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    Insights on Childhood

    January 27, 2015

    Friedrich Froebel

    Protect the new generation; do not let them grow up into emptiness and nothingness, to the avoidance of good hard work, to introspection and analysis without deeds, or to mechanical actions without thought and consideration. Guide them away from the harmful chase after outer things and the damaging passion for distraction.…I would educate human beings who stand with their feet rooted in God’s earth, whose heads reach even into heaven and there behold truth, in whose hearts are united both earth and heaven.

    Friedrich Froebel, who created the concept (and the name) of the kindergarten, was a nineteenth-century German educator. He emphasized the value of teaching the “whole child” through active play, creativity, music, art, and hands-on learning. With his unique ability to interpret life through a child’s experience, he paved the way for many successful efforts in education today, influencing John Dewey, Maria ­Montessori, and the Waldorf movement. This quote is from his book The Education of Man.

    Janusz Korczak

    How can we assure a child’s life in the future, if we have not yet learned how to live consciously and responsibly in the present? Do not trample, hold in contempt, or sell the future into bondage. Do not stifle it, rush, or force it. Respect every single moment, as it will pass and will never again be repeated. After all, when tomorrow finally does arrive, we start waiting for the next tomorrow.

    Janusz Korczak (1878–1942) was a Polish-Jewish teacher and doctor whose selfless devotion to orphans in the Warsaw Ghetto earned him the title “King of Children.” In 1942, as the two hundred orphans under his care were loaded onto trains headed for the gas chambers of Treblinka, Korczak chose to accompany his charges on the ride that carried them to their deaths. This excerpt is from Loving Every Child: Wisdom for Parents (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2007).

    boy in field Victor Borisov Musatov, Boy Seated

    Rachel Carson

    What is the value of preserving and strengthening the sense of awe and wonder, this recognition of something beyond the boundaries of human existence? Is the exploration of the natural world just a pleasant way to pass the golden hours of childhood or is there something deeper? I am sure there is something much deeper, something lasting and significant. Those who dwell, as scientists or laymen, among the beauties and mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life. Whatever the vexations or concerns of their personal lives, their thoughts can find paths that lead to inner contentment and to renewed excitement in living.…There is symbolic as well as actual beauty in the migration of the birds, the ebb and flow of the tides, the folded bud ready for the spring. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature – the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after the winter.

    Rachel Carson (1907–1964) may be best known for her 1962 book Silent Spring, which helped launch the environmental movement. But her legacy to children is The Sense of Wonder, a celebration of earth’s beauty. This excerpt is from her book The Sense of Wonder (Harper & Row, 1956).

    Mary McLeod Bethune

    Our children must never lose their zeal for building a better world. They must not be discouraged from aspiring toward greatness, for they are to be the leaders of tomorrow. Nor must they forget that the masses of our people are still underprivileged, ill-housed, impoverished, and victimized by discrimination. We have a powerful potential in our youth, and we must have the courage to change old ideas and practices so that we may direct their power toward good ends.

    Mary McLeod Bethune (1875–1955), an educator and activist, was president of the National Association of Colored Women, founder of the National Council of Negro Women, and special advisor to President Roosevelt on minority affairs. This quote is from the article “My Last Will and Testament” (Ebony Magazine, 1955).