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, January 25, 2007

The advantages of being a child prodigy

Someone searched today, using the terms, "the advantages of being a child prodigy". I will try to answer them, here, for I think others might be interested too.

Are there any natural advantages to being a child prodigy? In absolute terms, the answer is a strong yes. A child prodigy generally learns a whole lot faster than other kids, reaches a higher standard of achievement much more quickly, and can, in the best cases, outmatch an adult in their chosen discipline, while still a child. That is quite a lot of natural advantage. Yet, there is a catch. You see, many societies, around the world, are set up to frustrate the natural child prodigies that emerge in their midst. Educational systems are inflexible and refuse to accommodate them. Teachers fail to understand them. Other kids - depending on the culture of the school and society at large - can ostracise them. The media can misunderstand them, too, and portray them inaccurately. There are many problems, therefore, which can befall a child prodigy and frustrate their natural ascent to the upper reaches of their chosen discipline.

I have no figures and it is most likely that there are no figures on how well child prodigies succeed in various societies around the world. Whether a child prodigy shines really depends on the particular society's answer to this question: do they want them to shine? Many societies seem to answer with a big no, so far reaching are the barriers placed in the way of an unusually gifted child. In such societies, what is innately a natural advantage, may operate as a disadvantage. The child may become bored, ostracised, isolated, and frustrated with the education system as it is. The child may choose to masquerade as ordinary, by "dumbing down" so as to fit in. There are so many things that can go wrong in the growth of such a child - and many societies seem to want such development to go wrong, so little do they do to help such children - or so much do they do to oppose them. This is not how it should be.

What happens if a child prodigy receives the support that they need, to grow as they might? Anything can happen with such children. Such a child could grow into an adult genius of great creative power - and change the discipline or disciplines that they choose to work in, forever. That is the ideal outcome - and it would probably be a whole lot more frequent if child prodigies received support, instead of opposition, as is more common. This opposition doesn't have to be direct, to be effective - it can simply be the variety of opposition known as utter indifference. Some societies do that: they just ignore the needs of their most gifted and hope they will just shut up and go away. That is not an approach that leads to the best outcome for the child - or for the world.

We need a world that nurtures the gifts of all its children - and not just educates the average to an acceptable level to allow them to function in a job (which is the implicit aim of almost all education systems). We may never have such a world - but at least we can try to create one.

So, in answer to my reader: there are natural advantages to being a child prodigy - but whether these advantages are expressed depends on the society that the child is resident in. Some will allow the child to flower - others will smother the child as best as they can. I hope for a world in which all such children can grow to the limit of their desire - for such a world promises to be a lot better than the one we live in. Each such child could add so much to the world, if only given the chance to do so.

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 3:09 PM 


Anonymous grannie said...

I love your blog. My grandson spoke from almost birth. He had 3 words. Aggies- which he said when he saw the doggies. Agee- which was at first mommy then Mommy and anything pretty and Ni- for grannie. By 8 months he was asking "Why?" He walked and Ran at 10 months. He does simple puzzles starting at 11 months. "No"! is not a response to him. He has to know why something is not ok to do/have. He started whistling at 11 months. His Doctor witnessed this. Now at 13 months he loves dino's and throwing his ball at his highchair and retriving it from the seat. Challenging- oh my! I am so glad to hear of other babies doing the same- Mom & Dad are handling it all well but he is very different from other babies his age. Thank you for your blog and your words of encouragement!!! Wonderful.

3:11 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thanks for your is warming to hear that you enjoy my blog so much.

As for your grandson: congratulations, what a special kid. Feel free to post again on your grandparenting, anytime.

Best wishes

7:17 PM  
Blogger Charlie Ashcroft said...

You didn't state any advantages of being a child prodigy. You stated the facts about being a child prodigy in one short sentence and then waffled on about the disadvantages.

8:17 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

I am sorry your reading skills, Charlie, are not up to par. Perhaps I should outline for you the nature of my post.

Firstly, the query of the search engines, that I am answering, appears to be an implicit question, along the lines of "are there advantages of being a child prodigy"...I have answered that yet there are and summarized them. I have also explained the other side of the situation - the making my answer more complete. It is the best way to answer a question with two sides to it. You, it seems, would prefer a one sided response.

You should also note I weave another thought on advantages of prodigiousness later on in the passage...and my initial sentence on the advantages is not short, by most standards.

11:00 PM  

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