On Saturday, I found myself in much the same situation as Jane, "Student Conductor" blogger at Birmingham, pondering answers to the question "what is conductive education".
I was attending the spring meeting of the East Pennine Association of Churchill Fellows at Leeming, an association of which I am member as a result of being awarded a Travel fellowship by the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust. (You can register now to receive information when the Trust opens for applications for the 2009 travel grants on 2nd June.)
As it was the first meeting I had attended since completing the Fellowship, people naturally asked about it .... which led inevitably to conductive education and the "What is .... ? question."
Of course, it's a question I have now been asked many times (though I do not have a rehearsed and simple answer). Earlier on Saturday I had read Jane's blog and added a comment, hopefully encouraging. I pointed her to an article by Dr Hari "Conductive Education. Occasional Papers 2. Orthofunction - A conceptual analysis."
I wrote: "In my own mind, I fall back on my version of something Dr Hari wrote. It's a bit of a polysyllabic mouthful but it keeps my head on the right lines: 'Conductive education is about enhancing the quality of intention to achieve'. You can peel that apart, onion-like, layer upon layer of meaning."
What Dr Hari actually wrote was: " ....conductive education enables individuals to build up a new quality of life and a new quality of intention to achieve higher levels of co-ordination and some increase in coherence and power .... For the everyday course of life this means that the individual is able to establish aims (intentions, to retain them, to monitor progress towards them, to resist failure and to overcome obstacles to their achievement."
Since Saturday, this last bit put me in mind of a thought my colleague, Karen Hague, once asked: was it possible for management to be conductive? I recall we spent some time pondering this. Dr Hari is writing about the individual and orthofunction: "establish aims .... retain them .... monitor progress .... resist failure .... overcome obstacles .... achievement" - a near perfect description of how to carry out strategic planning for an organisation. Which suggests that organisations, as well as individuals, can be orthofunctional. With the flipside that if organisations can be orthofunctional, they can just as well be dysfunctional - all parts pulling in different directions. I wonder how far Paces is an orthofunctional organisation?