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?
Janusz Korczak, The child’s right to respect, 1929.
Janusz Korczak (1878 – 1942) was a Polish pediatrician and philosopher, who, early last century, established two orphanages in which he created a form of governance in which children played key roles. His educational ideas were based on his belief that children should be respected and listened to, rather than shaped and trained to according to the wants of adults. In the orphanages children operated a "parliament," held court, and published a newspaper that was distributed as a supplement to a daily with a circulation of 60,000 copies in 1926.
His books How to Love a Child and The Child´s Right to Respect provided teachers and parents with new insights into child psychology. He also wrote books for children such as the classic King Matt the First, which tells of the adventures and tribulations of a boy king who aspires to bring reforms.
As a children's advocate, Janusz Korczak spoke of the need for a Declaration of Children's Rights long before any such document was drawn up by the Geneva Convention or the United Nations General Assembly. Here is a link that compiles the rights Korczak envisaged as most important for children.
Janusz Korczak was killed in 1942 by the Nazis, during the Holocaust, together with the children he cared for.
More information is being made available on the internet about Korczak, however, his writings are only partly accessible online. Let us hope more of his writings will be downloadable from the internet in the future.