Essential Korczak: Words of Wisdom from the Polish Master of Children’s Rights
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default, Essential Korczak:
Inspirational Quotes from the
Polish Master of Children’s Rights, Janusz Korczak with the pupils of his orphanage in Warsaw, 1923, photo: public domain, center, dom_sierot_orkiestra_pod_batuta_janusza_korczaka_1923.jpg
Here’s the very best of Janusz Korczak’s unorthodox wisdom on children (and adults) – encapsulated in his own words.
Janusz Korczak – champion of children’s rights, educator and pedagogue whose many innovative ideas were ahead of his time – was also a brilliant and inspiring writer. While there is no substitute for actually reading Korczak (whose work is now available in a new English translation), these quotations can surely serve as an inspiring introduction to Korczak’s unorthodox philosophy of the child and child-rearing. This is essential, inspirational Korczak.
'How to Love a Child' 100 Years On: Janusz Korczak’s Work Re-Examined
Children are not future human beings, they are already human beings.
It is humanity’s good fortune that we cannot force children to submit to their caregivers’ influences or to didactic attacks on their sound mind and healthy, human will. ('How To Love a Child')
[T]he first, indisputable right of a child is to articulate his own thoughts and take an active role in our discussions and verdicts about him. When we grow toward respect and trust, when he himself will trust and say what is his right – there will be fewer riddles and mistakes.
'How to Love a Child" by Janusz Korczak
One child is a big and important world. Two children are three big worlds.
'The Art of Childrearing' by Janusz Korczak
You [adults] grumble: - [...] ‘We have to lower ourselves to their [children’s] world. Lower, bend, shrink.’ You are mistaken. [...] – ‘We have to raise ourselves to their feelings. Rise, reach out, stand on our toes, reach for’
'When I Am Little Again' by Janusz Korczak
The relationship between adults, particularly caregivers, and children must never have the character of a struggle for authority and rights: caregivers have an obligation to skillfully arrange conditions under which children may freely develop in the fullness of their rights.
'A Child’s Right as an Individual' by Janusz Korczak
When two extremely divergent worlds – of adults and children – come into contact, it ends in defeat and slavery for the weaker ones, meaning children. ('A Child’s Right As An Individual')
Janusz Korczak: The Legacy of a Writer & Teacher
Half of humanity does not exist; their life – it’s a joke, their strivings - naive, their emotions – fleeting, their views – silly. Children are different from adults, something is missing from their lives, and there is more of something than in ours; but this life, so disparate from our own, is a reality, not a delusion. What have we done to know the child and create conditions in which he might exist and mature?
What is this half of humanity, which lives with and alongside us, tragically cut off? We load them down with the burden of the future man’s obligations without providing any of present man’s rights.
Have you seen how a baby, with an impassive face, parted lips, and concentration in his eyes slowly, patiently puts on and takes off a stocking or slipper? It’s neither a game, nor imitation, nor thoughtless fooling around, but work.
It’s difficult to imagine a more despotic imperative, bordering on torture, than: 'Go to sleep!'
12 Things Worth Knowing About Janusz Korczak
A child’s soul is just as intricate as our own, filled with similar contradictions, tragically struggling within the eternal: I want to, but I can’t, I know I have to, but I’m not up to it
The caregiver who frees rather than forces, lifts rather than drags, shapes rather than pinches, teaches rather than dictates, asks rather than demands, will experience many inspired moments with a child, will not infrequently watch teary-eyed as the angel fights with the devil, with the white angel carrying the day.
Don’t demand a lot of them. Rather demand of yourself. ('The Art of Childrearing')
The child wants to be taken seriously, she demands confidence, a hint, and advice. We treat her jokingly, we suspect her constantly, we reject her with misunderstanding, we refuse help.
The child is a human being. We should respect the good person, but the bad one too. If you respect a good child, it will help greatly; if you respect a bad child, it won’t hurt. You love the good child; you’ll come to love the worst one too. I don’t know how it happens. It just does. It can’t be explained.
'The Art of Childrearing' by Janusz Korczak
Compiled by Mikołaj Gliński, Feb 2019.
culture for children
Sources: All quotations come from the English edition of Janusz Korczak’s pedagogical writings: 'How To Love a A Child and Other Selected Works' (London / Chicago, 2018).