Setting up a children's court was a challenging task,to say the least. The boys had no concept of what a legal suit entailed or its being more perilous than punching one's opponent in the nose.Chosing judges was random and the boys had not the patience to wait for Korczak. The judges were eventually chosen ,note the pinecone case where the judges were not so lenient.Children's courts in Poland had early experiments at the end of the eighteenth century:
- The National Commission of Education (the first such ministry in Europe) had recommended "Courts of Arbitration" in which students could settle their own arguments - punishments included not being allowed to wear one´s sword with a senior uniform during holy days - but the courts were in operation for only a short period after the partitions. (QUOTE)
Courts of Arbitration were rediscovered by Bronislaw Trentowski and predicated their success on judgment by one's equals.Korczak's court had not made much progress by the end of the camp.
He also tried out a system in which, once a week, the boys were to grade
their own and each other>> s conduct, rather than being graded by their
counselor. When Korczak asked everyone what grades they thought they deserved-on
a scale from one to five-some tried to be honest, but Mort, who had thrown
stones at the camp"s dog, demanded a five. The other boys decided he could get a
five only if the dog forgave him. But how could they know?
"The dog is on a
chain, so Mort should go up to him with a piece of meat," one said. "If the dog
takes the meat instead of biting him, it means he is willing to forgive and
Everyone agreed it was a fine plan. Luckily for Mort, the dog was
in a "wonderful" mood. it wagged its tail as he approached, and took the meat
from him. Satisfied that the dog had forgiven him, the boys gave Mort a five.
But Mort felt guilty.. The next day he asked for a lower number.
a children´s court was to prove a more difficult challenge. While still a child,
Korczak may well have imagined himself going off to court to defend
workers>> rights, as his father had; he may have heard his father complain
about the injustices of the legal system. Now he had a chance to create a
children>>s court in which there would be true justice: a boy who was
pestered by a bully could sue him, and other boys, acting as judges, would
decide the case. He expected the campers to be as enthusiastic as he was about
their court of peers, but it didn´t turn out that way. They couldn´t grasp the
concept that suing someone was more effective than punching him in the nose, and
they didn>>t like tattling on each other. It wasn´t until Korczak himself
sued some rule breakers that the court could begin to function.
judges was a random process at first. Korczak announced that anyone who wanted
to be a judge should meet on the veranda at 1 p.m. He was deliberately half an
hour late, and most of the boys had wandered off by the time he arrived. The
ones who had the patience to remain became the judges.
Civil and criminal
cases were heard once a week on the veranda or in a clearing in the forest. One
counselor acted as prosecutor, another as defense lawyer, and three campers as
judges. The most serious infractions were: going alone into the woods
("Forbidden because a bull might attack you") and not responding to bells ("We
cannot go out and drag everyone by the nose to the table´").
In the Case of
Picking Flowers, two boys charged with being late to breakfast after they
wandered off to pick flowers, were acquitted because it was taken into account
that they did not have such an opportunity in the city, and it was their first
offense. The judges were not so lenient in the Pinecone Case because Fishbein
showed no remorse over throwing pinecones with small stones in them at another
boy. The prosecutor had a difficult time getting him to admit his motive."Why
did you do it?""Because i had a lot of pinecones and didn´t know what to do with
them.""Why didn´t you throw them away?""Because it would have been
wasteful."This got a laugh from the spectators. "Are you sure there weren´t
small stones among the pinecones?" "I don´t know."Because Fishbein was one of
the younger boys, he was sentenced to only ten minutes of detention.
carefully recorded the trials and the children´s response. He was improvising as
he went along, though he must have been familiar with the early experiments in
children´s courts in Poland at the end of the eighteenth century. The National
Commission of Education (the first such ministry in Europe) had recommended
"Courts of Arbitration" in which students could settle their own arguments -
punishments included not being allowed to wear one´s sword with a senior uniform
during holy days - but the courts were in operation for only a short period
after the partitions. It took a half century before the famous educator
Bronislaw Trentowski rediscovered them: "If any one of your students breaks the
rules, get some pupils of his own age to judge him. Everyone wants to be judged
by his equals. Kings by kings, scientists by scientists, and children by
children. The verdict will infuriate him less than if it comes from you, and
will exert a greater influence." Trentowski´s court was short-lived like those
earlier ones, and, in truth, Korczak´s court had not made much progress by the
end of the camp season