, 1981/2, pp. 92-94)

Maguire, G., Sutton, A. (eds.) (2004) Mária Hári on Conductive Pedagogy, Birmingham, Foundation for Conductive Education (Chapter 2, Exasperation, 1981, pp. 65-72

Sutton, A, (2011) Háriana IV – speaking out, What is and what is not CE? 10 October 2011

Sutton, A. (2015) Transdisciplinary – what's that? Necessary or sufficient? Conductive World, 12 August

Coming up soon on this topic

What might ducks and elephants tell us of this?

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