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 +

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Gifted but neglected: a global problem.

The gifted are a neglected population. You see, in most countries of the world the gifted - of whatever degree - are assumed to be able to succeed without assistance. It is taken to be obvious that they will have no difficulty reaching their potential without help, precisely because they have so much potential. That, as any parent of a gifted child knows, is not true. Why is this so? It is because greater potential means greater need - need for stimulation, opportunity, and challenge. Generally, schools do not meet this need.

My son Ainan Celeste Cawley, 6, is in primary one, in school, in Singapore. Recently, I took a look at the homework he had been given. He was err..being group objects into tens and ones. That is right. He was doing basic counting. After completing this homework he would look to his other interests: nuclear chemistry, for instance, or the properties of nanotubes, or relativistic effects as the speed of light is approached and so on. The contrast between what the school was teaching and what he was actually capable of doing, at home, on his own, was almost enough to make me cry. It didn't, though, because it was kind of expected, since it echoed my own childhood experiences: it was like a haunting, seeing the ghost of my past walk again.

Ainan needs adult level science material to keep him interested. Even that is not conceptually difficult for him - secondary school science, for instance, at times appears too unchallenging conceptually for this six year old. How then does he feel about the requirements of school?

He gave me an insight the other day, "Daddy, at school I am like this...". Very sadly, he then vacated himself and slumped lifeless in front of me, his face taking on the appearance of someone who was completely disconnected from his environment - not tiredness so much as a complete disinterest, a complete avoidance of the world that confronted him.

That is tragic. That is what the world's schools are doing to our young geniuses, prodigies, and gifted of all kinds: moderately, highly, exceptionally and profoundly.

Of course they can cope with the work of school. The real point is: can the school cope with them? The answer, alarmingly, is no in almost every case, around the world. This situation cannot continue - for as long as it does we are wasting, perhaps even destroying the gifts on which our future civilization will be built. If we have a future.

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

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 12:21 PM 


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Like your son, I question "WHY?". Why must this continue to happen to our kids? If I wait for an answer, as I waited for an education, I will, in fact, wait. I hate waiting.

WE know what's at stake, and yet are excluded from the critical decisions affecting our kids. Most of us were isolated as children, but as adults, we can and we should unify to lead educational reforms in our countries.

4:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not all, but most school(to my understanding) is not only not willing but in most circumstances unable to accomodate any child that's not of the normal average capabilities range. Reason being school is being run like a business with schedule and targets, it needs to run within a budget, and has to find ways to maximised it. Most of the time, the budget is already stretch to it's limit. To accomodate a gifted child would mean needing to allocate certain resources like to re-train all those teachers to "think out of the box", for a start. Or special equipment needed. Plus the possibility, if we accomodate one, are we opening up a can of worm for that could be another or more? Another reason i could think of is how many teachers are willing to accomodate a young child questioning their theory, or even challenge the teacher to question what they are teaching. Life would be much easier to just blab away at the front of the classroom, to a group of compliant, non-questioning, sponges. Most definetely a very embarassing situation if the question is one that the teacher do not know the answer to.

I believe it is very rare to find a teacher that's passionate enough to accomodate any child, average or gifted. Teachers/ school establihments all around the world, i believe, runs on this motto "We know best". Patronism is the problem, throw in some rigidness + fear = ignorance = compliance. This is the sub-conscious lesson that's being taught in school, under the guise of reading, writing and maths. This I find this is stll very strong within Asian communities (i'm malaysian). One never question one's teacher, even when the teacher could be wrong.

A gifted child will see thru this and will instinctly fight against, for the survival of his or her intrinsic learning spirit. A child's mind being still so young and tender can only fight for so long, before the establishment will succeed in breaking his/ her will, hence you'll end up with either a disillusioned quiet child or an angry, rebellious child.

The only school that i know of that is all about pro - child holistic learning is SummerHill in Suffolk, UK. Alternatively, homeschooling is the next best options, which i believe you're already considering.

All the best.

5:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i was negleted my parents,teachers, n society.. i lost my interest in study bout 3 years ago. now, i realized it is so important.but, it's hard to 'come back' after we fell. now, i try my best to accomplish my mission. i think, gifted ppl must be strong even there is no one to support us. find something to motivated us.. for me, i find books are my best thing to keep me motivated always.

but i think ainan is so lucky to have u n ur wife as his parents.keeps motivating him,,i dun wanna see he lost interest in whatever he does.

may god bless him always.


9:29 PM  
Blogger Dutch NZ said...

Hi Neglect of people is a world wide social problem. Through standard education the world looses the potential of so many of its people.Some through neglect because the education business is not available or too expensive or through 'one model fits all' with a 'measuring stick' for normal, when there is no such measure. I have never met a normal person or someone the same, even twins.
Education is a means to conditioning the masses into compliance and then selecting a conforming elite, while producing a mass of low expectation failures or rejects for slave labour that now include graduates packing shopping shelves that don't know why they are here.

Education Institutions have lost or defrauded their purpose and have been financially rewarded. Teachers and students are frustrated with the system. No wonder failure is know as success.

If a student accepts that they know nothing, the teacher knows what they need to know, and they can repeat it, then they are successful. It is about teaching not about learning. Reverse the focus.

It is also about generally accept opinion and knowledge when this is now so easily available. we also need discernment. We need to include more understanding and develop gifts, talents, aptitude, attitude and imagination which have been neglected to our social disadvantage.

There is an opportunity to create unique community places for people (children) to be inspired to learn, express and develop, what ever they have, so they can celebrate life more and add human value to life through purposeful service, so we can all appreciate it.

A picture in an attic is a forgotten expression of life. Our gifts and talent needs to be revealed and celebrated, just as much as life and our wonderful world.

I am working on a project to expand a children's care centre into a place for all of a community. It would be 'Our Place' for care, discovery, fun & joy, learning, celebrating expression and development with life purpose.

I am an a passionate amateur who can see what other can't and need to refine my proposal. I am keen to hear others thoughts and am happy to share what I have. Dutch NZ

8:16 AM  

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