Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Upbringing: what to read?

I'll give you five

This morning, Norman Perrin wrote –
Good morning Andrew
This morning's Telegraph has a piece 'Best brain science books from Daniel Dennett to Oliver Sacks Five of the best books about neuroscience, psychiatry and the brain, as selected by Tom Chivers.'
It led also to some interesting-looking further suggestions in the comments.
The piece prompted me to wonder what 5 books you might recommend to the common reader, such as myself for instance, with a strong interest in conductive education/upbringing --  given the impossibility of assembling 5 books about CE.
Sometimes, Norman, I think that in CE all readers are uncommon.

I do not know what student-conductors are expected to read nowadays, anywhere, to introduce them to questions of upbringing. I can offer the sort of things that I used suggest when I was involved in conductor-training.
  • Kick off with Urie Bronfenbrenner's little book Two world of childhood: USA and USSR. There are plenty of copies floating around on the Internet. Don't pay more than a couple of quid. Go for the Penguin edition: it's prettier. You may also find copies in local second-hand bookshops. No educated person with a view on fundamental questions of how to bring up children should have failed to have read and considered this (a good test, this!)
  • Go on to the first volume of A. S. Makarenko's Road to life. A pedagogic poem. An epic of education. A rollocking good read, and a fundamental text in the story of twentieth-century education. Again, there are lots of copies available on line. You might find yourself owning one in a nice old Soviet binding (nice smell too!).
  • For the next generation in this line of thinking go to V. A. Sukhomlinskii [Sukhomlinsky]. You can make a start through a free (yes, free) e-book of Each one must shine: the educational legacy of V. A. Sukhomlonsky, by Alan Cockerill, at And you can go on to splash out from there on Sukhomlinsii's own  I give my life to children. As the titles imply, these are rather less rollicking...
Yes, a rather Soviet-oriented selection but I do not think that many Anglo-American writers on upbringing will give you are looking for. Anyway, of the three listed above, one is a critical comparative text from the United States and I see that the other two are now being hailed in their homeland as great works of Ukranian education.

You asked for five and so far I have offered only three. If you want something from the Jewish tradition, from Poland, dive into Janusz Korczak, of whom English-speakers seem diagracefully to have heard next to nothing (just like for the most part they have never heard of pedagogy!). And for someone who has been influential in French-speaking CE (that's 'EC' of course), dig into Françoise Dolto – rather  too psychoanalytic (and too French) for my personal taste, but bearing a bracingly refeshing message about saying No.

How's that for starters?

You can find plenty more of course on all the above books, and on the people who originated these ideas and their related practices, as well as further reading, on the Internet


And yes, go easy on that 'brain-science' stuff!


  1. It is late, long past my bed time, but I wanted to leave you a comment and a thank you for this posting.

    Perhaps a little snippet or two might encourage a few more people to become CE readers.

    About Janusz Korczak:

    "In the orphanage, Korczak studied the secret depths of the child’s soul, and it was in the orphanage that he made practical application of his educational ideas. Korczak called for an understanding of the emotional life of children and urged that children be respected.

    A child was not be regarded as something to be shaped and trained to suit adults, but rather as someone whose soul was rich in perception and ideas, who should be observed and listened to within his or her own autonomous sphere.

    Every child he maintained has to be dealt with as an individual whose inclinations and ambitions, and the conditions under which he or she is growing up, require understanding."

    Encyclopedia of the Holocaust. Macmillan Publishing Company, New York, 1990

    In The Warsaw Ghetto – The Memoirs of Stanislaw Adler, published by Yad Vashem, Jerusalem 1982

    The Warsaw Diary of Adam Czerniakow

    And from Sukhomlinsky:

    "Children's spiritual life, their outlook, their intellectual development, the soundness of their knowledge, their faith in themselves, all depend on their joy in life and their energy."

    That last bit describes well what was happening in my work today and most days with the children, there was certainly much joy and energy, and faith around us this afternoon.


  2. Andrew, you ask “What about the others?”.
    I had no time to mention more when I wrote the last comment, but you can read about my enthusiasm for Makarenko, and my enthusiasm for his methods of upbringing on my blog.

    And also coming soon will be what I think of Bronfenbrenner, when I have finished reading "The Two Worlds of Childhood".