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, March 05, 2007

Child prodigy - allowed to develop or not?

The saddest question, in some ways, in a long time, has been asked by a google searcher from Spain.

They asked: "Do you think a child prodigy should be given a chance to develop his or her skills or not?"

I must admit, I was a bit shocked by this and it makes me wonder who is asking. Is it a parent, wondering whether they should furnish a child with opportunities for growth in their chosen area (like a book, or a piano, maths tutor, etc...)? Is it a teacher/school administrator wondering whether they should make special arrangements for a child of gift in a particular area?

In either case, the answer is the same: of course, you should. To ask whether a child prodigy should be allowed to grow, is a bit like looking at the child of two giants and saying: "I think he is going to be tall...should we let him grow?" It is an inhumane question. What it proposes is that the child giant, should be impeded in their growth, that they should be starved into stuntedness. A person proposing such a question appears to resent the future height of the child and seeks, somehow, to diminish them. Such a person would be happy to turn a child destined to be a giant, into one of just average height, by dint of starvation, or other stresses. So, too, is it with the child prodigy. A prodigy, as a child, is destined to be a mental giant, if given the right opportunities to grow. Is it better for them to be stunted into ordinariness, by being unchallenged, by being denied access to books or an appropriate educational environment - or being bored to death in an education system designed for mediocrity? I don't think so - and no-one who was of humane outlook would think so, too. A child prodigy could grow up to be an adult genius, if well-handled. It would be a kind of crime not to assist that progress, not to do everything one can to ensure that the outcome would be good - for the child, in terms of self-realization - and for the world, in terms of nurturing a gifted child, who may, in turn shower gifts on the world.

So, whoever you are in Spain, if you have it in your influence or power, to help that prodigious child, you MUST. There is no moral alternative: to do otherwise is to commit a crime against the future of Man - it is to deprive the world of whatever gifts that child could bestow on the world, later, but also to deprive the child of the happiness of becoming what they may.

Remember: Giotto started in the world as a child prodigy - and would the world be better without his art, if he were deprived of the opportunity to grow? The same can be said of Mozart and his music: his prodigious childhood led to adult genius. Would Mozart's stunting have been a boon to the world? Norbert Wiener, the founder of cybernetics, was a child prodigy who became an adult genius: would it have been better had his father denied him opportunities to learn and grow? Had that been so, the world would be without much of the mathematical foundation of the Information Age - and where would we be without that?

Don't snuff out genius that might be, in any prodigy: give it, at least, a chance to grow. To do otherwise is a crime against, not only the child, but us all.

(If you would like to read of a scientific child prodigy, Ainan Celeste Cawley, aged seven years and three months, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, three, and Tiarnan, thirteen months, please go to: I also write of gifted education, IQ, intelligence, child prodigy, child genius, adult genius, baby genius, savant, the creatively gifted, gifted children and gifted adults in general. Thanks.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 6:23 AM 


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have no idea what motivated the original question, but it did get me thinking...

As a parent, I am sometimes concerned that my children focus so much on those areas in which they have talent to the exclusion of developing their other skills. I see the value of being a balanced individual and I see that in those areas where success does not comes so easily to them they are more likely to give up quickly.

So my questions are: how much should a prodigy (or anyone for that matter) focus on developing skills which are already more developed than their other skills? Should parents encourage their children to work on skills that don't come easily or to hone their talents? I think the answer is both, but it is not an easy task!

1:33 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

This deserves a post on its own.

Balance is important for the individual, but not so important for how they function in modern life. In the modern world, excellence in one area is what we call a job.

A prodigy or a young genius may go further than any other person if they are allowed to develop their gifts: that is important.

I will move these ideas into a post.


6:33 AM  
Blogger Lynn Tan said...

i would agree with you, valentine that it is inhumane to stop the child from becoming a mental giant. But if someone succeed into doing that.. not only is he committing a crime against the child he is also committing a crime against the society ..because another reason is when the child due to lack of stimulation and loses his/her abilities ... the child will also lose the will to get the ability back even with someone's encouragement... my friend is one good example..

3:36 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Yes, without stimulation or growth opportunities people decay in mind...and that may not be easily retrievable.

We must do what we can to nurture those who have the potential to be outstanding.

Best wishes

3:56 PM  

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