Művelődés-, Tudomány- és Orvostörténeti Kiadó
Folyóirat: 2018/16
Memoirs of the beginnings of conductive pedagogy and András Pető 2. ed.

Prof. dr. Forrai Judit DSc - Semmelweis Egyetem, Népegészségtani Intézet

As the twentieth century ends, Conductive Education, increasingly known simply by its initials CE, emerges as a potent and dynamic new force for the benefit of children and adults with difficulties in controlling movement (motor disorders). The spread of CE around the world has been to a large part due to determined advocacy by families who retain little confidence in existing systems and regard CE as a potentially effective response to their needs. In the wake of their efforts scholarly interest is beginning to examine this approach. So what is CE, where did it come from, what is its mainspring, its essence? Empirical investigation, theoretical enquiry and practical demonstration will play an essential role in elaborating such questions: Judit Forrai’s book takes us straight to the heart of the matter, to the life and work of András Pető himself and the creation of conductivepedagogy.

At the core of Judit Forrai’s investigation into András Pető lies the irreplaceable personal record of men and women who knew him, irreplaceable because some of her elderly informants have subsequently died. Their taped reminiscences were faithfully transcribed (omitting only a few specifics that might hurt or harm the living) and translated into English. Judit Forrai, a medical historian, then wove extracts from these reminiscences into the historical narrative and analysis that comprise the first half of this book. Then, from my own particular background and orientation, I edited Judit Forrai’s history. For those who would write their own history from the data, the original translations of the transcripts are published in full as the second part of thisbook.

The question must arise, how ‘true’ is the portrait of András Pető presented here? We have to acknowledge that we are dealing with the reminiscences of later life and, as Péter Popper so readily accounts, ‘Look, we are all great story-tellers and of course we exaggerate a little, all of us’. Readers will easily pick out some of the resulting inconsistencies for themselves. More fundamentally, however, we are dealing here the large part with people who not only knew András Pető but whose lives were often, powerfully affected by him, at pivotal points in the years of their youth and at a time when their society was in turmoil. After all these years András Pető still holds them in thrall. Was he indeed a ‘polyhistor’, was he really such a terrible loss to German literature — or was he a dabbler with a colossal ego, hero- worshipped by youthful and impressionable admirers? Further scholarly enquiry by Hungarian- and German speaking scholars is needed before firm documentary evidence permits us to know for sure, one way or the other.

The fundamental principle of what the world now calls Conductive Education,  without winch all other so-called ‘principles of CE’ are worthless, is what András Pető in his own time and place found it politically advantageous to term conductive pedagogy. Behind this lies an understanding of the essential, non-reducible unity of human beings and the dependence of our humanity upon social relations. Two distinguished Hungarians summarise this very well in these pages:

He taught the conductors how to work with the children through emotions and through emotion you could work with them intellectually and develop their movement at the same time and we always have to think that, if there are connections within the central nervous  at all, then miraculously the function will be regained to a certain extent. This can only be achieved, however, with enormous work and outstanding enthusiasm patient and conductor alike, with steady practice and consistently maintaining a standard, and continually raising of that standard.

But it is term ‘pedagogy’ with its didactic associations enough to encompass the nature and the outcome of the conductive process? András Pető himself published only one book, and this under a pseudonym. In this book conductive pedagogy received barely a mention (indeed he left it to a visitor to his Institute to describe) but he did write of seelische Heilung ‘healing of the soul’, a notion which seems in accord with the experience of many children and adults — and their families — who have experienced Conductive Education. Elsewhere I myself have treated Conductive Education as a special education but also argued that CE might be profitably investigated as a psychotherapy.

Upon more mature consideration, I have proposed that learners may acquire two psychological qualities out of the conductive process:

independent willingness to find their own, new solutions to fresh and unfamiliar problems, to learn independently (what the conductive world calls ‘orthofunctioning);

equanimity and determined self-confidence in the face of their continuing chronic condition.

Perhaps these are the same thing, described simultaneously from pedagogic and therapeutic standpoints. Judit Forrai’s history suggests that the physician András Pető, amongst others in his time and place, used a ‘movement therapy’, more likely a combination of such, to treat a wide range of chronic human conditions and, in the hands of a man of indomitable will,  unusual interests and a fairly free rein to do as he wished, his method developed as a pedagogy, a healing, cutting across hoary old dualisms of teaching and therapy, mind and body, emotion and intellect, teacher and learner, health andeducation.

The central mysteries of András Pető, however, prevail. What precisely were his ideas, where did they come from? András Pető’s publicly stated position made play of I. P. Pavlov, though this is hardly surprising in the circumstances of his time. Quite contradictorily, we see in the pages of this book clear indication of intellectual interests which would today be identified as New Age. We see too how András Pető’s practice emerged generically out of the circumstances in which he worked, from the demands posed by himself, has patients and his workforce and the conditions in which they had to live. A telling example is the arrival of the concentration camp bed, prior to the activities that developed upon it. We have also to remember that the detail in the reminiscences presented here cover only the last twenty-three years of András Pető’s life, in which he created his method, founded his Institute, lost his  health, broke from the Health Ministry, fell ill and died. A hectic and creative time but what happened over his preceding fifty years. English-language readers can catch an oblique and fascinating glimpse of András Pető as a medical student in René Marineau’s biography of  Jacob Morenoand savour the strange atmosphere within Moreno’s circle, but from then till the closing year of the Second World War there remains but a scattering of brief and inconsistent reports. Again, further scholarship is required to elucidate the influences that impinged upon András Pető over those years and how they contributed to what was tofollow.

We are still left with questions of how conductive pedagogy changed and developed following András Pető’s death, to create what many regard now as the ‘classic’ system that so entranced Western visitor in the seventies and early eighties, why these changes came about and what was the outcome? Then what further changes resulted from the deluge of visitors from outside Hungary in the late eighties and then the collapse of the old regime, its social values and funding structures? More cogently today, what are the effects of the formal projects and the vast array of informal attempts around the world to transfer András Pető’s method to altogether new contexts and social systems? How will András Pető’s original inspiration and  his will to better his patients survive in the more permissive world of the liberal democracies where users of services demand choice yet, paradoxically, services themselves are increasingly enmeshed in managerial controls in their own way more inimical to innovation and creativity than those faced by András Pető underRákosi.

So who was András Pető? In Judit Forrai’s words, ‘an anomalous man living and working in an anomalous world’ but a man whose heritage still proves potent in the very different world in which we livetoday.      

Andrew Sutton-Conductive World

Oldalszám: 160
Kiadó: LÉTRA Alapítvány
ISBN: ISBN 978-615-00-5655-5
DOI: 10.32558/peto.2019