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Janusz Korczak

How to love a child


    60. An important principle

      A child may do the wrong things.

      "... A child has the right to lie, to outwit someone, to coerce, to steal. This doesn't mean that he always has the right to lie, outwit, coerce and steal.

      If a person didn't have a single chance as a child to pick out the raisons in a cake and pinch them a bit in secret, then he isn't honest; he won't be honest when his character has been formed....

    61. Let children make mistakes and let them try to correct them
          in a light hearted matter.

      ... It is your duty to raise human beings, not sheep, workers, preachers but physically and morally healthy human beings. And health is neither gentle or willing to sacrifice.

      It is my goal to be accused of being immoral by hypocrites." ...


    The quoted "Rights of a Child" are primarily based (among other things) on Korczak's statements in the 60ieth passage "Internat" ("Boarding School") in his book "How to Love a Child".
    If one reads the complete passage and puts it the context of the "Internat" then the meaning becomes clear, that in building his values and normative attitudes a child must also have the right to make mistake in order to learn how to correct them etc. (So also the current opinion in the educational community).

    Not enough attention has been paid to the impression which comes about when a direct connection is drawn between sections 60. and 61. and these passages are put in the context of Korczak's life and work.

    The drastic formulation to give a child the right "to do wrong" and Korczak's expression: "It is my goal to be accused of being immoral by hypocrites" give grounds for assuming that further and precise rights for children are meant.

    The clear and critical language in the first section of the "Internat", Korczak's view of the world, of humankind as well as his social and political development all speak for this theory.

    It would be an offence to the legacy of Korczak to use his ideas for political indoctrination or upheaval. Likewise it seems to me an offence to his legacy not to actively support his demand for the rights of children.

    Korczak expresses his desire for children's rights (and human rights as well) with the words:

    "It is my goal to be accused of being immoral by hypocrites" .

    We should comply to this wish at least in the form that we not attack him on the surface but seek to carry on the discussion and activities on the level of his meaning, precision and view of mankind.

    For this, high ethical, moral, philosophical and religious standards are required (regardless what religion one belongs to):

    "Saving one person's life, saves a whole universe".

    This belief of the Jewish religion has a central meaning in the education of children - as well as in the mutual life of adults. Korczak's convictions and deep religious beliefs are a valuable challenge for us: If life (a child's) is shaped, a whole universe (a child/a human being/an individual) is shaped.

    Korczak: The child is an independent atom in space ("a speck of dust". Selected Works, p. 86) which with it's thoughts encloses everything; a transient atom with almost eternal potential, in "which God has made his dwelling". (p. 87).

    A child / human being / individual does not have the right to own or be property of another individual. A Child, an adult, the individual has the right to his own individuality; the child has the right - and adults the responsibility to respect this individuality and to contribute to his own development. If terms "education" and "educator" are used in the traditional manner, then their meaning should be reconsidered and perhaps reformed.

    The child should be given the rights of an individual and therefore the same rights as an adult. The possible and legitimate objection that children are not fully developed individuals has to be answered and clarified with the question directed to adults "what is the complete development of an individual, when is this completed and how does this apply to me?"

    Korczak does not demand the perfection of the individual - which can not be obtained - but rather the mutual respect of individuals, which children unfortunately do not (yet) enjoy. They have however an absolute right to this respect. In a world of individuals, who call themselves "adults", who however exploit, abuse, rob and destroy nature, human beings and the world, who lie, cheat, steal, murder and carry on war.

    In hopes to spare "his" children from such a negative development and to make an constructive individual development possible, Janusz Korczak / Henryk Goldszmit lived and worked in order to contribute his experience and insights for the betterment of all children.

    To achieve this let us accept now the particular individuality of children and give them as well as the "big" children (grownups) the necessary possibilities and rights.

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