CYC-Online 64 MAY 2004
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Janusz Korczak’s Declaration of Children's Rights

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 (Korczak: 1924) or the United Nations General Assembly (Korczak: 1959). The Declaration he envisaged – not a plea for good will but a demand for action – was left uncompleted at the time of his death. Culling through: How to Love a Child, The Child's Right to Respect, and other works, Betty Jean Lifton compiled the rights that Korczak considered most essential:

If a person didn't have a single chance as a child to pick out the raisins in a cake and pinch them a bit in secret, then he isn't honest; he won't be honest when his character has been formed. – Janusz Korczak

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 “a lie, a deception, a theft”.
(Korczak: “He does not have the right to lie, deceive, steal.”)

The child has the right to respect for 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.”)

This feature: Lifton, B.J. (1988) The King of Children: A biography of Janusz Korczak. New York: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux

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