Sunday, December 5, 2021

Hiam Ginott, and a Quote

Why do I remember my mother reading a book called Between Parent and Child by Hiam Ginott? Probably because of his name, which would have been unusual to me at the time. 

I think now she must have heard about it from the Today Show, where he was the resident psychologist. At some point in the late ’60s she started having that show on in the morning after we went to school and in the summer. (I mostly remember the Alpo dog food ads, and that Hugh Downs was the host.) Ginott's book came out in 1965.

How much did it influence her parenting? I know she had also read Benjamin Spock's Baby and Child Care, earlier. I have a feeling she was looking to Ginott to help deal with the four of us as preteens and teenagers.

This came to mind because I saw a quote from Ginott about education a few days ago that's relevant now (and always). 

It's from his later book Teacher and Child (1972), where he describes a letter sent from a school principal to every teacher at the beginning of each academic year:

Dear Teacher,

I am a survivor of a concentration camp. My eyes saw what no man should witness. Gas chambers built by learned engineers, children poisoned by educated physicians; infants killed by trained nurses, women and babies shot and burned by high school and college graduates. So, I am suspicious of education.

My request is: help your students become human. Your efforts must never produce monsters, skilled psychopaths, educated Eichmann’s. Reading, writing and arithmetic are important only if they serve to make our children more humane.

I haven't read Between Parent and Child or anything else by Ginott, but he sounds like a humane and helpful thinker. He died very prematurely at age 51 in 1973.

Thank you, mom, for being influenced by humane parenting advisers, and being the kind of person who looked for that kind of advice in the first place.


Looking up the quote (and as I first saw it displayed), it's generally said that Ginott himself is a concentration camp survivor, but that does not appear to be the case. He was born in Tel Aviv and there's no mention of his interment, whether on his Wikipedia page or the site that exists in his own name.

I'm sure the book makes the source of the quote clear. Best I can tell from the interweb, it's as I describe it here. 

1 comment:

Michael Leddy said...

A great statement on education. And what a difference from “college-ready, workplace-ready” — people to fill slots.

I recognized his name right away and think he must have had a column in a “women's magazine” at some point (I read everything that came into the house when I was a kid). His Wikipedia bio mentions only a newspaper column. But we were a NYT family; I wouldn’t seen a newspaper column.