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Carl Jung on the “Gifted Child.”

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Development of Personality

[Carl Jung on the “Gifted Child.”]

It therefore seems to me better to educate the gifted child along with the other children in a normal class, and not to underline his exceptional position by transferring him to a special class.

When all is said and done, school is a part of the great world and contains in miniature all those factors which the child will encounter in later life and with which he will have to come to terms.

Some at least of this necessary adaptation can and should be learnt at school.

Occasional clashes are not a catastrophe.

Misunderstanding is fatal only when chronic, or when the child’s sensitivity is unusually acute and there is no possibility of finding another teacher.

hat often brings favourable results, but only when the cause of the trouble really does lie with the teacher.

This is by no means the rule, for in many cases the teacher has to suffer for the ruin wrought by the child’s upbringing at home. Far too often parents who were unable to
fulfil their own ambitions embody them in their gifted child, whom they either pamper or else whip up into a showpiece, sometimes very much to his detriment in later years, as is sufficiently evident from the lives of certain infant prodigies.

A powerful talent, and especially the Danaan gift of genius, is a fateful factor that throws its shadow early before.

The genius will come through despite everything, for there is something absolute and indomitable in his nature.

The so-called “misunderstood genius” is rather a doubtful phenomenon.

Generally he turns out to be a good-for-nothing who is forever seeking a soothing explanation of himself.

Once, in my professional capacity, I was forced to confront a “genius” of this type with the alternative: “Or perhaps you are nothing but a lazy hound?”

It was not long before we found ourselves in whole-hearted agreement on this point.

Talent, on the other hand, can either be hampered, crippled, and perverted, or fostered, developed, and improved.

The genius is as rare a bird as the phoenix, an apparition not to be counted upon.

Consciously or unconsciously, genius is something that by God’s grace is there from the start, in full strength.

But talent is a statistical regularity and does not always have a dynamism to match.

Like genius, it is exceedingly diverse in its forms, giving rise to individual differentiations which the educator ought not to overlook; for a differentiated personality, or one capable of differentiation, is of the utmost value to the community.

The levelling down of the masses through suppression of the aristocratic or hierarchical structure natural to a community is bound, sooner or later, to lead to disaster.

For, when everything outstanding is levelled down, the signposts are lost, and the longing to be led becomes an urgent necessity.

Human leadership being fallible, the leader himself has always been, and always will be, subject to the great symbolical principles, even as the individual cannot give his life
point and meaning unless he puts his ego at the service of a spiritual authority superordinate to man.

The need to do this arises from the fact that the ego never constitutes the whole of a man, but only the conscious part of him.

The unconscious part, of unlimited extent, alone can complete him and make him a real totality.

Biologically speaking, the gifted person is a deviation from the mean, and in so far as Lao-tzu’s remark that “high stands on low” is one of the eternal verities, this deviation takes place simultaneously in the heights and depths of the same individual.

This produces a tension of opposites in him, which in its turn tempers and intensifies his personality.

Like the still waters, the gifted child runs deep. His danger lies not only in deviating from the norm, however favourable this may appear to be, but even more in that inner polarity which predisposes to conflict.

Therefore, instead of segregation in special classes, the personal interest and attention of the teacher are likely to be more beneficial.

Although the institution of a trained school psychiatrist is thoroughly to be recommended and need not be a mere concession to the craze for what is technically right, I would say, in the light of my own experience, that an understanding heart is everything in a teacher, and cannot be esteemed highly enough.

One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings.

The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child.

Because there are, among the other pupils, gifted and highly strung natures which ought not to be hemmed in and stifled, the school curriculum should for that very reason never wander too far from the humanities into over specialized fields.

The coming generation should at least be shown the doors that lead to the many different departments of life and the mind.

And it seems to me especially important for any broad-based culture to have a regard for history in the widest sense of the word.

Important as it is to pay attention to what is practical and useful, and to consider the future, that backward glance at the past is just as important.

Culture means continuity, not a tearing up of roots through “progress.”

For the gifted child in particular, a balanced education is essential as a measure of psychic hygiene.

As I have said, his gift is one-sided and is almost always offset by some childish immaturity in other regions of the psyche.

Childhood, however, is a state of the past. Just as the developing embryo recapitulates, in a sense, our phylogenetic history, so the child psyche relives “the lesson of earlier humanity,” as Nietzsche called it.

The child lives in a pre-rational and above all in a prescientific world, the world of the men who existed before us.

Our roots lie in that world and every child grows from those roots.

Maturity bears him away from his roots and immaturity binds him to them.

Knowledge of the universal origins builds the bridge between the lost and abandoned world of the past and the still largely inconceivable world of the future.

How should we lay hold of the future, how should we assimilate it, unless we are in possession of the human experience which the past has bequeathed to us?

Dispossessed of this, we are without root and without perspective, defenseless dupes of whatever novelties the future may bring.

A purely technical and practical education is no safeguard against delusion and has nothing to oppose to the counterfeit.

It lacks the culture whose innermost law is the continuity of history, the long procession of man’s more than individual consciousness.

This continuity which reconciles all opposites also heals the conflicts that threaten the gifted child.

Anything new should always be questioned and tested with caution, for it may very easily turn out to be only a new disease.

That is why true progress is impossible without mature judgment.

But a well-balanced judgment requires a firm standpoint, and this in turn can only rest on a sound knowledge of what has been.

The man who is unconscious of the historical context and lets slip his link with the past is in constant danger of succumbing to the crazes and delusions engendered by all novelties.

It is the tragedy of all innovators that they empty out the baby with the bath-water. Though the mania for novelty is not, thank heavens, the national vice of the Swiss, we live nevertheless in a wider world that is being shaken by strange fevers of renewal.

In face of this frightening and grandiose spectacle, steadiness is demanded of our young men as never before, firstly for the stability of our country, and secondly for the sake of European civilization, which has nothing to gain if the achievements of the Christian past are wiped out.

The gifted ones, however, are the torch-bearers, chosen for that high office by nature herself. Carl Jung, The Development of Personality, Pages 142-145.