Liberal theoreticians of education usually concentrate on the individual experience of growing up, and analyze it as a psychological process. But socialization is a key element of growing up, and it is by definition a social process. Much of growing up is about togetherness: the peer experience of discovering the horror of the world, and the unique bonding resulting in sharing that experience. The social potential of growing up together was – and sometimes still is — used by totalitarian and dictatorial systems to create a bonded peer group which will be the spearhead of the movement. From Hitlerjugend through Komsomol to the youth of ISIS, this remains a uniquely powerful instrument of simultaneous liberation and subjugation.
Konstanty Gebert is an international reporter and columnist at Gazeta Wyborcza, Poland’s biggest daily. He was a democratic opposition activist in the 1970s, when he was also an organizer of the Jewish Flying University, and an underground journalist in the 1980s under martial law. He is the founder of the Polish Jewish intellectual monthly Midrasz, and a board member of the Taube Centre for the Renewal of Jewish Life in Poland. He has taught in Poland, Israel, and the US and has authored ten books, e.g. on the Polish democratic transformation and on French policy toward Poland, the Yugoslav wars and the wars of Israel, Torah commentary and post-war Polish Jewry. His essays have appeared in two dozen collective works in Poland and abroad, and his articles in newspapers around the world.