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, November 20, 2007

Reserved silence and social maturity

I had the privilege to observe Ainan, yesterday, in an impromptu classroom situation.

It was at a Science Show in the Mall event. These are events put on by the Science Centre and ASTAR - Singapore's Agency for Science Technology and Research (I think that is how it goes).

It was an all afternoon affair, but it was the end of it, that drew my attention.

Ainan sat with perhaps 50 other kids, listening to the presenters who were asking scientific questions of the audience. At every question, one, two or three kids would raise their hands, their faces straining to be the one chosen to answer. Ainan, however, was much cooler than that. He sat, with his mother and, instead of raising his arm would lean over to her and relay the answer to her.

I was some distance away but I could read the answers on his lips. Then another child would be chosen to answer. They would go up, answer the question into a mike, then receive a prize. Ainan, however, didn't rise to this particular bait - prize or no prize, he never let his arm rise into the air. He just leant over and answered each of the perhaps twenty questions to his mother. He made no effort to draw the presenters attention to himself, he didn't shout out an answer nor raise his arm.

I thought this very revealing. It seems that Ainan has learnt the social value of discretion. What benefit would come to him from answering all the questions? He would learn nothing more - but he might alienate the other children. So, what did he do instead? He answered none of them publicly - yet I could see that he knew the answers. He was taking a more discrete path.

I found myself impressed by this. It seems that he has acquired a certain social wisdom in the past year. He has learnt that it is better to be discrete than to shout out one's knowledge. He is more likely to have friends that way, and more likely to be accepted. He has, it seems, no need for the ego boost that comes from being seen to be the one who knows. He, instead, prefers to know that he knows - and to let his mother know, too. That is enough for him.

Ainan is, it seems, learning how to adjust to the social world rather more effectively than I had hoped. Relatively few gifted children learn to be this discrete, so early on - after all Ainan is yet only 7. It is a hopeful sign, therefore, that he will be able to navigate the social issues ahead that he shall no doubt face.

I wonder how many teachers, however, would understand the quiet child, who knows but doesn't show that he knows? Most would misunderstand, of course. Yet, what he would lose from the teacher, he would gain from his fellows: so it might, indeed, be a fair trade. It is no good having one teacher on your side, when to do so, you lose 40 kids. That doesn't seem wise. Ainan has chosen the socially more enriching path. A reserved silence is what one can expect from this particular gifted child in the classroom.

What do you have to do to find out what's on his mind? Have a quiet chat with him, away from the multitude of observers. Then he will let his guard down.

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged seven years and eleven months, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, four years and four months, and Tiarnan, twenty-one months, please go to: I also write of gifted education, IQ, intelligence, the Irish, the Malays, College, University, Chemistry, Science, genetics, left-handedness, precocity, child prodigy, child genius, baby genius, adult genius, savant, gifted adults and gifted children in general. Thanks.)

Labels: , , , , , , ,

AddThis Social Bookmark Button
posted by Valentine Cawley @ 6:14 PM 


Post a Comment

<< Home

Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape