Dream #1: Founder’s Dream
Shining Mountain Center for Peaceful Childhood, Inc. was incorporated in 2007 to serve today’s children and their parents. From its inception, it was dedicated to the work of Janusz Korczak. Later on, in 2013, a small group of volunteers organized Janusz Korczak Association of the USA and slowly but surely, more people in the US learn about Korczak and his timely messages for parents, teachers and many other professionals interested in lives of children.
Why is it that in the US there is so little known about Janusz Korczak? Why don’t our children study about children’s rights and the Convention of the Child? Why are there Montessori Schools and Steiner (Waldorf) Schools all over the United States and there is no Korczak School? Why are his amazing pedagogical ideas, so timely in today’s world, and his plea for children’s rights not embraced by many more people?
Today, I would like to ask you for a favor. Could you imagine with me a place in New York City called Korczak Institute? A small place with his books, story of the orphanage and it’s methods, a place for workshops for parents, a place where children can receive a yearly Korczak Spirit Award and show what they did during the year to deserve it. A place where we could display our beautiful 14 posters exhibit called “Educational Moments” that presents life in the orphanage and the story of Korczak and Stefa.
Or maybe a school, a public, private or charter school that would embrace Korczaks’ ideas and create a caring, cooperative environment for children, parents and teachers working together.
Or if that is not possible, how about a college in New York or New Jersey area which, in their education major would teach courses in Korczak’s approach? There are wonderful curriculums available in Europe and Russia that could be adopted for our future teachers.
Or maybe New York City is ready for a Museum of Education – a place where luminaries such as Montessori, Korczak, Steiner, and Dewey would be honored and people would be able to learn about children’s rights, democratic education and education in general.
We can start small. We can organize exchanges with children from the US going to Korczakowo camp for the summer and in years to come, a place in the US for Polish children to come to the US Korczakowo camp. We can collaborate with Polish Embassy in New York City, with many Polish Saturday Schools in the area and many other Polish and Jewish organizations that would greatly benefit from Korczak’s teachings. We can promote existing projects such as Found Poetry project for the 8th grades in Language Arts that teaches about Korczak and allows students to create amazing poetry and art based on what they have learned.
I am not sure how this dream will manifest and what its final form will be but I know that Korczak always dreamt big and he was able to manifest what he dreamt about. If he was able to manifest a beautiful building for his 100+ orphans at Krochmalna Street in 1912, couldn’t we do the same in this land of the riches in the US?
Thank you for listening and please help us keep this dream alive.
Janusz Korczak Association of the USA
Dream #2: Convention on the Rights of the Child
Janusz Korczak was a strong advocate of the need for a Declaration of Children’s rights long before such documents were drawn up by the Geneva Convention (1924), the United Nations General Assembly (1959) and the Convention of the Rights of the Child (1989). Over the years he came out with his own set of children’s rights. Here is what Betty Lifton was able to compile while writing her beautiful book about Janusz Korczak – The King of Children (used with permission):
The child has the right to love. ( Korczak: “Love the child, not just your own.”)
The child has the right to respect. ( Korczak: “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?”)
The child has the right to optimal conditions in which to grow and develop. ( Korczak: “We demand: do away with hunger, cold, dampness, stench, overcrowding, overpopulation . “)
The child has the right to live in the present. ( Korczak: “Children are not people of tomorrow; they are people today.”)
The child has the right to be himself or herself. ( Korczak: “A child is not a lottery ticket, marked to win the main prize.”)
The child has the right to make mistakes. ( Korczak: “There are no more fools among children than among adults.”)
The child has the right to fail. ( Korczak: “We renounce the deceptive longing for perfect children.”)
The child has the right to be taken seriously. ( Korczak: “Who asks the child for his opinion and consent?”)
The child has the right to be appreciated for what he is. ( Korczak: “The child, being small, has little market value.”)
The child has the right to desire, to claim, to ask. ( Korczak: “As the years pass, the gap between adult demands and children’s desires becomes progressively wider.”)
The child has the right to have secrets. ( Korczak: “Respect their secrets.”)
The child has the right to his possessions and budget. ( Korczak: “Everyone has the right to his property, no matter how insignificant or valueless.”)
The child has the right to education.
The child has the right to resist educational influence that conflicts with his or her own beliefs. ( Korczak: “It is fortunate for mankind that we are unable to force children to yield to assaults upon their common sense and humanity.”)
The child has the right to protest an injustice. ( Korczak: “We must end despotism.”)
The child has the right to a Children’s Court where he can judge and be judged by his peers. ( Korczak: “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.”)
The child has the right to be defended in the juvenile-justice court system. (Korczak: “The delinquent child is still a child . . . Unfortunately, suffering bred of poverty spreads like lice: sadism, crime, uncouthness, and brutality are nurtured on it.”)
The child has the right to respect for his grief. ( Korczak: “Even though it be for the loss of a pebble.”)
The child has the right to commune with God.
The child has the right to die prematurely. ( Korczak: “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.”)
The Convention on the Rights of the Child is an international treaty adopted by the United Nations on November 20, 1989, establishing global standards to ensure the protection, survival, and development of all children, without discrimination.
The Convention was signed by 197 countries, including the United States. The Convention has 54 articles that cover all aspects of a child’s life and explains how adults and governments must work together to make sure children can enjoy their rights. It sets out the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights that all children everywhere are entitled to. It also explains how adults and governments must work together to make sure all children can enjoy all their rights.
The convention has contributed to improving the lives of children in areas such as health care, education, and child labor even in the least developed countries. In 1989 when the convention was adopted, only 4 countries prohibited all forms of corporal punishment, whereas today it is prohibited in 42 countries. It also proved itself valuable in holding governments to clear standards in its treatment of children.
In 2015, Somolia and South Sudan ratified the convention, bringing the total number of countries to 196. We still have a long way to go. The United States remains the only country as part of the United Nations who has yet to ratify the Convention.
One example of how US laws violate the convention is allowing courts to sentence children (defined as being under the age of 18) who have committed crimes to life in prison with no possibility of parole. Another example is exemptions in US child labor laws that allow children as young as 12 to be put to work in agriculture for long hours and under dangerous conditions. This goes against convention’s articles on economic exploitation of children.
Our dream is for the United States to change its laws pertaining to children and ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child in the very near future.
For more information, visit the United Nations Human Rights here.
Dream #3: Found Poetry Poems and Artwork
Over the past few years, Julie Scott, an 8th grade Language Arts teacher in Spokane, WA Middle School has been teaching about Holocaust using a biography of Janusz Korczak and his children. Her students created a meaningful collection of illustrated poems that we would like to either publish in a book, on note cards or in a calendar.
Our Association is looking for a sponsor and the right venue to disseminate this material to teachers, students and parents alike.
To read some of the poems, click here.