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Janusz Korczak International Newsletter no 16 (16 pages)
Amsterdam December 2005.
Dear friends and colleagues.
The last Korczak Newsletter of 2005. Overlooking all the information in the preceding
LETTERS the conclusion must be: a fruitful year. Many activities in the Korczak
Associations, conferences, publications, seminars etc.
We also noticed that the Korczak Newsletter brought people together. The board of the Janusz
Korczak International Newsletter feels happy about that. Let’s go on. We wish you and your colleagues a happy and prosperous 2006.
The impact of Janusz Korczak’s ideas is growing. In many countries people discover that
Janusz Korczak was ahead of his time and they draw inspiration from his work for their own
work for and with children.
In this letter news from Switzerland, France, Israel, Germany , UK , The Netherlands, and
Let’s start with …
Our Swiss Korczak friends sent their own Newsletter ( ‘La Lettre’ ) volume XXV, Nov.2005.
Always interesting to read ‘ Le mot du president’ ( the word of the chairman) written by Dr
Daniel Halperin. He reminds us of the many catastrophes that took place in the last 12
months. He accentuated what these disasters mean for families and children. At the same time
he warns us for indifference. He calls for an immense movement of solidarity.
On the 1st of December, during the general meeting of the Swiss Korczak Society, Mr
Augustin Brutus, witness of the tsunami 2004, told about the humanitarian actions in India.
In this ‘La Lettre’ also an interesting report of the project ‘Hand in hand’, a bi-lingual
Jewish-Arab Educational Program in Israel, supported by the Swiss Korczak Association.
The Israeli minister of Education Mr Zabida, initial being sceptical about such a multicultural
and bi-langual school, declared: ‘You educate Arabs and Jews under the same roof, united by
the strong conviction, supported by parents, teachers, and the community, that there exist an
alternative of peace and coexistence
It is for the first time in the history of Israel that Jewish pupils visit daily a school in an Arab
In ‘La Lettre’ a radio talk of Janusz Korczak ; ‘The scuffles’ , translated in French by
Lydia Waleryszak. ( Who can translate this French text into English for us? Ed. of Janusz
Korczak International Newsletter)
I leave our two days of king Mathias to the Polish Institute which were a great success near
the children, and who will be renewed the 22 and on November 23. and still multiplied by ten the next year! And our collaboration with the Franch-Deeutsch-Polish coproduction of the series TV "Small king Macius" (know in the Netherlands?) and with our French editor of King Mathias is reinforced. To three, we will put the package on the diffusion of the key novel of Korczak. Here is our plan: the French book will be entitled "Small king Mathias", in homage to Maurice Wajdenfeld. But its cover will take again the same logo as the series TV and the film (a small king with a large crown and a green cape, not red at the request of the children (!). This book will be available in one month and will sell we it on our site (13 euros). It will be put in bookshop only in February 2006. It will be the occasion of a new press campaign and "signatures" with a press conference which will be given by children readers, of any origines and mediums, to the Fabert Editions in Paris. We will propose contests and forums on Internet site of king Mathias. There will be plays in the schools, and on November 20, 2006, we will join together in Paris of many children readers for one or more great King Mathias Day. Then, there will be the continuation of the series TV and the exit with the cinema of the large film which is drawn from it, in France, Germany and Poland at the beginning of 2007. I personally took care of the great quality of the work and I am still completing now his appendices of references and his indexing. To read and study this book was a great pleasure for us all, the editor included. Its guaranteed quality, its very modern cover, our agreements of partnership and Co-distribution, the implication of the children upon the departure (centers of leisures and school), all that ensures us a base of work militant for several years (formation and diffusion of the rights of the child and much more still). I agree with you, it is certainly a good news for other Korczak associations which will be able to be perhaps organized to benefit at least from success assured the series TV and film "Small king Macius". I will make this proposal soon to Associations Korczak French-speaking people (Belgian, Swiss, Canadian and in the network of the French Embassies and cultural Instituts). And you will see what to do with the anglophone associations. I am occupied still too much by all that to translate the Neswletter n° 3 into entirety. I promise an English extract. But I need a couple aof days and I will include at the same time the report to you of these great King Mathias Days in Paris. What do you think about it? Bernard Lathuillère ISRAEL One of the latest news from Israel. Technology creates an ‘education bridge’ Nicolet students meet their peers via videoconference
At first the images on the television monitor wavered blurrily and the voices being broadcast were strangely disjointed. Then suddenly the picture snapped into focus. Seated in front of full-sized Israeli and American flags, 31 high school students were visible. They looked so much like their American counterparts it was impossible to tell that they were Israelis. On the screen a female teacher spoke in English with an American accent. “Hello, Susie, can you hear me?” she said to Nicolet Hebrew teacher Suzanne Weinstein. Weinstein and 10 of the 11 Nicolet High School students in her most advanced class, Hebrew 5 Accelerated, (the 11th student is studying in Jerusalem this semester) faced the monitor from their seats at the Coalition for Jewish Learning conference room on the Karl Jewish Community Campus the morning of Oct. 2. Though it was Sunday, they were there to study with the Israeli students in Aviva Shapiro’s English class at a Jordan Valley high school, Beit Yerach. For them, Sunday is a school day, but the time difference between Milwaukee and the Jordan Valley necessitated a late school day; it was 5:00 p.m. there. Using video-conferencing equipment, the two classes were able to “virtually” be in the same place at the same time. They could see and hear each other; ask questions and hear the replies of the same speaker and compare opinions on their respective rights and responsibilities. Shapiro said that Beit Yerach and Nicolet have been working together for a few years through the Education Bridge program of Partnership 2000, which pairs Milwaukee with the Sovev Kinneret, the region around the Sea of Galilee. She said she met Weinstein “by chance” in Jerusalem last summer while Shapiro was attending an English teachers’ conference. And the two began talking about a cooperative project. Based on academic requirements in Israel, Shapiro chose the classes’ shared topic — Janusz Korczak, a Jewish physician and expert on children, who tried to save and ultimately died at Treblinka with 192 orphans from the Warsaw Ghetto. Shapiro’s students read Korczak’s novel “King Matt the First,” a children’s story that incorporates his ideas about children’s rights, in English. Then she invited the last surviving graduate of Korczak’s orphanage, the Israeli artist Itzchak Belfer, to come and be interviewed by the two classes in Hebrew, using videoconferencing technology.
The Nicolet students, like the Israelis, learned about Korczak and his heroic efforts to create positive, normal lives for the Jewish orphans of Warsaw, and prepared questions to ask Belfer. They also contemplated Korczak’s philosophy on children’s rights, which “was totally way out for his time,” Weinstein said. For several weeks prior to the videoconference the students communicated via the Internet in small groups — three Israelis and one American. They got to know each other and prepared for the class with Belfer. ‘Historical impact’ “Do you think that knowing Korczak made you a better father?” Nicolet sophomore Eliana Weber asked Belfer during the interview. “There were words I didn’t know” Eliana said of the Hebrew discussion, but she did understand most of what was said. “It was amazing to talk to someone who was there with Korczak.” Weinstein agreed. “I really felt the historical impact of meeting Belfer, as I’ve gone through and prepared myself and my students. I’ve learned so much about Korczak; I’m in awe of the man,” she said. And “I was pleased and proud of my students. There was no chit-chat, no talking.” They were all there before 9:00 a.m., ready to go, Weinstein added, noting that many of the her Hebrew students had attended Nicolet’s Homecoming Dance the night before, and had probably gotten very little sleep. As for Shapiro, though “there was a lot of time spent in getting prepared,” the videoconference gave her students experience in “meeting the world.” She said “I am happy to be a link between American youth and Israeli youth…. I feel it is extremely important to foster good relationships between the two communities in order to strengthen American Jewry.” The Nicolet students plan to help the Israeli students, using their computer forum, with the next part of their study of Korczak in which they will research and write reports on children’s rights, in English. Shapiro hopes to be able to set up another videoconference this winter to share their project results. And not all of these students were meeting for the first time. Three of the students in Shapiro’s classroom on Oct. 2 visited Milwaukee last summer as part of P2K’s Teen Mifgash. Batia Gilad Kfar Vradim
Israel (continuation) 1. On June 8, 2004, we had a gathering of the orphans and counselors from the orphanage
living in Israel, along with their families. Three generations attended the gathering, including the children and grandchildren of former orphans who are no longer with us. That evening, a medical student who had written a paper in high school called "Korczak and Bar Simpson – a Virtual Encounter", gave a talk. In this framework we also celebrated the 90th birthday of two of the orphans, and heard short stories and recollections of their childhood in the orphanage from all the participants.
2. On August 5, 2005 we marked the 63rd anniversary of the murder of Korczak, Stefa and
the children. We had two ceremonies; the traditional one at the Polish Jewry Forest in the Jerusalem Hills, and the other at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, beside the Korczak memorial monument.
Former orphans placed wreaths at both ceremonies, which were attended by many young people. At Yad Vashem we toured the new museum, and among the other objects exhibited there are Korczak's eyeglasses, which were loaned to Yad Vashem by the Warsaw Museum, to which the Korczkianum, the Polish archive, now belongs.
3. At the beginning of this year we made contact with the Reut School in Jerusalem, whose
principal, Dr. Geiger, is the head of a network of Israeli schools for students from ages 6 to 18, which operate in a pluralistic spirit. Their emphasis is on traditional pluralism, which is based on Jewish tradition. In discussions we had with them, we found parallels between their approach and Korczak's, which led to the decision to work together, which means working in this spirit in the Israeli schools. We hope this year, after a preparatory seminar for the instructors, to get to five schools and bring about a change in them to create greater involvement and caring on the part of the teachers and the students, in the spirit of Korczak's pluralism.
4. In the fall of 2006, we, together with the Reut School, are planning a conference on the
topic "The Pluralistic Aspect of Korczak's Teachings". We invite proposals for topics.
5. We are presently in the process of printing the ninth volume of Korczak's writings in
Hebrew. Our volumes are translated from the Polish and adapted to the reader in Hebrew.
THE NETHERLANDS A Janusz Korczak project in two Teacher Training Colleges (Alkmaar and Haarlem) The Teacher Training Colleges in Alkmaar and Haarlem decided to coordinate their programmes for a special Korczak project. The central theme was: Autonomy vs Dependence.
We made for the students a anchor-text with the main pedagogical ideas of Korczak, with a supplement of concepts of Lev Vygotski, John Dewey and Prof. Luc Stevens (ortho-pedagogue at the University of Utrecht).
The project consisted of 2 parts: a) personal observations in the classroom, (1 week) b) visits in small studentsgroups ) to several youth centres, clubs, sportcentres etc. ( 1week of observations, talks and discussions) The Janusz Korczak Ass. and the two institutes are collecting the results at the moment. We let you know more in the coming Newsletter(s) UNITED KINGDOM On the website of LIB ED ( For the liberation of learning) www.libed.org.uk you will find an interesting article, written by Dr. Joop Berding (NL) , ‘Janusz Korczak, an introduction’
This organisation in the UK, with contacts world-wide, has a very interesting concept of learning. See more on their website. GERMANY We received volume 15 of the collective work of Janusz Korczak. This huge work is done by Mrs Marta Ciesielska ( the Korczak Archives in Warsaw); Prof. Friedhelm Beiner ( Bergische Universitat Wuppertal), and with support of an editorial committee We give you (in German) the content of this Volume 15.
Janusz Korczak Samt1iche Werke (Gutersloher Verlagshaus, GmbH. Gutersloh. ISBN. 13-978-3-579-02354-0.
ABTEILUNG I Band I: Kinder der Strasse; Kind des Salons Zur Edition des Gesamtwerks Chronologie Band 2: Humoresken; Satiren
Beichte eines Schmetterlings Wenn ich wieder klein bin
Erziehungsmomente Das Recht des Kindes auf Achtung
Unverschämt kurz Senat der Verrückten Die Menschen sind gut
Drei Reisen Herscheks Kinder der Bibel: Mose
Band 7: Sozialkritische Publizistik Die Schule des Lebens Band 8: Sozialmedizinische Schriften Band 9: Theorie und Praxis der Erziehung Paedagogische Essays ABTEILUNG II Band 10 Eindrücke und Notizen aus Sommerko1onien Die Mojscheks, Joscheks and Sruleks Die Jozeks, Jasieks und Franeks Ruhm Band 11 König Macius der Erste König Macius auf der einsamen Insel
Band I2 : Der Bankrott des kleinen Jack Kajtus, der Zauberer Band 13
Ein hartnäckiger Junge Publizistik für Kinder und Jugendliche Berichte und Geschichten aus den Waisenhausern Band 14 Kleine Rundschau Chanukka- und Purim-Szenen
Dokumente aus den Kriegs-und Ghetto-Jahren Tagebuch -. Erinnerungen Varia
RUSSIA ( ST PETERBURG) Our colleague and friend, Micha Ephstein from St- Peterburg sent us the ‘blue-print’ for a challenging project , The Janusz Korczak Open Institute of Alternative Education . Micha is waiting for interested partners in the project. At the end you’ll find his address and e-mail. Janusz Korczak Open “Avtorskii” Institute of Alternative Education Humanist Values in Education, Social Practice and Management/Business Respected Colleagues!
Recent events have shown that humanist values, ideas and the practice of a personally
oriented approach are gradually being discredited both in society as a whole and in its separate spheres (business, education, social policy). Unfortunately, what attention is being paid to the concrete problems of personhood is not now geared toward supporting the process of self-creation and of realizing one’s responsibility in this process; instead, it arises from the desire to manipulate individual behavior more effectively for the sake of corporate and especially particular consumerist goals.
We believe (and not only believe, but know it to be true), that effective modern
education, successful business, and intelligent social policy (practice) are perfectly possible on condition they are built on a foundation of humanist values, on the idea of respect both for the individual and for the community in which we live.
One sphere of activity should not interfere with the other. Simply, the particular work
style and work goals of a teacher, a manager, or a businessperson is determined by inner convictions, by personal choice of approach to a task, and by degree of equipment with the corresponding social, educational, and managerial techniques.
Moreover, we are certain that in the long run it is the values of freedom, respect,
independent choice, and an approach based on these values that will secure the stable development of education, of business and of society as a whole.
Naturally, the whole world cannot be remade in an instant. Nor, apparently, is this
necessary. We want to apply our efforts, to the extent that we can, to increasing the number of people for whom the realization in practice of humanist values, of the idea of respect for the individual human being, is not just abstract “zaum”, but the complex reality of intense and difficult but joyful and meaningful workdays.
We are convinced that without instructional and other support from teachers (both
those only just beginning their professional lives and those with experience) who realize the necessity of changing the practice of their work with children, none of the “modernizations of education” that have been ripening for so long will be possible.
Without a change in approach to social policy and practice, our society will be neither
Without the possibility of equally interested dialog and mutual enrichment (including
with technology) between business and education, the whole future of our society is in doubt.
Thus, we are opening the Janusz Korczak Open “Avtorskii” Institute of Alternative
Education and invite all our like-minded colleagues to join forces in order to provide the necessary educational conditions to all who wish to master the theory and practice of a humanist approach, whether in business, education or social policy, and to develop the successful implementation of this approach in our lives. Why an institute?
By combining our efforts, we plan both to conduct research in chosen fields and to
provide educational support (by various means) to interested individuals and organizations. There will be educational programs oriented toward children and various programs aimed at furthering education and raising qualifications for adults, including for teachers, social workers, managers, and others. Thus, without aspiring to the right of granting a primary degree in higher education, our institute, as an organization for continuing education, will try to help colleagues grow professionally in the direction they have chosen. Why open?
In formal terms, at least at first, our institute will not be a separate legal entity. Later,
when we are convinced that there is a demand for our idea and that we will be able to find a stable financial base, we will start working on the special registration of a separate legal entity.
In the meantime, we plan to develop those research projects and courses of study for
which, on the one hand, specialists united by the institute see both necessity and their own interest, and for which, on the other hand, we will be able to find at least the minimum resources necessary for general work (in the form of grants, orders, or “market demand”). We are likewise convinced that the combining of forces by like-minded people makes possible a cumulative effect, if only because the presence of “inernal resources” gives rise to the possibility of supporting one another in various ways.
Of course, it is not only and not so much a matter of creating a formal “institution” as
of uniting the forces of active and interested people in the effort of connecting themselves with others. It is important to us that many different kinds of people be able to take part in the educational programs of our institute, independent of their educational qualifications or social status.
Not being obliged to submit official state reports on results also gives us the
possibility of planning both our activities and the contents of our work more freely.
We hope that gradually we will be able to guarantee our potential colleague-clients the
possibility of raising their qualifications and of satisfying their educational inquiries in a great variety of ways, including open lectures and meetings, cycles of courses and seminars, guidance through the process of research work or graduate studies for interested specialists, a system of correspondence courses (distance learning), publications in SMI, and so on.
In addition, we expect that the institute will become a meeting place available for
dialog between various groups of our society, including representatives from the business and
social spheres, from education and from culture. Such a dialog cannot be put off any longer and is extremely important in the current state of development of our society. Why “avtorskii”?
Because technology is all very well, but with a personally oriented approach, it is not
only the person of the pupil that is important but also the person of the teacher. According to our plan, the educational activity of our institute will be built primarily on courses, seminars, and open lectures by author-originators – that is, by people who have independently developed their own courses, who have their own practice and position, and who are not just “delivering lectures” on someone else’s model.
Furthermore, we want to try to unite people who are close to one another in basic
values despite their individual uniqueness as author-originators of their own particular techniques and lives. Why alternative education?
Because traditional education – in business, in the social sphere and in education – is
in a state of crisis both in its goals and purposes and in its forms of organization. And the search for ways to change the situation is crucial.
Because both the way we would like to set out our work and the way in which we
intend to operate are still, at least in our country, not the most popular or massively accepted.
In the European tradition, however, alternative education has long implied education
with other goals and purposes, using other forms and methods, than those which are generally accepted.
Furthermore, there exists in this country an enormous seam of informal (unformatted)
pedagogy requiring, at a minimum, exposure, comprehension, and introduction into circulation through public discussion.
The true way to education is not through a state institution of higher learning, not in
quest of a piece of paper or certificate, but for the sake of education itself. It arises from the understanding by “pupils” that they themselves need to find the meaning of something, to study something, to learn about something, to work with someone on their qualifications – all of which is still unusual and alternative. In Scandinavia – with its system of folk high schools – such a path has long been traditional and guarantees the possibility of real continuous education. But this is not the case in Russia.
Another understanding of alternative education – as non-governmental – is also
important for us. To the extent that we are certain that the principal distinction between private and state education is not that one takes money for education and the other not (now practically all schools take money anyway). The difference between them is that “private education” may be much more personal (at least in the sense of the personal influence of the founder of the educational establishment), and, at the same time, much more communally directed in the sense both of public participation in education and of the ability of the community to influence the education of its younger generation to correspond with its own purposes and goals.
Alternative does not mean in conflict with all the other forms that exist in education
and in our society today. We are not for competition, but for mutual completion. We are for variety. Alternative means that we are about something other, but we are glad to work with anyone interested in that other. Why Janusz Korczak?
We propose uniting under the name of Janusz Korczak because he was probably the
first of the modern educational figures to formulate and implement the idea, so important for all of us, of respect for the child (and for human beings in general) in social and pedagogical practice.
, [email protected]
GENERAL INFORMATION AND NEWS
One year ago we put in the Newsletter the very important text of Gerard Kahn, member of
board of the German speaking part of the Swiss Janusz Korczak Ass.
in Bern. It is a reflection on the future of the Janusz Korczak Movement world-wide.
Gerard wrote this article to open a debate. Unfortunately there were only a few reactions.
For that reason we repeat this call. Please write your reaction to [email protected]
Does Korczak have a future?
Although it has been more than sixty years since he died, there are still people in all four
corners of the world who are committed to the ideas and principles of the Polish doctor, writer
and pedagogue, Janusz Korczak (1878–1942). There are schools, kindergardens and homes
that carry his name, and his complete works will shortly be available in Polish, German and
Hebrew. Texts by and about Korczak are available in over 20 languages. This success is
partly down to the fact that there are people who have dedicated their lives – or at least a
significant part of their lives – to Korczak. These include researchers, publishers of his works,
practising teachers - who respect the children entrusted to them as a matter of course – and
members and donors of Korczak societies. At first sight, there seems little reason to question
whether Korczak will continue to have an impact in the future. Yet a closer look reveals that
although much has been achieved in the past years, there have also been some marked
Korczak’s ‘children’ and his contemporaries are leaving us. Leon and Geula Harari,
Aleksander Lewin and Maria Falkovska, to name but a few, are no longer among us. During
the 1980s and ‘90s, they were key figures of the Korczak ‘movement’, if one can call it such.
Along with many others, they did a great deal to keep Korczak ‘alive’. So what now? With
the possible exception of eastern Europe, the average age of Korczak societies’ members (at
least those known to the author) is relatively high and finding new followers is proving
difficult1. What could be the reason for this? How can Korczak societies best manage the generation change? What more can be done in the future, beyond what has already been achieved? Do we in fact still need Korczak societies at all? And what should be their role? These are some of the questions that this article will seek to answer, with the aim of provoking further developments in Korczak’s interest. Korczak today It is not possible to give a complete description of Korczak activities today, as these are too varied and gaining an overview is impossible. One can only give a rough sketch of some Korczak-inspired activities. There are many pedagogues who closely adhere to Korczak’s principles but who would never define their work in these terms: they take children seriously, respect their wishes and guide them along the way, even if they themselves would have chosen a different path. Children are directly involved in shaping and discussing certain educational establishments, they publish their own newspapers or sell their ‘treasures’ during the school break. In some countries there are training projects for street children, and musical and artistic events for children and youngsters. In Kursk, for instance, every child in hospital receives a fresh piece of fruit a week. But some other establishments have a more flighty approach to Korczak: aside from a bust of the pedagogue in the entrance hall or some black boards and bookshelves, there are precious few reminders of his ideals. Even drawing competitions to draw the best Korczak are hardly in line with his teachings. On an international level, there are conferences where those interested in Korczak can meet: contacts are made which lead to other activities, such are mutual visits, lecture series, holiday camps for children with or without disabilities, which are run by people from different countries of origin. A significant part of this networking is carried out via the Dutch Korczak society, headed by Theo Cappon, through its homepage (http://www.newsletter.korczak.nl/). The publications and translations of many of Korczak’s works - thanks to Marta Ciesielska, Friedhelm Beiner and Erich Dauzenroth - are also key, as is the distribution of his literature to areas where it was previously hard to come by (such as Bosnia, Croatia and Vietnam). There are also cultural representations – in musical works, film, theatre and the visual arts - in which Korczak is often depicted as a hero and martyr who fought for children until the very end. This view is justifiable, but commemoration should not be the only goal if his ideas are to live on. The question therefore arises as to what these various projects and activities are or should be about. Working in the spirit of Korczak All these various projects are bound by the same fundamental principles of respect and consideration – or at least, they should be. Korczak renewed his own position – albeit not systematically – and wrote about this vividly and impressively: children have a right to be as they are, they have the right to live their own experiences and must not, should not and cannot
1 See the German Korczak bulletin 1/2003, 3: “The ‘forerunners’ are dying out […] and the younger generation is not filling their places. Even in our own society there are more people leaving than joining.”
be shaped by adults. Among Korczak’s most famous quotations is the following: “I can account for a tradition truth, order, diligence, honesty and openness, but I cannot change any child into something which he or she is not. A beech tree will always be a beech tree, an oak tree an oak, and a burdock a burdock. I can awake that which slumbers in the soul but I cannot create anything new,” (CW, vol. 4, 194). Children have the right to their own experiences, meaning that they must also make their own mistakes and be able to start afresh2. This means looking at children in a way that is open and free from prejudice: observing them, listening to them and taking their joys, fears and needs seriously, having faith in them without losing sight of one’s own views – this is what Korczak demands. We as adults do not have the right to decide what is best for a child just because we are more experienced. But it goes without saying that it is also our duty to share our knowledge with children in a way that also respects their point of view. Obviously this raises its own challenges. But Korczak warns against resorting to simple formulas; he himself constantly re-examined and revised his pedagogical methods3. What mattered to him was to consciously remain critical and watchful: not to blindly put one’s trust in someone (we should not blindly trust him either), but also to think and see for oneself; no book, no doctor can be a substitute for one’s own alert thoughts, one’s own considered observations. “The book, with its own completed formulas, has clouded our judgement and has made our minds sluggish,” he writes. “We are so used to living with borrowed experiences, investigations, points of view that we have mostly lost our self-confidence and no longer want to trust our own eyes” (CW, vol. 4, 24). This, in other words, means that it is our own experiences and thoughts which are important and formative, not those which we unquestioningly absorb from others. Being true to oneself, to children (and to other adults) is after all also key to Korczak’s principles. Considerations for the future To tackle the question how the future will shape up for Korczak, one has to differentiate between what Korczak societies are doing and the practical work being carried out at large. Working along the same lines as Korczak does not mean having contact with Korczak societies. Yet the reverse does not apply: Korczak societies that have no practical relevance can be called into question. ‘Practical relevance’ means not only working alongside children, but also bringing out publications about and by Janusz Korczak, hosting conferences and discussions about current societal themes that relate back to children’s rights and dignity. The figure of Janusz Korczak himself is secondary to putting his teachings into practice. His ideas and concerns that children should be respected for what they are and be treated as people are at the heart of everything (or should be). Korczak’s biography may well be important and can serve as a gateway to his ideas. But getting caught up in Korczak’s martyrdom is exactly what he would not have wanted, namely putting him on a pedestal without giving a thought to what oneself can and should do4. So what can be done? In the practical work
it is the attitude and not the form that matters. So it is not a question of drawing a pretty Korczak, of setting up children’s courts or newspapers or having black boards, but rather of involving children in discussions
, allowing them to have their own
2 This is comparable to the basic principles set out in the statute book for the children’s court (CW, vol.4, 273 ff.)
3 That is one of the reasons why, after a few years, he set up the children’s court at the orphanage. This was a way of allowing youngsters to overrule the judges’ sentences.
4 It goes without saying that Korczak’s moving and tragic life and suffering should be honoured as such.
and to learn from their own mistakes,
and for us to accept them as they are
. As educators we must recognise that we do not have the right of disposal
over children because of our greater experience and that, on the contrary, we should always strive to observe and listen without prejudice
. Making mistakes is not the exclusive privilege of children – adults are not without their flaws, but they should have the honesty
to admit their mistakes to themselves and to others, and learn from them. Korczak does not require one to blindly follow ideas, but to rather to engage critically with new concepts with the aim of constantly revising and adapting one’s own position
. What also could be useful here would be an exchange programme for teachers from different institutions and different regions, to tackle questions such as ‘How can I better respect children?’, ‘What are my limitations?’, ‘How can I deal with these limitations?’. Another possible course of action would be to document examples of his ideals being put into practice
: ‘How can children be respected at school, in the crèche and at home?’, ‘What does this mean in practice?’. The documentation could be made in various formats (books, DVDs, videos), which could then also be used to training purposes. The answers are not so easy to find when it comes to the Korczak societies. The key question here is what exact goals do and can Korczak societies pursue today. All societies undoubtedly aim to make Korczak’s life and works better known5. But what does this mean? And how can this be carried out at a time when members of Korczak societies are getting older and older? One of the problems with Korczak is that his pedagogy is not prescriptive, that he did not, compared with Maria Montessori or Célestin Freinet, develop a methodology that merely needs to be tailored to today’s requirements6. Adapting an attitude is far harder than perfecting a technique. If Korczak societies want to survive, they must deal with the generational change. And this in turn can only be achieved if the ideas of respect and consideration can be communicated in a way that also draws in younger people. The aforementioned ideas of exchanging and documenting Korczak practices could be one way of achieving this. Korczak societies could try to initiate or support such projects. For instance, they could also produce publications that spell out the role of a Korczak institution and explain what sets it apart from other institutions. Lending support to projects such as the summer camp of the Russian Korczak society might also be a way of attracting young people. Just as before, it is still also the role of Korczak societies to support the publication of his works, to finance translations, to encourage the spread of his work, to organise conferences and seminars which seek to tackle contemporary issues from Korczak’s point of view. Naturally, the figure of Korczak can be used as a peg – but there can be no real developments in the short or long-term unless there is also real content in the discussions. Artistic works should also be viewed in this light: the objective should not be to put Korczak on a pedestal – and to leave him standing there. Instead they should whenever possible also relate back to contemporary questions and themes. Happily, Korczak is frequently the chosen topic of seminars, diplomas and research work at universities and colleges. Korczak societies should capitalise on this opportunity by providing material and expertise. Korczak societies are not the only organisations dedicated to protecting children’s rights, so they should work to support initiatives with similar objectives, such as with children’s rights
5 See article 3 of the statute of the Swiss Korczak Society: “To make known the life and work as well as the social and humanitarian activities of the Polish child doctor, psychologist and pedagogue Janusz Korczak”.
6 Freinet and Montessori are also preoccupied with attitudes towards children.
organisations, child protection agencies, groups that seek to promote democracy and anti-
There is also a lot of potential for being active on an international level: Korczak societies
could create a network to facilitate work experience in other cultural environments. One
prerequisite would be the creation of a code of standards for Korczak institutions; this could
be drawn up by the International Korczak Soceity. The Dutch organisation has already made a
start in coordinating international activities; this work could be broadened significantly with
greater coordination and organisation. Such a project could be prepared during an
international conference and then carried out by smaller groups with an allocated budget.
Some of these ideas are already being put into practice, while others might yet see the light of
day. The question of whether Korczak has a future, however, has only been partly answered.
Much depends on whether his ideas can be interpreted in a way that is relevant today and that
attracts younger generations and encourages them to get involved. It this fails, Korczak’s
future looks bleak. It is not a question of erecting more Korczak statues, but rather of putting
his ideas into practice. As a practicing teacher, it is not enough just to be open in one’s
approach to children. For the Korczak societies, this means thinking hard about how to pursue
their goals in future. The aforementioned ideas set out show some possible ways of going
about this. It is high time to deal with Korczak’s future – his ideas deserve to live on, more
than 60 years after their inception.
Janusz Korczak: “Complete Works” (in German). Sixteen volumes, edited by Friedhelm
Beiner and Erich Dauzenroth. Publisher: Gutersloher Verlagshaus 1996.
Swiss Friends of Dr Janusz Korczak Association (1980): Statutes
German Korczak Society, Austrian Janusz Korczak Society, Swiss Korczak Society: Korczak
Gérard Kahn, lic. phil., 1958
Vice-president of the Swiss Korczak Society
e-mail: [email protected] NEWS FROM DEFENCE FOR CHILDREN INTERNATIONAL
‘A Commentary on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child’
Leiden/ Boston; Brill Academic Publishers 2005. ISBN 1574 8626
Specialists on the Rights of Children of the University of Gent (Belgium) and many other
specialists on the Rights of Children ( Jaap Doek, Coby de Graaf, Manfred Nowak, Geraldine
van Bueren, Nigel Cantwell) work on the explanatory note ( commentary) of the UN-
convention on the Rights of the Child.
Starting in October 2005, each month one volume is published on a special topic. The first 6
topics are: The Rights to life, survival and Development; art.6; The right to freedom of
thought, conscience and religion, art.14; The right to health and health services, art.24; The right to education, art. 28; Children in armed conflicts, art 38; and Child Criminal Justice, Art, 40.
More information: www.brill.nl
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