On November 20th, all over the world, governments, children’s organizations, and Janusz Korczak Associations are preparing to celebrate the signing of the Convention on the Rights of the Child that took place in Geneva in 1989. Currently, 197 countries have signed the document and all except the United States have ratified it.
The International Korczak Association gathering will take place this year in Tel Aviv, Israel, from November 26th-28th, and will focus on Korczak’s Educational Legacy and Children’s Rights.
In the US, Korczak Association is planning activities with Polish organizations and Polish Saturday schools as well as public schools in the New York area. If you are planning to have an event in your area, please let us know about it by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Before the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1989 and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, there was yet another declaration, the Declaration of the Rights of the Child in 1924, adopted by the League of Nations. That declaration would probably have taken many more years to become a reality were it not for Janusz Korczak, children’s advocate, who in the early 1920’s demanded action on behalf of children.
Betty Jean Lifton, in her beautiful biography of Janusz Korczak, The King of Children, published in the US in 1988 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux Publishers, compiled the rights that Korczak considered to be the most essential and which formed the basis for his orphanages and camps in Poland from 1912 till 1942.
The child has the right to love.
“Love the child, not just your own.” – Korczak
The child has the right to respect.
“Let us demand respect for shining eyes, smooth foreheads, youthful effort and confidence. Why should dulled eyes, a wrinkled brow, untidy gray hair, or tired resignation command greater respect?” – Korczak
The child has the right to optimal conditions in which to grow and develop.
“We demand: do away with hunger, cold, dampness, stench, overcrowding, overpopulation.” – Korczak
The child has the right to live in the present.
“Children are not people of tomorrow; they are people today.” – Korczak
The child has the right to be himself or herself.
“A child is not a lottery ticket, marked to win the main prize.” – Korczak
The child has the right to make mistakes.
“There are no more fools among children than among adults.”– Korczak
The child has the right to fail.
“We renounce the deceptive longing for perfect children.” – Korczak
The child has the right to be taken seriously.
“Who asks the child for his opinion and consent?” – Korczak
The child has the right to be appreciated for what he is.
“The child, being small, has little market value.” – Korczak
The child has the right to desire, to claim, to ask.
“As the years pass, the gap between adult demands and children’s desires becomes progressively wider.” – Korczak
The child has the right to have secrets.
“Respect their secrets.” – Korczak
The child has the right to “a lie, a deception, a theft.”
“He does not have the right to lie, deceive, steal.” – Korczak
The child has the right to respect for his possessions and budget.
“Everyone has the right to his property, no matter how insignificant or valueless.” – Korczak
The child has the right to education.
The child has the right to resist educational influence that conflicts with his or her own beliefs.
“It is fortunate for mankind that we are unable to force children to yield to assaults upon their common sense and humanity.” – Korczak
The child has the right to protest an injustice.
“We must end despotism.” – Korczak
The child has the right to a Children’s Court where he can judge and be judged by his peers.
“We are the sole judges of the child’s actions, movements, thoughts, and plans . . . I know that a Children’s Court is essential, that in fifty years there will not be a single school, not a single institution without one.” – Korczak
The child has the right to be defended in the juvenile-justice court system.
“The delinquent child is still a child . . . Unfortunately, suffering bred of poverty spreads like lice: sadism, crime, uncouthness, and brutality are nurtured on it.” – Korczak
The child has the right to respect for his grief.
“Even though it be for the loss of a pebble.” – Korczak
The child has the right to commune with God.
The child has the right to die prematurely.
“The mother’s profound love for her child must give him the right to premature death, to ending his life cycle in only one or two springs . . .
Not every bush grows into a tree.” – Korczak
Let us know what you are planning to do this year and please DONATE generously to make this year’s celebrations in the USA a great success.