Friday, 29 September 2017


Anniversary coming up...

Mária Hári
Usually around this time of year the once Pető Institute announces a forthcoming ceremony to remember Mária Hári on the anniversary if her death, 6 October 2001. And usually other CE institutions worldwide do not. So it goes.

Anyway, here are a few words from myself, from this day in 2010 –

This time nine years ago I was flying back and forth to Budapest, visiting Mária Hári during the closing weeks of her life. She died on 6 October 2001 (I have extensive notes on this and really ought to write them up and publish them...)

Villányi út

The ceremony will be held at the Pető Institute's site in Villányi út. This building too has a story crying out to be told, from its construction by Communist Stakhanovites to its later rebuilding financed primarily by UK money authorised by Margaret Thatcher as part of the end game of the Cold War.

Suffice it here to recall that the rebuilding was done on the original foundations, so the  ground plan of the modern building seen there today echoes the plan of the original (one hopes with greater structural integrity!) So, for those who knew 'the old Villányi út', to walk round inside the ground floor of new building is to walk around inside the ghost of the old.

Here inside the front doors is the entrance hall, where Mária first greeted me in 1984. Turn left and walk down what despite its modern mien, is the same corridor, down to where Mária had her little office on the left. Further down, on the right, is the from of the office where András Pető worked – and died. In the mid eighties this was a bare meeting room where I met 'four big ladies' (conductors who subsequently followed remarkably divergent career paths). His wooden chair was still there and on the wall looking down on us was that well-known snapshot of András Pető himself, with a disabled child and a young woman in a white coat Who she was, Mária was not saying).

Remember her...

Those who knew her certainly do: the bad as well as the good. Like the little girl in Longfellow's poem, Mária was a contradictory character:

There was a little girl,
And she had a little curl
Right in the middle of her forehead.

When she was good
She was very, very good.
And when she was bad
She was horrid.

Just how contradictory, how good and how bad, I have outlined briefly elsewhere, in English and Hungarian. Others could doubtless offer far more telling examples.

Those involved in Conductive Education who did not know her personally must by now far outnumber those who did. They too, however, have cause to remember her. Everybody 'remembers' András Pető, though hardly anyone now involved in Conductive Education ever met him, there is no reliable picture of who he really was, and he wrote almost nothing to pass on his thinking (nothing certainly that most people have ever read). His name, however, is ritually invoked in almost every account of Conductive Education. 

Mária was a 'real' historical character, but she remains a shadowy figure in most modern accounts, if she appears at all. In part of course, she had herself to blame for this balance, belittling or denying her own contribution and surrendering credit for everything to her own cult of Pető. Disentangling what in Conductive Education is 'Pető' and what 'Hári' may throw considerable light on the development of the konduktív pedagógia and the konduktív nevelés (conductive pedagogy and conductive upbringing) that evolved during the exclusively Hungarian period in the history of Conductive Education, and  enable rather clearer discussion of the theortical bases of Conductive Education round the world today.

Text from:

Obituaries of Mária Hári

From the Guardian and the British Medical Journal:

(Both of these obits are of course in English. I have not found any Hungarian obituaries)

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