Thursday, 30 March 2017


...and some thoughts arising

Image may contain: 2 people, people standing, shoes and indoor
I was looking at this photograph yesterday evening, and smiling. That is indeed a good explanatory photograph, I thought, one obviously selected with care. It is visually well-composed (a professional photographer?), the activity represented is disciplined and orderly, the room is tidy, one can almost feel the orchestrated concentration and commitment involved, and not just from the children stepping across the frame, but from the conductors too, and from the two children attentively waiting their turn. What one sees is patently not (ghastly expression) 'hands-on'. This is not a 'therapy' but an image of movement pedagogy, psychological and social to a T. People are working hard, concentrating and learning. And there are none of the hapless smiles so beloved of PR people.

I had come across this photo on Hungarian Opposition MP Timea Szabó's latest Facebook posting, in which she writes about the present negotiations (is that the right word?) over the salaries and conditions of service of adults' conductors at the PAF in Budapest:

Then I stopped smiling. I recognised people, the place, the clothing. I recognised the photograph. It was taken some years ago in the Early Intervention group at the National Institute of Conductive Education, in Birmingham. So I laughed instead. I have no problem with people's lifting images displayed on line in order to illustrate something (I do it myself, my attitude being that if someone publishes something on line it is de facto in the public domain): Granting this:
  • it would be nicer if the illustration selected could be relevant, in this instance, to adults' work rather than that of kindergarten children (there are plenty of good examples on line)
  • whatever an image's origin or relevance, however, it is nice to see a decent example of conductive pedagogy selected and shown
  • it is not so nice to be reminded of the dreadful images of purported Conductive Education that also abound on line (videos as well as still photos), confusing or even damaging professional and public understanding of the work by potentially generating impressions that are the very antithesis of those that made me smile at the old photograph referred to here.
Not just PAF in the market

This is yet another reminder that the media and political fuss over the PAF has been precisely that – a fuss over the PAF, one institution, in Budapest, Hungary. The fuss has not been about Conductive Education which is a far wider (and more important) matter, something manifest not just elsewhere in Hungary but in many other places too. In 2017 Conductive Education around the world is bigger and possibly no less important for the future than what happens now in that one embattled institution in Budapest.

As far as the Hungarian public discourse seems to go, the PAF's wider context amounts to no more than some unstated sphere in which the PAF is 'world-famous'. On the other hand:
  • those who live in the real world know that the things are rather more complex than that
  • it needs hardly pointing out that there may be but a narrow cusp (catastrophe theory) between fame and notoriety and that, when a tree is seriously shaken, there is no telling what will fall out (folk wisdom!)
The PAF does remain the world's major single supplier of conductive staff – though whether it will remain so in the vital matter of staff professionally prepared to work with adults may now be in the balance.

How the world's conductor-supply market might adapt and develop should the PAF withdraw from the adults' training market, could be be an interesting pointer to how the  presently much larger children's market might respond to relevant future problems.

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