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, July 26, 2007

Where love is banned.

Travel affords one many unexpected opportunities. In particular, living in a part of the world different from one's formative years, can teach us much more than one might suppose.

Singapore, where I live, has a fairly broad contact with mainland China. There are many mainland Chinese here - living, working and studying. Recently I had a peculiar conversation with a group of Chinese mainland students. The subject of social expectation had come up. On this matter, one girl remarked:

"In China, no-one is allowed to fall in love, in school."

I was shocked at this and so was initially silent. Into this silence, she continued: "Not in middle school or high school - but in University, it is OK."

This young woman, of University age, evidently found my surprise, surprising.

"That is really strange." I couldn't help but remark.

"It is normal.", she shrugged, accepting it.

"So, what happens if a student falls in love in high school?"

"Then they are a bad student." Her words were said with meaning: clearly she had imbibed the viewpoint of her society and made it her own. To her, indeed, such a student would be a wrongdoer and a "bad" student.

"Their teacher will be very angry..." she continued, "and will call their parents. Then their parents will be very angry, too."

I was beginning to feel a little horrified at this point, at the nature of the society she was painting. A society in which young love is greeted with anger; in which the natural feelings of bonding that arise between people in their mid to late teens, should be looked upon as "wrong" and "bad", made me really uncomfortable - queasy even.

I tried to imagine what it would be like to grow up in a society so set against love. Every thought and understanding that came to me was accompanied by the conviction that such a world would be very damaging to human development.

I had never met a truly passionate character from mainland China. By this I mean fired with emotion, driven by it, propelled by it. Such people are very capable of great things. Perhaps, the suppression of emotion which all their young have to undergo is responsible for that lack of fire, as adults. Something suppressed for too long, may very well shrivel up from disuse.

This conversation raises a very important issue. Which is more important: academic success or healthy emotional development? Chinese society has, as I am informed, made the decision that academic success stands above all things - and not even love may stand in the way. In choosing this stance, they have, probably without realizing it, chosen to stunt the emotional development of an entire nation. Yes, they may not be distracted from their studies - for as she further explained: "When you are in love, you cannot study well." - but they will also not experience the natural development of their emotional self. That side will be blocked - for many years. By the time they are allowed to express that side, it will have become muted, through both time and disuse. A dispassionate people will be the result.

Raising a child is not easy - and there are many choices that a parent - or an educator - must make - but from my point of view, no choice should be taken that leads to the diminishment of an individual. Nothing should be done to impair their growth in any way.

Yes, love may distract the students from study - but it would also make them happy in the face of great difficulty and perhaps more able to shoulder the burdens of academic demand which are placed upon them. Disallowing it and making it a forbidden emotion, on the other hand, can only ever have a negative and inhibitory effect on the development of their children. China will be much the worse for it, when these emotionally disabled teens become their future leaders of society.

(If you would like to read of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged seven years and seven months, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, four years and no months, or Tiarnan, seventeen 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 children and gifted adults in general. Thanks.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 5:49 PM 


Anonymous Anonymous said...

well, u could be wrong in certain points. The nation may not be as stupid as u think. The nation could be fully aware that the social programming will be completed by the end of high school n therefore to allow them to fall n love in university. From there, they can source out those rebels and the free tough minded ones a well.

The selfish humanly nation leader would prefer the peep to give their love to the "nation" than to their own spouses. so the nation will not be happy with yr ideas and will put u to death for it.

So dont just presume u know more than them to yr own demise.

10:06 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Well, that is the first death threat I have received on my blog.

I note that you write from Singapore, but that your English is poor enough to make me think that you are a PRC resident in Singapore. Well, I have news for may come from one of the world's most repressive regimes...but really you shouldn't be exporting your way of thinking to another country. In almost every country of the world, having a viewpoint and an insight does not constitute a crime. It is telling that you seem to think that it does.

However, it is possible that you are joking.

Just in case you are posted from a Singnet address 220.255.7 (the first few digits)...latitude and longitude: 1.2931, 103.8558. You were using Internet Explorer 7 and Javascript 1.3. You came off the Sammy Boy forum, regarding: "Singlish is a freaking joke", from a link there, on Sep 22 2009 at 8:30:31 pm
and your Last Page View was on Sep 22 2009 10:17:06 pm. You were using a monitor with resolution 1280 by 1024 pixels and 32 colour bits. You viewed 36 pages of my blog and spent 1 hour 46 minutes and 35 seconds reading it.

There will be a record of your visit on the Sammy Boy forum - and on my site,, really, why don't you grow up and accept the concept of free speech.

For the kind of thing you have posted, you could spend time in an unpleasant place called jail. In the internet world, everything is easily trackable.

It isn't pleasant to read what you have written. Have a think about it. Did you really mean what you wrote?

10:38 PM  

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