Tuesday, 5 July 2016


Not uniquely

Not for the first time, Norman Perrin has blogged to express his admiration for the views of Matthew Syed on the transformability of human performance, given proper coaching – part of the creation of new human potential though upbringing and pedagogy that is itself part of the greater social-historical development and extension of the human mind. Norman was responding to a recent article by Matthew Syed in The Times that touches on what happens when the coaching is lousy, because it is delivered under the governing philosophy that children 'either have it or they don't'.

Norman elaborates –
I was minded to write something similar about the education and upbringing of children with motor disorders, though I doubt I would have dared the subject line 'English education is rotten at the core'. The parallel is there: I have no doubt whatsoever that when it comes to education and schooling of all our children the prevailing ethos and practice is that 'they either have it or they don't'. And when it comes to children with motor disorders, they are more or less widely perceived as not having 'it' that is, the view such children are, more or less, of limited educability.
Well, Norman, above I have borrowed the heading from The Times, and am sad to extend this damning judgement across the Anglosphere. Yes of course there are all sorts of notable exceptions, parents and families, teachers and schools, social subgroups etc., but for a longstanding measure of general tendency look at the relative standing of the English-speaking countries in the international education league-tables, compared with say the countries of the Far East and Central Europe. Things are clearly working in some places, and not in others. Could there be something systematic in operation here?

In my long-standing concern for the central importance of what societies and their citizens believe, yesterday I quoted a gentle, intellectual statement of what I regard as a self-evident, everyday truism –
Philosophers from Plato to Dewey have been keenly aware that good or bad education is primarily a matter of good or bad philosophy (Christina Hoff Sommers)

Measured, academic words, from another part of the forest. Put it a different way, 'It's the philosophy, stupid'.  Without this, nothing.

Time was when I saw that the introduction of Conductive Education into the United Kingdom as a vanguard, a revolutionary bacillus. No longer. The social antibodies are doing their job well, containing and minimising the infection. But the struggle continues, all is not yet lost and the germ of this idea might yet be successfully spread, one day. In the meantime, at the very minimum (why is it so often thus?) Norman's proposal (ibid.) is a good one –
...find ways to tell the conductive education story over and over again 

A lot rides upon this. I just hope that those who act on this take care to get the story right. Those who get it wrong put themselves among the antibodies.


Perrin, N. (2016) Two-footedness is a coachable skill – why we should keep telling the Conductive Education story, C.E. Jottings, 4 July

Sutton, A. (2016) Perish the thought, Conductive World, 3 July



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