Sunday, April 5, 2009

Rearing children Janusz Korczak books on Pedagogy

When will parents begin educating and raising their children,so Henrk asks that unanswerable question. Henryk began tutoring the children of the wealthy and would mesmerize the children, enchanting them with grammar,history, and geography. This tutoring was a cathartic or purging of his own problems and would induce blessed forgetfulness, a tonic for him. His father died at age 52 in 1896 under questionable circumstances. His pedagogic strategy would help children to "see understand and love" as well as to read and write. I will try to access his article the first written "The Gordian Knor" which appeared in the popular illustrated weekly Thorns. The passage on Tworki was staffed by nurses who were Polish Nuns and this indicates that the Catholic Churched staffed many social agencies and medical facilities of that period.

To visit Tworki,
one had to take the Warsaw-Vienna train to the small town of Pruszkow and then hire a
horse and wagon for the remaining two miles over muddy, rutted roads. The nurses
were kindly Polish nuns, but Henryk seems to have been mortified bv the "condescending"
smile of the psychiatrist attending his father. The boy could not understand why
his father couldn't
pull himself together and return home to his family.
Over the years that Jozef was
institutionalized, the medical bills piled up faster than his wife could find
the means to pay them. One by one the paintings and fine china began to
disappear to the pawnshop. Everything that had stood firm in the drawing room
-that spoke of eternity- was now up for sale. Once, Henryk and his sister saw
their father´s cloak in a pawnshop window. It looked so familiar as it hung
there that it might have been in the hall of their apartment waiting for its
owner to come along and take it to the courthouse or on a stroll to the café. They decided to say
nothing to their mother, but to save their pennies and buy it back as a
surprise. But by the time they had scraped together enough money, the coat was
gone. "The pawnshop is life, " Korczak would write. "What you pawn-ideals or honor
for comfort or security-you´ll never retrieve again." He would make it a point
to possess only the essentials, and to arrange life so that he could hold on to
those few things he needed.
In order to help support his family, Henryk began tutoring the
children of wealthy friends and acquaintances. He never forgot the humiliation
of being addressed by some of the mothers in language reserved for servants or
his surprise at seeing himself in many of those overprotected rich boys who were
pale from being indoors all day and flabby from lack of exercise. He soon
devised a technique for putting them at ease. He would arrive with a briefcase
and unpack it slowly, letting them examine each object and ask questions about
it. Then he would mesmerize them with a fairy tale or two before leading them
into less enchanting realms of grammar, history, and geography. He discovered in
the process that he liked working with children-and that he was able to forget
his own anxieties while he concentrated on theirs.

Henryk´s efforts to develop himself as a tutor inspired his first pedagogical article, a feuilleton titled "The Gordian Knot," which was published in the popular illustrated weekly Thorns when he was only eighteen. Writing in the first person, he describes "wandering the world" looking for someone to answer his question: Will the day come when mothers stop thinking about clothes and strolls through the park and fathers about cycling and playing cards and begin raising and educating the children they have turned over to governesses and tutors? The dignified old man to whom he poses this question replies that he has seen the "miracles" of the nineteenth century produce gasoline, electricity, and railroads and people like Edison and Dreyfus, and so surely that day will come, bringing with it a new breed of mothers who will prefer books on pedagogy to the latest novels. After asking the old man precisely when this great day will arrive, the author gives the reader the choice of two endings: that the old man will fall down dead before he can answer, or that he will put out his hand and ask for three rubles.
The fledgling writer was already displaying his penchant for injecting irony and wit into the discussion of serious questions: how to motivate parents to take a leading role in shaping their children´s minds and character, and how to develop a pedagogic strategy that would seize the imagination of adults and help children to " see, understand, and love, as well as to read and write. " Seeing his article in print encouraged the young author to submit more. The editor of Thorns remembered Henryk as a shy young man in a school uniform who would enter the office tentatively, place an unsolicited feuilleton signed Hen on his desk, and leave without a word. Amazed at the talent in those pieces, the editor gave him a special column.
Jozef Goldszmit died at the age of fifty-two on August 25, 1896, under mysterious circumstances-possibly by his own hand. A large procession of colleagues and friends, both Catholics and Jews, representing the publications and philanthropies he had once been associated with, accompanied the immediate family in walking behind the horse-drawn wagon that carried his coffin to the Jewish cemetery. He was buried along the main aisle reserved for the Jewish community´s most prominent citizens. The tombstone, a tall, narrow slab (now riddled with bullets from the fighting that took place in the cemetery during the Warsaw Uprising of 1944), was engraved in Polish rather than Hebrew, as was the custom for many assimilated Jews. It was adorned only with an embossed wreath. Soon after her husband´s death, Henryk´s mother obtained a license from the Board of Education to take in student boarders-a socially accepted solution for widows in her position. Placing a notice in the Israelite, she offered tutoring for those who needed it, but did not specify that it would be done by her eighteen-year-old son, who was now the man in the family.

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