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 +

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Welcoming the gifted: a culture of acceptance

Yesterday, I visited my son, Ainan Celeste Cawley's school. I saw his class and his fellow schoolchildren. What struck me was that they actually welcomed Ainan. One child gave Ainan a hug - a child whose name I had heard before on Ainan's tongue, in connection with a shared scientific interest. There was a warmth in that school that was missing from my own school, long ago.

I did note that Ainan's desk was apart from the others and it didn't take long to deduce why. Ainan had a tendency to talk in class to his friends - out of boredom at the lesson content, so the teacher had sought to isolate him a little. While understandable, that probably didn't make Ainan feel welcome. I asked Ainan about this and he said, with a shake of his head at the question: "Is school interesting?" that he was bored. That I can understand. However, it is not all bad. The other kids accepted Ainan, played with him, liked him.

This is a very different culture to the one I had grown up with in England. If my boys' school is typical, the gifted in England, in particular London, are far from welcome. There was such jealousy and spite directed towards them. Such coldness and lack of welcome. Even at times, open, physical aggression. I once even had a knife pulled on me, at my school - actually, that happened twice (at a major British Public School which I shall name one day when I feel like all the hassle that might come with doing so.) It is no wonder that Britain is slowly dying as a nation, if this is how it treats its "best and brightest". I was struck, therefore, by the contrast with my son's Singaporean Government school. Here a gifted child is actually respected by his fellow students. Is it any wonder, then, that Singapore is on the rise...while Britain sinks?

How are gifted children treated in your country? Are they welcomed warmly...or greeted with jealousy, spite, incomprehension, distrust or any other negative response? I would be interested to learn - and so would my readers, all over the world - so please post your thoughts/experiences on how gifted children are treated. Thanks.

(If you would like to read about my scientific child prodigy son, Ainan Celeste Cawley, six, and his gifted brothers, go to: I also write of child prodigy, child genius, savant, the creatively gifted and gifted children in general. Thanks.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 2:06 PM 


Anonymous Anonymous said...

From America:

From what Ive read, moderately gifted children (IQ in the 130's) tend to be more popular and do well in class, and those who are more gifted tend to have difficulty socially. Im just assuming that that information was based on the USA.

In the USA theres a stereotype that intelligent kids are geeks or dorks or nerds and that they are usually bullied. The stereotypical hollywood nerd has big glasses and wears dress shirts with a pocket protector. Of course, thats not the way all intelligent kids dress. Id say any parent or kid that was interested in preventing themselves from being harassed would avoid dressing that way...

I had serious problems with being teased by the other kids in class, and I dont know if that is because all kids tease eachother and I was the one who took it personally or that they teased me more often or more viciously because I stood out. They may have teased me because I didnt "fight back".

They never teased me specifically for being smart, but just said anything hurtful that came to mind. They might have teased me because I moved in the middle of first grade, so I was the new kid. The kids at the previous school didnt tease me... The kids at the new school though did everything short of hitting and threatening me. They stole my lunchbox. It wasnt just one bully, it seemed like everyone disliked me. My own friends (It took me until third grade just to get one friend) didnt want to be seen in public with me.

It was bad.

I remember not being interested in playing with the other kids in kindergarten. The kindergarteners werent mean to me or anything, I just wasnt interested in what they were doing. My parents took me to a counselor to find out why I wasnt socializing. I remember that there were many times where I didnt want to goof around or be silly or "have fun" - I had too much dignity. For all I know, that is why they teased me... because I wasnt friendly, or didnt seem to like fun.

The reasons that smart kids are teased may be more complicated than
"because they are smarter". It may be that kids here tease EVERYONE who is different in any way. I was different in a lot of ways, many of them were because I am very intelligent.

If you get any insight into the motives behind this, please let me know...

- Kathy

8:20 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

To some degree, perhaps, the one who is different, is threatening, because they show behaviour the others don't understand or wouldn't have thought of. Perhaps you just made them feel inferior - so they struck back to bring you down. Such treatment is common in Britain as well...but less common, oddly, I think, in Singapore. The kids there seem to be more accepting of others, as far as I can see, so far. I will keep you informed about what I notice.

Best wishes

6:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmmm. Why do you think Singaporean children are more accepting? That would be really cool to know! It might help explain my childhood.

- Kathy

11:23 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

I think it is down to Singapore promoting meritocracy: if a child is better, people think they deserve it - and don't resent it. I will post about this, for people will miss this remark.

Thanks for your comments...

9:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmmm... Thats going to lead me to a lot of thought... I think youre right. I think that things like fame, and measurements like paper degrees and the age of the person probably matter more here than actual ability. Sigh, that is too bad... But what is different about Singapore? You have said that they care a lot about degrees. They do accellerate the gifted children, apparently - and they do that in some places in the USA. Do a lot of businesses hire based on talent rather than education and years of experience?

- Kathy

12:01 AM  

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