The boy who knew too much: a child prodigy

This is the true story of scientific child prodigy, and former baby genius, Ainan Celeste Cawley, written by his father. It is the true story, too, of his gifted brothers and of all the Cawley family. I write also of child prodigy and genius in general: what it is, and how it is so often neglected in the modern world. As a society, we so often fail those we should most hope to see succeed: our gifted children and the gifted adults they become. Site Copyright: Valentine Cawley, 2006 +

Friday, October 13, 2006

Education: what education? Teachers who can't.

Last night my wife complained to me: "Ainan's grammar is no good."

This was a little bit of a surprise to me but, sure enough, there on the book in front of her, crafted in Ainan's handwriting, were the red corrective markings of his teacher.

Curious, I took the book from her and had a look at what the teacher had written. As I read, I found myself unable to understand her use of tense. She had "corrected" his work, which had all been written in the past tense, into a nonsensical mixture of present and past perfect, which in the context had no meaning at all. Quite simply, the teacher was writing rubbish. It was not Ainan Celeste Cawley whose grammar was dodgy, it was his teacher's.

If I had not already become tired of the state of education in the world, I would have been angry at this. How can a child learn when the teacher does not know? This is a universal problem for all children, everywhere: if your teacher is ignorant, so, too, will you be. However, the problem is more severe for gifted children and, in particular, prodigies, or child geniuses. For they may know more than their teacher already. The teacher is, therefore, clearly unable to teach the student anything, which, in itself is of concern - but there is a greater concern, for if the teacher knows less than the student, and "corrects" work that is actually correct, in every way, already, then the teacher is creating confusion in the student. The teacher is teaching the student to be as ignorant as the teacher is.

Ainan is already bored by the lack of stimulation at school - am I to tell him too that his teacher doesn't know what she is talking about? I didn't...for now: but perhaps I should, for otherwise I give her the power not to teach him, but unteach him. Without a proper perspective on the situation, she may succeed in confusing him as to what English grammar is all about. I wonder what his other teachers may be instilling in him: more ignorance?

(For more on Ainan Celeste Cawley, six, a scientific child prodigy, and his gifted brothers, go to: )

AddThis Social Bookmark Button
posted by Valentine Cawley @ 3:11 PM 


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, the poor kid. Its only my opinion, but I hope you do tell him.

Man. If only my parents had told me when I was a child to think for myself, to hold EVERYONE to rules of logic, (if only they had introduced me to logic) if they had reminded me and ingraned into me to keep in mind that ANYONE can be wrong about ANYTHING, Id be much better off. It wasnt just random school cirriculum items like grammar rules I became confused about.

Because I didnt use scrutiny on authority figures as a child, I learned to doubt myself. I think if a child is told they are wrong when they are right too many times, they may learn to doubt themselves. I dont remember exactly how it happened, but I doubted my own memory. I doubted my judgement. After a while, I became mushy headed and believed anything anyone told me. Whenever someone disagreed with me, I automatically assumed that I was the one who was wrong.

I learned to be so docile that I let selfish people trample my feelings, and I thought that was normal. Not only did I think it was normal, but I learned to loathe my own feelings, because they were not in line with what selfish people wanted. I judged my self worth by the "standard" of how well I complied with other people's selfish desires, and whether I was harassed by other's insensitive comments. I acted as if my feelings, when they werent in line with what others wanted, were a crime and I was at fault for having them.

In that state, it was impossible to use any scrutiny. I did not trust my thinking, feelings and intuitions or my memory. I had nothing to rely on but what they told me.

What resulted was that all my concepts of virtues were corrupted by manipulators who wanted me to beleive that what they were doing was good, or that in order for me to be good I had to do what they wanted. I lost faith in logic itself, because I was convinced by the manipulators that logic was whatever they said it was. That made a very dirty, nasty, horrible mess of logic. The mess in my head called "logic" was so corrupted that I believed that logic was useless and destructive.

These problems tangled me up so bad, that it contributed to depression and psychological disorders.

Boy was I releived when I found out that it is a logical fallacy to beleive something based solely on the fact that an authority figure told me so. "Appeal to authority" they call it. Im lucky I encountered the description of that logical fallacy because I hated "logic" and avoided everything having to do with logic for a long time.

It took me a very, very, very long time to sort that mess out. Twelve years and counting. Not only did I have to weed millions of random wrong beleifs, but... Im still not quite a proper adult. I still dont have enough shrewdness.

And of course, part of what resulted in the magnitude of that mess were the sorts of unscrupulous, manipulating, lying adults I encountered. I think I may have been more vulnerable because I am a girl, and they (so I have heard) tend to be more docile and more often allow their gifts to be suppressed. Maybe all your child will encounter are well-meaning well-adjusted teachers who are simply wrong sometimes... But if he doesnt, if he gets a control freak one year, or if he gets teachers who react to his gifts in malicious ways, he will need to be able to clearly see what is going on and judge their behavior as wrong, rather than doubting his own mind.

If it were me, I would tell him about these things immediately, before the ignorant and selfish people in the world get an opportunity to tangle his mind into gordian knots.

Sigh. I intended to state a simple opinion and leave it at that. Instead, I have written you a miniature persuasive essay. Once again, my conscience wont let me be silent. Once again, I hope I havent made you paranoid.

I hope I havent stuck my nose into your business too far. You did ask what you should do, so here is my $.02.

- Kathy

2:57 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

I think the best advice that can ever be given to anyone who is gifted is "Think for yourself"...why? Because statistically speaking it is more than likely that the gifted one will be brighter - and therefore more likely to be correct - than the one who is expressing a thought or an opinion in their vicinity. I always thought for myself and never let the opinion of a teacher or anyone else get in the way of the truth. Hence I prefer to think through matters myself than refer to textbooks...

I am glad you have finally come to trust in your own opinion. Yes, you are right, girls ARE more vulnerable in some ways, partly because of a social expectation of greater submissiveness in many cultures.

You are right. I will let Ainan and my other children know that if you think the teacher is wrong it is quite possible that they are.

Once again, Kathy, you comment is much appreciated. Thank you for sharing it.

Kindest regards

7:04 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home

Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape