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 +

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Not everyone helps a prodigy

Anyone who has ever parented a prodigious child - or one that is highly gifted or above, will know how difficult it is to meet the child's requirements, without also meeting incomprehension from others. This particularly arises in regards to their education.

We have been searching for a lab to secure practical experience for Ainan in Chemistry, now, for ten months. It hasn't been easy finding one simply because many people are not open to anything new or different - or for that matter anyone new or different. Most of our search was before the Gifted Education Programme got involved so we hope, now, that matters will quickly come to a successful conclusion and Ainan will be able to begin learning the practical skills that are an essential part of any Chemistry education - for ultimately, Chemistry is a very practical science.

We have encountered some really not very bright reactions to Ainan's gift. One of them came from the "Singapore Institute of Science" - a small private school that claims to be a leader in teaching children science. Well, they aren't taking the lead in the case of Ainan. They showed themselves to be unwilling to make adjustments for him and actually declined to help - after much initial promise - with the words: "He won't blend in with the others."

I found those words most chilling to hear. For what do they say: that all children must be the same; that any difference is to be discouraged; that those who stand out should stand back in, again. Those are the words that lead to a world in which nothing new ever happens, in which no-one of gift ever prospers. They are the creed of Conformity.

This private science school was declining to help educate Ainan because he is seven years old - and the other students will be about seventeen or eighteen. I find that closed-mindedness incredible. How can he predict the reaction of the other students before they have even met Ainan? Would they not be curious? Might they not be friendly? Ainan is an amicable sort and I doubt that he would have nearly as much trouble fitting in as Thomas Jacobs, of the Singapore Institute of Science imagined. After an initial surprise and period of adjustment, I think it likely that any reasonably balanced eighteen year old would accept Ainan's presence.

There was another reason he gave which is equally unthinking. "He is too short...our benches are tall..would he be able to reach?"

Well, long ago, somebody invented the chair. Get him a taller one. Or give him a box to stand on. This takes little thought and little effort to compensate for...but no willingness to accommodate exists in that particular institution.

I give this story as an eye-opener to the sort of manufactured problems that a young child faces if they are "radically accelerated". I say manufactured problems because they are only problems if the person mentioning them is unwilling to make an adjustment for them. Basically, the problem is not the problem, the attitude of the person raising the "problem" is.

It was disappointing that they did not allow him to attend the course...but in a way I am not surprised. You see when Ainan met their Chemistry teacher, the teacher was totally unable to speak to Ainan: he couldn't engage him in conversation at all, since he had no idea how to relate to a child of Ainan's age (or, even, I would suggest, a child of any age). That is another problem with teaching the gifted young, which I shall, perhaps, address in another post.

Singapore is bigger than one Institute - and there are a variety of attitudes towards giftedness. We remain hopeful that we will find a Institution, College or School willing to open its doors to Ainan and allow him to further his gift for science.

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 10:34 AM 


Anonymous hilma purba said...

may God answer ur hope n Ainan can share his precious times at a suitable place...

with warm regards,
hilma purba
tanjungpinang (bintan island)

8:53 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thank you Hilma, for your beautiful sentiment. I hope it works out, too.

Best wishes

10:19 AM  
Anonymous ummi said...

I am not surprised in the least that both the institute and the teachers have reacted in this manner. It shows their lack of confidence and they fear that the child may point out their inadequacies and inaccuracies.
In a way it's good that you found out soon enough how incompetent they are, obvious from the ridiculous excuses given.

I remember reading (2 years ago) about a 9 year old child who is also a prodigy (in physics, I think) and is coached by an NUS lecturer.

I hope you and Ainan will find a suitable teacher soon enough.


11:18 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Salaam indeed!

Thank you for your well wishes. It is good to hear that it worked out well for another prodigy - that gives us hope, too.

Best wishes

12:03 PM  

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