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 +

Friday, March 16, 2007

More lessons from the classroom: morality

I wrote, recently, of the lack of imagination observable in many young people today. What implications are there for their functioning in the world?

Well, one implication came to light today in another brief conversation, I am aware of:

Teacher: "What would you do if you found a wallet in the street?"

Student, from mainland China (the same one as in the earlier posting):

"I have never found a wallet."

End of both thought and conversation.

This particular student has displayed a lack of imagination in many contexts, in the past, however, the implication that he was unable to consider a moral situation - because he lacked imagination - is a new observation. It is shocking to realize that the lack of imagination means he is not able to consider his own responses in situations he has never been in. Fundamentally, therefore, it means that he cannot know himself. Lack of imagination is, therefore, a kind of pervasive mental disability whose wide-ranging effects are little appreciated. We think of it in terms of not being creative - but it is much more than that. Without imagination a child is not fully human, and lacks the mental resources to understand themselves. Imagination is a key aspect of what it means to be a fully alive, thinking being.

Any education that imperils imagination, imperils the very future of Man. A world without imagination, is a world in which people cannot even understand themselves - never mind the world they live in.

Is this young man - for he is eighteen or nineteen years old - unable to imagine because of some native deficiency - or is it because of the way he was educated in mainland China? In some way, I hope that it is a deficiency, for if it is his education then the implication is clear: there may be over a billion like him, all having received such a debilitating education. I don't know which it is - but I can tell you this: I have seen this lack of imagination in many others of his origin. I do not know the cause - whether it be innate or environmental. The question may be essentially undecidable without doing an experiment that would, itself, be questionable.

I will keep you posted on more observations of this phenomenon, as and when they arise.

(If you would like to read of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, 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, baby genius, adult genius, savant, the creatively gifted, gifted adults and gifted children in general. Thanks.)

Labels: , , , , , , ,

AddThis Social Bookmark Button
posted by Valentine Cawley @ 10:21 AM 


Anonymous Anonymous said...

As I read this post, I was trying to see the other person's perspective. I wondered how old the student was and was prepared to grant leniency because of youth.

I know there have been times when I've asked my child an 'abstract' or hypothetical question and they've given a similar 'I don't know' response. After I rephrased the question or gave an example of my own, the gates were unlocked and their imaginations were freed.

I was willing to posit that perhaps the same was true for this youngster.

These words stuck in my throat (figuratively speaking) when I read that this student was 18 or 19.

My optimism died "a 'bornin'" - speechlees am I.


10:21 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

The interesting thing about this student is that he is one of the "best" in his class, in terms of command of English and apparent intelligence. Where he lacks is imagination. I find the lacuna incredible. It is as if he has a hole in the head where imagination should be. Poor boy.

I will, perhaps, post on that since this comment will get lost.

You are right to raise the issue of style of communication with young people - it is important to judge that well. (Another post, perhaps? He he.)

Thanks Pam for your comment.

11:03 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home

Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape