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 +

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Can Britain survive trash culture?

I am constantly amazed at the way expat British people, recently moved to Singapore, speak of the country I grew up in. It is not what it was, by a long way.

It is saddening to be told that all those forces that were just beginning to take hold when I was in school, have now triumphed, and become the dominant culture. A nation once known for breeding sophisticated "gentlemen", is now best known for the abundance of its yobs, or "Chavs" as they are now known.

Let me explain. The Chav represents all that was once regarded as base in the human. They revel in stupidity, actively hate all who are intellectual, have no respect for the law, for education, for employment (they often live on benefits and petty crime), or for anything that once was remotely considered a social value. Yet, this moronic creed is now the dominant culture in Britain: it is the nature of the "masses".

I left Britain almost eight years ago. It is now clear that, though I have often wanted to, I can never return. That is, the place that once I knew, is no more. Britain of today, does not resemble the Britain of only a few years ago.

The problem is only just beginning. The next generation of British kids are showing shocking signs of being subnormal, compared to the kids of only fifteen years before. There is a twenty-five per cent drop in intellectual function of the average British child compared to 1990 (according to a study of 10,000 children by Michael Shayler of King's College London). That means that, in a few short years, these rather intellectually impaired children (by recent historical standards) are going to become adults. They will add to the dumbing down of British culture. They in turn will become parents, and so the problem will grow, over time. Unless something effective - and rather major - is done, Britain promises to be a country without a future.

An insight into the minds of the people of each nation can be garnered from the kinds of comments they leave on my site. This morning, I found a handful of posts from the same person, from Lambeth, London. None of the posts were publishable. Some of them lacked capitalization and punctuation. None could be classified as sentences. But that wasn't what struck me. What struck me was their coarseness. Two comments consisted of nothing but expletives. That was the sum total of their ability to contribute to the debate of ideas that the internet - and blogging - should be about.

On reading them, and recalling what my colleagues recently arrived from the UK had told me, I was moved to write of the declining situation, in the UK - and to do a little research.

I found something, in my search that should appal all who have ever been a parent. I found the story of one "chav" who had won 9.7 million pounds in the lottery. He set about living "large", in a rather grotesque manner (for instance he appears to have bought 30 vehicles, so that they could be smashed to pieces in a demolition derby in his spacious garden). That, though crass, wasn't what worried me. My concern was his proud boast about his two year old daughter: "Her first words were f*** and s***." He thought it was great.

England was once a nation of refined and cultivated gentlemen, renowned throughout the world for their manners, wit and "breeding". Now, they have become a moronic breed who delight that their babies' first words (and therefore, implicitly, the words they had heard most frequently) should be two expletives. What hope is there of such a child growing up to be an adult of wit, manners and "breeding"?

How long can Britain hold its position in the world, when the quality of its people - in a very real sense - is in such decline?

Britain is a nation that once possessed a rich intellectual tradition. It produced world-class thinkers by the bundle. Its universities were among the best in the world. But now, it is a nation that loathes all that is intellectual. Thinking has become socially unacceptable. To sit in a pub, and speak intelligently, is to court a jeer at best, or a beer glass (broken), at worst. Only stupidity and vacuity are now socially permissible. The intellectual is on the run - and lives in perpetual hiding, marginalized in society, daring not to raise a voice, lest they be denounced and set upon.

Once a society has marginalized its thinkers, it cannot be long before such a civilization collapses. Britain has taken that step of marginalizing its best people. Not even mediocrities have taken their place. It is the idiots who have taken the reigns - it is they whose voice shouts loudly. Britain, is now a land of the lout.

I don't believe that anyone in a society should be marginalized - but if any class of people had to be marginalized - it should be the louts, not the thinkers.

Britain needs to step back from this particular abyss. It needs to discourage loutishness, to subdue the creed of the moron, encourage intellectual activity, reward brilliance, foster thinking. It needs, in short, to be what it used to be: a great nation, brimming with great people who dedicated their lives to serious endeavour (or at least, enough of them did so, to make it the leading nation it once was). It is time to shrug off this attack of idiocy - and return to the values and sophistication of yesteryear.

It won't be easy. It won't take place overnight. But if Britain is to survive as a nation worthy of the term, it must fight the decline of its people. It must urge them to better themselves, as people, and not just as economic units. If nothing is done, many of us will live to see the "decline and fall" of a once great nation.

The land that produced William Shakespeare, also produced the barbaric poster of expletives on my site. Would it not be a better nation, if it fostered more geniuses and less loutishness?

I hope, one day, to see, comments of wit, and brilliance, from the British Isles, as once might have been written. We will see just how long I have to wait.

(If you would like to read of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged seven years and eight months, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, four years and one month, or Tiarnan, eighteen 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.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 1:47 PM 


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Valentine. I came across your blog accidentally but was instantly interested in what you had to say, not least because I agree with every word. Also it's rare to find writing (outside of broadsheet newspapers) that is coherent enough for me to spend the time!

I am a twenty-year-old woman living in Britain, and my experience of growing up in the culture you've described has prompted me to seek a life abroad. I think it is a very sad situation to be in, as I want to love Britain. I want to be proud of my background. But I feel intellectually stifled most of the time, and all mainstream culture is tailored to meet the demands of the majority. The majority of which do not wish to learn,or better themselves. I really do not feel able to express myself intelligently in everyday life, and find myself dumbing down to talk to colleagues, and anyone else I meet for that matter. Hence I wish to live and start my family elsewhere. I would not want my children to be brought up in a vacuous environment.

It's a real pity, and I have no idea how the country could improve in this sense. I cannot think of any way in which the government could change the attitudes and culture of an entire nation, especially as the government is so careful and apologetic, catering to a demographic of people who, as you say, are largely relying on benefits/handouts etc.
- Do you have any idea as to how this change could happen?

I have seen the country deteriorate before my eyes. Within the last five years or so. Whether that is an ACTUAL change or just a slow realisation as I grew up, I
cannot be certain. What I do know is, it cannot get much worse.

Apathy is the word of this Blair generation in my opinion.
It remains to be seen if the Brown government can make any positive changes.

Thank you for writing something thought provoking and true.

12:08 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thank you, in the first instance, for likening my writing to that of broadsheet newspapers: it is rewarding to hear that someone appreciates the literary effort!

Sadly, your experience of Britain's recent deterioration concurs with what my friends and colleagues, recently arrived from the UK, are saying. I believe it is a real deterioration and not a "realization" as you got older and more aware of your surroundings. It is a real phenomenon because the way in which the people I know talk about Britain as it is now does NOT match my own experience of the place up until the late nineties. So, the change is both real and recent. Coincidentally, most of it does seem to have occurred under the Labour government of Tony Blair - making one wonder at a probable cause and effect relationship there.

Children learn mostly from their peers. If their peers are idiots or in some ways savage, then, I fear for the results for your own children. I would urge you to take action on moving elsewhere, before you become settled in a job and a life there. Find somewhere you are comfortable with that is child-friendly and has a warm and sophisticated culture. There are still European countries that "fit the bill". Europe is still a place of much sophistication and human complexity - so all is not lost. You have only to consider the language issue. I will leave it to you to decide that one.

If Europe is not suitable - there are quite a few attractive places to be, worldwide. Some of them are safer than the UK. Many of them are more sophisticated than it has become. Quite a few of them have acceptable education systems.

The only ways in which the nature of Britain could be changed would be by firm actions of a courageous government that didn't mind being voted out having made the changes. (The next government, seeing the advantages of the changes, probably wouldn't change them back - so there would be gain from the situation.)

To subdue a culture of idiocy - which has taken hold in the UK - requires the kind of centralized, uncompromising efforts that few modern governments have ever attempted. There tends to be a kind of kiss-the-feet-of-the-electorate-and-they-will-reelect-us fawning going on, which prevents effectiveness in difficult situations. Now is just the kind of difficult situation that requires initially unpopular measures.

I am not going to detail those measures. I will let others look at the situation and see what must be done. Some things are obvious. Other things I will leave, perhaps, to another time to comment on.

There is one thing I am fairly sure of: a British government is unlikely to take the necessary steps until it is too late. There is too little genuine courage and vision at the top.

I wish you luck in your decision-making. I would be delighted to answer any other comments you might have now, or in the future.

Best wishes

2:44 PM  
Blogger Catarina Garcia said...

This situation is very sad. I'm Portuguese and the same is happening here.
I used to see your country's culture as a role model to me because it's the only place where some arts used to be valued in the way I believe they should be and now... well, Brits are regular tourists here and I can see what you mean... No manners, no morals, just beer and soccer. And worst, we're going to the same path, it will just take some more years, if it's not happening already.

I hope it will change because I love your culture and what's happening will have an impact not only in Britain but in Europe as well. You influence other countries. The death of your cultural and intellectual values is pure sadness for any art lover from all over the world.

8:30 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thank you for your comment Catarina.

I now live in a nation, Malaysia, that is seeking to improve itself. It is on the way up, rather than the way down. It is not perfect, but we like it here.

There are other parts of the world which are complexifying and becoming more sophisticated. Perhaps you might one day find a home in one of these.

There are things Britain needs to do, to make its way back to normality. Benefits need to be controlled such that it is not possible to live one's life on them, without making some effort at work or contribution to society. Likewise, benefits should not support ANY children. If you are on benefits the state should not allow you to have children. This would prevent the breeding of idiots. Perhaps benefits could be withdrawn if someone on benefits has a child. That would cause them to be more cautious in that arena.

It will take at least a generation of determined effort to restore Britain to what it was. The same goes for any other country which falls into the same situation. The only actions which will restore the country are those which reduce the fecundity of the loutish element in society. There simply must be fewer such people if they are not to dominate the streets of the country.

Sadly, I don't think any government has the will to take the necessary steps...hence the decline of Britain and nations in a similar situation, is inevitable.

9:07 AM  

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