When I Am Little Again ; And, The Child's Right to Respect
These two works belong to that group of books written by one of this century's fiercest and most devoted child advocates. In the first, Korczak uses fiction to reveal the joys and sorrows of a child, a ten-year-old, juxtaposing them against the feelings of an adult as they both react to two days of adventure spent together. Two prominent themes in his writing are the exploration of the place of children in an adult world and the examination of the treatment and regard children are accorded in that world. In his second book, Korczak spells out his 'Magna Charta Libertatis' in defense of the child's right to respect, right to be him or herself, and, most importantly, right to respect for the strenuous effort expended in the process of 'growing up.'
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A Great Humanitarian Speaks Out for the Child without a Voice
While the two essays in this book are not Korczak's most famous writings (that honor would probably go to King Matt, How to Love a Child, and The Ghetto Diary), they are probably the most representative of the Polish pediatrician, educator, and writer. More than anywhere else, one gains an understanding of the extant of this man's empathy for children and his ardent fight for children's rights.
Published in 1925, When I Am Little Again, is Korczak's description how he is able to relate to children on their terms, first imagining himself being little among the adults in his life and then himself as the adult and his peers as children, a feat of literary philosophy that has never been replicated with the skill that Korczak has shown. Korczak also devoted special attention to the relationships among the children, both their compassion and their malice (and how the two polar opposites could seemingly coexist). He has succeeded in showing both how adults view children and how children view adults.
In The Child's Rights to Respect, Korczak shows how he is aware of the plight of children even when he, himself, was a child, and carried this memory into adulthood for the rest of his life. He went on at length to explain how adults used their power to control children, never taking into account their feelings, lacking confidence in their ability to reason, make decisions, and accomplish noble deeds. The relationship between adults and children has nearly always been characterized as resentment and distrust.
Toward the end of this groundbreaking essay, Korczak stated that although many adults feel that the world would be much more convenient without children, "they are and they will be.... Children account for a large proportion of mankind, a sizeeable portion of the population, of the nation, residents, citizens - constant companions. Children have been, are, and they will be. He then defined the title of the essay, what exactly is the child's right to respect. Children have a right to be understood. They have a right to learn, to have their efforts recognized and be forgiven for mistakes. A right to responsibility. They have a right to their possessions. In other words, children have the right to be themselves, to have and state their feelings and opinions - and for these to be taken seriously by adults. They have a right to a safe, loving home, caring teachers. Yet, "politicians and law makers ... deliberate and make decisions about the child, too; but who asks the child for his opinion and consent; what can he possibly have to say?" Fortunately, at least the United Nations was listening, when it enacted the final version of the Convention of the Rights of the Child, enabling the spirit of this great man to live on.