A. S. Makarenko Reference Archive

Lectures to Parents

Lecture 6

One cannot imagine bringing up Soviet children without work. Work has always been the basis for human life, the creator of man's well-being and culture.

In our country, work has ceased to be exploitative. It has become a matter of honor, glory, heroism and valor. Ours is a worker's government and the constitution states that "he who does not work shall not eat."

Let us try to analyze in detail the concept and the meaning of labor in the family.

First, I want to remind parents particularly about the following fact. Your child will be a member of a working society, consequently his significance in that society, his value as a citizen will depend exclusively on his being able to participate in social labor, how well prepared he is for this. On this will depend his material well-being and his welfare.

We know very well that all people are endowed by nature with almost the same work capacity, but that in life one works better than another, some can do only simple jobs, others more complicated and valuable work. These various work qualities were not given by nature but were developed during the course of their lives, particularly in youth.

So preparation for work is preparation:...not only of a good or bad citizen, but also for a future standard of living and wellbeing.

Second, one may work because of need....in the history of man most work has been of this character, necessary to keep from dying of starvation. But even in olden times people tried to be not just man-power but creative power. Under conditions of class inequality and exploitation this was seldom achieved. In the Soviet Union all work must be creative work since it is for the creation of social wealth and culture. To teach children to work creatively - that is the task of the educator.

Creative work is possible only when man approaches it with love, consciously sees joy in it, understands its use and necessity, when work becomes for him a basic form of expression of his personality and talents. Such a relation to work is only possible when one has learned to work intensively, when no labor seems unpleasant if it makes sense.

Creative work is completely impossible for people who approach work with fear of exertion, of sweat, who stop to consider every step to see how soon they can get away from work and start something else.

Third, for man-power, not only a good worker but also a good comrade is needed. That is, a good relationship with other people must be developed - this will be real moral preparation. The man who tries to shirk, who uses the fruits of other's labor...is immoral in Soviet society. On the contrary, mutual work in the collective, constant helpfulness, is the only way one can create correct relations among people.....

Fourth, it is wrong to think that only muscular qualities sight, touch, manual skills - are to be developed....The physical element is necessary, of course....But it is spiritual development which gives rise to harmonious labor and should be characteristic of Soviet man, that which distinguishes the citizen of a classless society from the citizen of a class society.

Fifth, work has not only social-productive significance, it has also great significance for the life of the individual. We know how much more cheerfully and happily people live who know how to do many things, who succeed at everything, are not defeated by any obstacles and know how to master situations. On the contrary, we are sorry for those people for whom even the smallest difficulty becomes an impasse, who cannot look after themselves and always need a nurse. They live under uncomfortable conditions, disorganized and messy, if no one helps them......

It is incorrect to think that by work we mean only physical labor. With the development of machine production physical labor is gradually losing its importance. The Soviet government is trying to eliminate heavy physical work. We see this in construction of brick houses, in our factories....A real creative worker, a Stakhanovite, owes success least of all to his muscles. He organizes his success, adopts new methods...tools...new devices...

There should be no essential difference in Soviet training between physical and mental work. In both, the organization of manpower is most important, its real human aspect.

In work education, some task should be given the child that he can accomplish by using one method or another. This need not be completed in a short space of time but may take a month or even years. It is important that the child have freedom in choice of means and be responsible for fulfilling the job and for its quality. It is of little use to say, "Here is the broom, sweep the room this way." Better to entrust the child with the task of keeping the room clean, let him decide how to do it. In the first case you are giving only a physical task; in the second, there is need for organization, thought. The more complicated and independent the task, the better from the pedagogic point of view...

Participation in the work of the family must begin at a very young age....Of course, the child must not be over-burdened with work - the work-load of parents and child should be very different....if there is a domestic worker in the home, children must by all means be accustomed to helping her. Parents must see that the houseworker does not do jobs which the children could and should do. (If mother and father are doing the work, enlist the children. )

Remember that when children are studying in school they are rather heavily burdened with homework. Of course, this must be considered very important and take first place. Children must be helped to understand that in school they are carrying out not only an individual but a social function and that they answer for success in school work not only to their parents but to society as a whole. On the other hand, it is wrong to let school work become so important that everything else is brushed aside. Separating children from the life and work of the family collective is dangerous. An atmosphere of collectivism, of mutual help, must always permeate family life....

The child should learn to carry out even tasks which seem boring to him at the moment, to understand that the important thing is not the entertaining quality of the work but its use, its necessity. Parents should develop patience and the ability to carry through unpleasant jobs without whimpering. According to the child's growth, if the social value of the work is clear to him, even unpleasant work will bring him joy.

If there is not enough interest or necessity to arouse the child's desire to work one may apply the method of request. A request...offers the child free choice...It should be made so that it seems to the child that he is fulfilling the request because of his own good will, not pushed into it....It is best to use the method of request only when you know that the child will willingly fulfill it....

It is true that in our country exploitation of man by man in production is impossible...0ur children must be brought up so that no taste for exploitation will be developed in them at home... Parents must be careful to see that an older brother does not use the labor of a younger except in mutual work so that there can be no work inequalities at home.

Now as to the quality of work. Demand the highest quality of work which it is possible for the child to achieve with his strength and understanding.

Do not scold or punish a child for bad work. Only say simply and quietly that the work has not been satisfactorily done, that it must be done over or corrected....We do not recommend either encouragement or punishment for work. The solution of a work-problem should give the child satisfaction...The consciousness of work well done should be enough reward. Your approval of his inventiveness and resourcefulness must be enough recompense. But be careful not to overdo your approval. Do not praise the child for his work in front of your friends or acquaintances....It is not necessary to punish a child for bad work or work incompleted. It is most important in such a case to see to it that the work is nevertheless completed.