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, December 07, 2006

Britain rejects its child prodigies

Child prodigies are rare children - so very few children are able to master adult domains while still of tender years. One would have thought that any developed society would treasure, therefore, the few of these children that are found in their midst.

Not so Britain, the only country that I can think of that calls itself Great. I used to live in Britain and there is much that I liked about it...but there is one thing that cannot be liked by anyone with an unbiased mind: an education system that excludes child prodigies.

Recently, in the British media, a case was discussed of a child prodigy, aged 13, who had just completed his A levels, who found every door, in every University, closed to him. Not a single University in Britain would accept a child prodigy. Each said he was too young to be allowed to learn in their hallowed halls. Well, wait just one minute: isn't that the whole point of child prodigies, that they are younger than usual, at any developmental stage? What kind of country is it that SPECIFICALLY discriminates against child prodigies? Incidentally, what kind of future does such a country have? Reason would suggest that an adult genius is more likely to be drawn from the ranks of child prodigies. A single child prodigy could grow up to be a genius who changes the world. Yet, Britain discriminates against child prodigies. No child prodigy is now allowed to proceed to University until they are aged 17. That is rather too late for a thirteen year old A level candidate - and others like him. What is a child prodigy to do in all those wasted years, while his age-mates play catch-up? Grow bored? Lose interest in academia? Forget all that he has learnt? Give up? Is that what Britain wants...for all its child prodigies to give up and start behaving like all the other kids and take a slow measured pace to their learning?

It is sad that education should be so partial. Education should be a right for all. Yet Britain is actively denying an education to its, admittedly few, child prodigies.

Any child prodigy in this situation should just leave Britain for somewhere else - for one's intellectual growth should not wait for a country to wake up to what it is doing. If such a child prodigy then decides to stay and make a life in the new country - then so be it. Any country which denies child prodigies an education does not deserve any better.

The Universities would say that it is not their fault. A new law requires them to screen all their staff for their suitability to teach children under 17. Yet, there is a sign of great laziness here - and essential stinginess. The Universities have been presented with a choice: either screen their staff for their appropriateness (ie safety) in teaching young children - or don't take such children. Rather than make the effort to screen their staff (and shouldn't they be screened ANYWAY, since a staff member who is a danger to a thirteen year old may very well be a danger to eighteen year olds, too, wouldn't you think?) every University in Britain has chosen the other path: simply to reject all candidates under seventeen automatically. Not one University in Britain can be bothered to make the effort of making its institution accessible to the youngest and brightest students.

So, whose fault is it then: the lawmakers or the Universities? The lawmakers made the law - and they may have meant well by doing so - but the effect of the law is to place a barrier in front of Universities that none of them wish to climb. Yet, to achieve a fair education system open to all, all that the Universities have to do is screen their staff for their safety with children. None of them have chosen to do so. Thus, the Universities of Britain have universally chosen to exclude child prodigies from being educated at all. Those who are best at learning are not allowed to learn, if they live in Britain.

Maybe Britain was "Great" once...but by excluding child prodigies it is not adding to its greatness, but diminishing itself as a nation and quite possibly harming its future. You see, not many children grow up to be geniuses - and it only takes one more genius to make the difference between a great nation - and an also ran. Britain has shown what it wants its future to be: a bit like its present, only worse - Britain, in choosing to exclude child prodigies, also chooses to be a second-rate nation.

What does all of this fuss mean? It means that British Universities are firstly, too lazy to ensure the safety of the children in their midst - and secondly care not at all about the idea that education should be open to all. It is quietly astonishing that EVERY University in Britain, should have chosen to exclude child prodigies, because they would have to do something to be able to accept them. Shame on you all.

(If you would like to read about my scientific child prodigy son, Ainan Celeste Cawley, seven years and two weeks, who doesn't live in Britain and therefore may very well find a University to accept him at the appropriate time, then please go to: for a tour. I also write of child prodigy, child genius, adult genius, savant, the creatively gifted, gifted adults and gifted children in general. Thanks.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 12:15 PM 


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