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 +

Monday, October 02, 2006

Prodigy, genius and the gifted: why are they important?

Prodigy, genius and the gifted, are vital to Man, for reasons too many to cover in a brief post. I shall, however, focus on two reasons. The first is that most, perhaps all that is good in our cultures, sciences, and arts, comes from these categories of people. Without them Humanity would be so much less interesting - and leading so much less comfortable lives. That point should be obvious.

The other one, however, is not so clear. Prodigy is important for the same reason that the Olympics are important. It is through the feats of the greatest minds among us that we discover what the limits of the Human are: just as the fastest man over a 100m fascinates us with the half-disbelieving thought that a man could run so fast. We need to know what Man can achieve. We need to know how far a Man can go. In this way, the study of savants, prodigies, geniuses and the gifted is essential to an understanding of man - for just as the Olympiads are the pinnacle of the physical human, so are those who are geniuses, in some way: they are the mental Gold Medallists of Man. Let us come to be better acquainted with them - and appreciate them in the same way that we appreciate the fastest runner, the strongest man, the greatest decathlete. For thousands of years, the physical greats have won our fascination - let us not overlook, then, the mental greats among us - and accord them the respect that we accord our greatest athletes. For they are two of a kind - the best of Men - or Women.

(For a particular case of prodigy, Ainan Celeste Cawley, six, a scientific child prodigy, and his gifted brothers, go to: )

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 3:50 PM 


Blogger Amiene Rev said...

i think i found a perfect person, who know what parent mean.

i have the same thing like you do, done before.

i am willing to see more about it. since i believe in you, since we share the same thought.

4:31 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Amiene Rev,

By your post I understand that you find worth and meaning in what I write.

Thanks for your supportive thoughts.

6:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting... I am a 13 year old Singaporean preteen, and I see a reflection of my younger self in your children. When I was 2, I taught myself to read by spying on my brother's reading lessons. When I was 6, I completed an EPGY (education program for the gifted youth at stanford university) grade 1 course in one night. At age 9, I completed all EPGY courses until grade 7. In the same year, I took the SAT and achieved a score of 1260 (550 in verbal and 710 in math). Not very satisfactory, I know, but enough to have gotten me into a fairly good US university.

8:15 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

To the "preteen" are doing very well. Good luck with your future studies.

In the meantime...happy reading.

4:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr. Cawley,
you may be surprised to know you have readers and supporters as far away as Southern Ontario, Canada!
Speaking as a gifted child myself, it is truly gratifying and somewhat beautiful to find a person with the firm belief in the value that giftedness holds for society. I know many who do not agree to the same extent.
In fact, the only gifted program in the region, of which I am a graduate, was closed down two years ago.
I humbly ask permission to print this blog as a citated article in the student magazine to help raise awareness for the issue. I believe that it will inspire many others, especially those who were unfortunate enough to miss out on the program, to continue their education to the best of their unique abilities.

In gratitude,
Luise Wolf

12:58 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Yes, Luise, you may reprint the blob as a citated article. Please include my name as author and my blog URL.

I am glad to hear you enjoy my blog all the way over there in Canada.

It is a pity that your area is not supporting gifted my experience they need as much support as special needs children, at the other end of the spectrum, in their own way.

Thanks for your interest in my article.

Please send me a copy, somehow! Just mail me and we will make arrangements.

Thank you.

6:59 AM  
Blogger Anonymous said...

Greetings, Mr. Cawley, I am a 13 year old twice exceptional child(7th Grade), and unfortunately I have only recently been discovered. I am trying to get into a school especially for gifted/twice exceptional children, and I am supposedly mathematically and scientifically gifted, not to the extent of your child of course. I am scared that I will not get into this school, and I cooperate horribly with public school.
I learn nothing at school and at home I study advanced algebra and college-level physics. With your experience with a child like this, I was wondering if you had any advice for coping with public school, since your child still has to attend. Thank you Mr. Cawley.

10:14 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Firstly, thank you for your comment and the frankness with which you have written it.

I do hope you manage to secure a place at the gifted school, for that would be more comfortable for you. However, if you remain in public school, I would suggest viewing it as my son viewed it: a place for forming a few select friendships and learning how to get on with others - but not a place to really learn. All Ainan's true learning took place at home, during his public school phase.

We eventually managed to get Ainan into a University - and that has been more suitable - but, he spent three years in a normal school and it was a time of great boredom for him - except for his play with his friends.

If you remain at public school, plan to learn at home and play at school, as much as this is possible.

Good luck.


12:54 PM  
Blogger Datuk Bendahara said...

Hi Valentine,

May I make an open criticism?

1. In one of your blogs, you mentioned why you publicize about Ainan. You rated yourself as "gifted" but implied that your parents (and society at large) did not accord due recognition to your gift. So when you saw sparks of giftedness in your children, you wanted the world to know. There is nothing wrong for parents to be proud of their children, but let us not commit the mistakes of Sufiah's father. He was intellectually smart, and pushed his children to the limit to excel academically. In the end, Sufiah rebelled, and you know the rest of the story.

2. Your emphasis for your children is very much on knowledge. However, knowledge should also be tempered with wisdom. Knowledge and wisdom are not necessarily the same thing. Wisdom is that 'sapiente' that teaches us to use our knowledge not to the detriment of others.

3. I agree that giftedness and genius in all their nuances (mathematical, musical, spatial etc) should be supported by society. But let us not lose sight of the fact all children are important, including those who are physically and mentally handicapped. I remember coming across a saying of the Prophet Muhammad to the effect that God's mercy descend upon mankind because of His love for the poor and the handicapped. And did Jesus not say somewhere in the New Testament that "blessed are the meek, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven"?. The word "meek", I would say, would include the mentally handicapped. If this world were made up only of smart people and geniuses , or rich people like Ananda Krishnan and Robert Kuok, or powerful people like Lee Hsien Loong or Najib Razak, then God would certainly have destroyed this world.

Still, I wish all the best for your children, that they become knowlegeable and wise at the same time, and most of all, that they will be happy.

10:10 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Datuk, thank you for your comment.

Firstly, I must say that I do not publicize Ainan's achievements out of proud, or any lack in my own early life. That is a misconstrual. I am simply trying to create opportunities for him and open doors where doors need to be opened. So far, it has been helpful to him and us. I do nothing without careful thought of the consequences and opportunities afforded by the action concerned.

I am not "making the same mistakes that Sufiah's father did"...far from it. Ainan is under NO pressure at all to perform, to study or to do anything - he sets his own pace. There is no danger of him imploding from external pressures.

Secondly, I do not know where you got the idea that I "emphasize knowledge"...I have NO interest in knowledge at You have misread my blog and my intentions. My primary intellectual interest is in creativity, followed by intelligence and its appropriate application. They are very different things from knowledge.

Of course, all people are to be valued...but it is also true that the gifted may, if afforded the chance, contribute more to society than any other class of people. That must never be forgotten, but is rarely acknowledged.

7:39 AM  

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