But What Do Australians Look Like?: An Excerpt From Janusz Korczak’s How To Love A Child, Part 1.

,In the Children’s Home, students who caused trouble were often assigned guardians to watch over the students progress.  Writing letters was encouraged, and Korczak himself sometimes read such correspondence.  Indeed, he made it clear that he didn’t want children to interrupt his work, and he had a short temper, which he always regretted.  What follows below is an abridged version of an exchange between a girl-guardian and her assigned boy student.

S:  “I love Hela a lot, but I’m not going to marry a girl from the Children’s Home.”

G:  “Hela also likes you, but not a lot, because you’re a trouble maker.  Why don’t you want to marry a girl from our Home?”

S:  “I don’t want want one from here, because I’d be ashamed.  Tell me, please.  Should I get married to Dora, Hela, or Mania?

G:  “Dora thinks you’re a twit.  Mania doesn’t want you, and Hela burst out laughing.

S:  “Now I’ll be ashamed to approach them.  Please tell me where I should sit, so I’ll behave better, and write me a long story.  And please don’t show my notes to anybody.  But I really want to know what Australians look like.  What do they look like?

G:  “If they aren’t ashamed, why should you be?  If they want you, you can sit at the third table.  I ‘ll try to show you a picture of an Australian and I won’t show your notes to anybody.”

S:  “Please give me advice, because something is really bothering me.  I’m worried, because during the lesson I think about doing something bad.  But I’m afraid to do what’s bad(to steal), and I don’t want to upset anyone.  I’ll try hard not to think about it and think about voyages.  Good night.”

Michael Parciak Speaks About Janusz Korczak And Children’s Rights, Part 2.

Korczak, himself was summoned five times by the court.  Three times the court accepted his plea.  One time the court forgave him, because he regretted his action.  And one time the court accepted his admission of guilt.

Korczak also sided with children when accusations were made against adults.  For example, he rebuked a policeman who had wronged a child…

Korczak stood for democracy, freedom of opinion, and human rights as well as social justice, responsibility, and social progress.  Although, he mainly assigned himself to “his” children, this does not mean that he released the adults from their responsibilities or that he thought them unable to carry out their responsibilities for the future of their children.  Hints of that opinion are found in part of “Senate of the Mad” where one of the mad requires certificates for the adults to be understood as allowances for the keeping and educating of children.

What did Korczak expect from the adults in the community around him and the children as future adults?  Did he intend to build a bridge between both?  Which demand did Janusz Korczak make in regards to educating adults?  Did he really accept the possibility that his demands could be realized completely in the times he lived in?  Really, the main question is:  Which demands must be fulfilled to guarantee that children grow under optimum conditions and protection of their rights?

Korczak surely would have used the internet for pedagogic goals if it had been available.  He saw providing education to every child as a basic child’s right.  He also saw discussions as a valuable pedagogic platform for children to develop their own mind– social, political, cultural, and any other way.  In his eyes, a good school education was never just for the privileged.

Michael Parciak Speaks About Janusz Korczak And Children’s Rights, Part 1.

In 1997, we at MEI had planned a Janusz Korczak Symposium, which did not take place due to problems with my health.  The previous year, we had acquainted educators with the work of Vasilii Sukhomlinsky in an effort to bring teachers and theorists from Russia, Ukraine and the U.S. closer together.  We chose Sukhomlinsky, and later, Korczak, because their pioneering work coincided with our motto:  Nothing is more important than the education of a child–heart, mind, and spirit.  Although plans for the Korczak Symposium had to be canceled, I was fortunate enough to contact many proponents of Korczak’s seminal work for children.  One of the people I contacted was Michael Parciak from Germany, the Chief Architect of Korczak City on the Internet.  What happened to this project, I was unable to discover.  Also, I could not find Michael Parciak.  However, I did locate an article he had written for MEI in May-June 1997 and I felt I should share some of it with you, because it contains interesting information concerning Janusz Korczak.

…The children’s court and the children’s newspaper… were important parts of Korczak’s philosophy of education in integrating  the children into all the important decisions, and demonstrating the relation between the granted rights and the required responsibilities.  The newspaper was used also for spelling practice and an exercise in developing one’s own opinions.  The children’s court was a steady exercise toward developing one’s own feelings for justice and social responsibility.  The judges were equipped with easy texts on common law to enable them to reach a just decision.  It was similar to the Napoleonic Code, which is still the basis of Polish laws, but it had one addition:  the right to forgive and to prefer forgiving more than punishment.

From the preamble of the text:

In case somebody has done wrong, it is better to forgive than to punish.  In case the incident happened as a result of inexperience, the subject will now know better.  In case the incident happened with knowledge, the subject will be more careful in the future… but the court must protect the shy from the aggressive, and the careful from the apathetic and lazy.

The court is not justice itself, but its goal is to achieve justice.  It is not truth, but its goal is the truth.  Judges might make mistakes.  Sometimes they might punish an action that they have committed themselves.  But it is a disgrace if a judge forces an unjust decision.

The court had to be dissolved for four weeks, because several aggressive kids did sabotage it.  When the court was reactivated there were new requirements.  The Premium Court would consist of two children and one adult for a three month term.  And children now had the right to accuse adults.(More in another post.)

King Machush The First And The U.S., Part 1.

King Machush the First is celebrated throughout Poland and Europe as a masterpiece of children’s literature.  However, despite at least four English translations of Janusz Korczak’s work, it has not taken hold in the U.S.  I believe there are many reasons for this.  However, before discussing them, I’d like to comment on the story itself.  Professor Suchodolski tells us that it is precisely in this novel that Korczak’s deepest hopes and disillusions find their expression.  Marek Jaworski views King Machush the First as a rare entity in world literature comparable in depth of interpretation to Alice in Wonderland, and Gulliver’s Travels.  Indeed, throughout the novel Korczak works on many planes employing humor, shock and reason to convey his thoughts.  Jaworski notes that the fantastic and unreal blend with a psychological character into a whole.

The novel begins in a whimsical, comical vein, then changes into a realistic descriptive one.  The change can be unsettling to the reader.  When Machush learns about the horror and futility of war, few details are spared.  And even when Korczak returns to a playful manner, the reader feels the presence of a dark threat that is ready to destroy King Machush’s world at any moment.  The conflict between the child’s world and the adult world becomes menacing and cruel.  However, Korczak also shows how adult behavior parallels a child’s:  the ministers are just as greedy as the children who ask Machush for gifts;  the Melancholy King’s parliament is just as ineffective and unruly as the children’s;  Machush’s construction of a doll for a girl is paralleled by the ministers’ construction of an elaborate Machush doll when he disappears in a war.  Another Korczak theme concerns civilization.  What does it mean to be civilized?  He reverses our expectations by showing that the African Kings are Machush’s true friends, and Princess Klu-Klu becomes a staunch supporter and ally in Machush’s quest for reform.  She is shown as being a capable learner, just as agile in outdoor sports as boys and willing to speak her mind without fear.  The Young King, who is jealous of Machush’s success, is shown to be more of a child than Machush.  Perhaps, the Young King is a child that has grown up “the wrong way.”  It is he who is the most selfish, and would rather cover up his loss in war time by piling up ammunition rather than help people as Machush does.  Machush learns to think about people less fortunate than himself, while the Young King never does. 

Random Thoughts

14 years have passed since I closed Medford Education International, Inc.(MEI,Inc.).  It is curious that the last proposed project was a symposium devoted to the work of Polish educator, and children’s writer, Janusz Korczak.  Recently, I completed a three act play based one one of Korczak’s novels, King Machush the First.  So life repeats itself or reappears in different guise.  Also, I have written fragments of plays, but have not completed one since childhood.  Two musical plays were performed at Murietta and Highland Hot Springs and Riverside Drive Elementary School.  There was also a performance in Grandma Lillian’s backyard.  Afterwards, the cast enjoyed a glorious swim in her swimming pool.  However, Jonathan Micas, and One Week in a Policeman’s Life were distinctly juvenile efforts, and until now I haven’t given them a second thought.  I did write a series of short plays, including an unfinished one about Native Americans, a subject my father held dear.  The others represented the interests I had:  reading, baseball, minerals(The Pacoima Canyon Mystery).  I adapted Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory into play form, which was given a reading by my 7th grade English class.  And my fascination with mysteries led me to adapt The Mystery of the False Fingertips into a play.  So, many years later I’m looking at a play manuscript of 51 pages, double-spaced of another adaptation.  What is strange is that the work touches on the recent history of MEI, and childhood memory at the same time.  The play is like a bright light that is illuminating dark, forgotten passages of my mind.  Janusz Korczak reawakens my interest in foreign educators, which was so important to MEI.  He also reacquaints me with the play form, which invigorated, and watched over my childhood.”Curiouser and curiouser.”