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, December 20, 2007

The history of child prodigies in South-East Asia

The history of child prodigies in South-East Asia can be summed up in one word: neglect.

My attention has been brought to this matter by an article I encountered on the net (which I didn't bookmark, sadly), that spoke of five South-East Asian child prodigies who have occurred over the last thirty years. The writer remarked that all of them have one thing in common: the educational authorities did nothing to help them.

Now, commentators from other parts of the world, such as America, seem to think that a prodigious child would automatically receive educational assistance and they doubt that a child is prodigious if such assistance has not been given. This is a really wrong-headed view of things. The fact is that in many parts of the world, prodigious and other gifted children are ignored. Their needs are simply not met. So it is, here in South-East Asia.

In each of the examples given the only people attempting to support the educational needs of the children were the parents. The educational authorities, in all cases, stood idly by and did nothing, time and time again, for over thirty years.

Now, it is difficult for most parents to juggle work and the need to homeschool their children, because no-one else is willing to school them - and so it proved in all of these five cases. The parents found it very difficult to meet their child's needs, unsupported and alone.

Why is this? Why do so many countries ignore the special needs of their most gifted children? Imagine it another way. Imagine if the educational needs of ordinary children were not met. Imagine if the educational authorities said to the parents of ordinary children everywhere: "You will have to school your children yourself, we will make no provision for ordinary children."

You would be stunned if an educational system took that stance - yet that is precisely the stance taken by many educational systems, in many countries, with regards to gifted and prodigious children. No provision is made. No attempt to make provision is made. The gifted and prodigious children are ignored and neglected. The educational authorities simply wait for the "problem" to go away.

Sadly, they don't see that this "problem" is in fact an opportunity. It is a chance to groom someone who might truly shine and do something special. Many of them, however, are not given the chance to grow as they should. They do not blossom as they might. They are stunted due to lack of provision, lack of opportunity and lack of an appropriate education.

I am left to wonder, by all of this, why educational systems don't learn from the few prodigious children that appear in their midst. They never seem to acquire any experience from one case, to better prepare for any other that might appear. No accommodation is made for the first case - and no accommodation is made for any other that appears either. It is puzzling. The real costs of making a few exceptions and catering to a few unusual children is really quite small. Any but the most impoverished of countries could cope with it. Yet, they don't. They just ignore it. The parents are left to find a way for themselves and their gifted children.

The funny thing is, that the neglectful societies in which these gifted or prodigious children grow up expect to benefit from these children when they become gifted adults. It never seems to occur to them that the gifted adults that they become might choose to turn their back on the societies that neglected them in youth, and take their gifts elsewhere. Any gifted child who is neglected by the society of their birth should most definitely not stay around to benefit that society in the future. For if the societies see that they get the benefit of such gifted people, without having to do anything to nurture them, then they will continue not to nurture them. Why would they do otherwise, if they can benefit from their neglect? Only societies which nurture their gifted youth, should benefit from that giftedness. Perhaps, then, societies would learn to make the connection between the support they give the gifted in childhood, with the benefits they receive later from their adult gifted performance.

Once that connection is made and understood, perhaps we can expect to see more support for gifted children, when they are children and need such support. Until then, we can expect to see more cases of neglect - like the thirty year history of unsupportiveness unearthed by the writer I stumbled upon.

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged eight years and no months, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, four years and five months, and Tiarnan, twenty-two 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.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 10:25 PM 


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