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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, March 17, 2007

Fintan puzzles at the fairness of the world

About two weeks ago, Fintan came into our room in the morning, with a question on his lips.

"Daddy...why are there four boys and only one mummy?" He pointed at me, himself and his brothers, as he said so.

His voice and face were both concerned - he seemed to think there was something inherently unfair in all of this.

"Well, when mummy has a baby, half of them are boys and half are girls...it just happens that all of them have been boys. That is all."

He listened to this, but wasn't convinced of its fairness. I felt like telling him that mummy would have a girl one day - but didn't - for how could I be sure of that?

I see in this question, and in others that Fintan asks, a developing sense of what is right, true and moral. He senses unfairness in some of the characteristics of the world - and puzzles at them. He is not one to accept that which does not seem just.

Without knowing it, therefore, Fintan is measuring the world against some inner sense of what is fair and just. He has an internal moral sense - and it appears to be developing nicely.

I am happy about that, for one who senses unfairness in the world around them, is also very likely to be one who behaves fairly in their conduct towards others. The development of a moral sense is also a sign of the development of a moral character: the two go together. A child cannot sense immorality, injustice or unfairness - and then behave unjustly, immorally or unfairly - for the child would sense the wrongness of their own behaviour, then, measured against their developing internal standard.

It appears that, in Fintan, at least, a sense of justice and morality develops quite early - after all, he is only three.

I look forward to the good hearted man he promises to become, knowing, as I do, the good-hearted child that he is.

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 7:49 PM  0 comments

Daily Mail Censorship - a policy of the newspaper

Out of curiosity, I did a search on Google on Censorship at the Daily Mail, after my experience with being censored on the website of this British newspaper. My search turned up over 1.3 million returns.

Clearly, I didn't check them all out - but the upper ones were clearly all relevant and referred to specific instances of censorship on this daily newspaper. What became apparent as I read through these readers failed attempts to comment on the website was why the Daily Mail censored them. It seems that the Daily Mail has a policy of blocking anyone who points out an error, an omission, an oversight, a misunderstanding, the presence of misinformation, or any failing of any kind, on the part of the paper. They also seem to block anyone who holds a contrary view to the one expressed in the paper.

Is this policy consonant with the idea of freedom of speech? No. Is it consonant with the modern idea that media are interactive? No. Is it consonant with the idea that a newspaper should seek to purvey the truth? No.

It is however consonant with the idea of an organization attempting to inflate its image by presenting a front of perfection. By this I mean, the organization wishes to appear infallible and all-knowing.

Yet, that is not the effect their policy has. Each time they block a reader comment, they are losing a reader. Do you think that a reader will have the same view about the paper after their attempt to correct a story has been blocked? I don't think so. What is likely is that reader will tell quite a few people about their failed attempt to comment and the censorship that the paper imposed on them.

It is evident that the Daily Mail doesn't want to be a newspaper in the long term. For it is obvious that the long term effect of their comment policy will be to alienate their readership. Who are the readers most likely to attempt to comment? The precise ones that they should be trying to keep happy: vocal, intelligent, proactive people who can either spread the word about a paper in a good way - or do the opposite if offended. I was really surprised at the tales of censorship that litter the internet in connection with this newspaper. This is a phenomenon totally at odds with the public image they portray in England as being "defenders of the British public". It is evident, now, that their public image is just a ruse. The true nature of this paper is not one that most free-thinking people would wish to support. They suppress the truth and massage their public image, in so doing.

It was quite a surprise to learn that my experience was not a rare instance of a comment being overlooked - but the product of an active policy of readership censorship.

In allowing comments, at all, they are trying to present themselves as being open to their readers. Yet, as one of many people who have tried to comment, but failed, they show themselves to be, in fact, closed to the truth, to feedback, to enlightenment of any kind.

There are many newspapers in this world. I will buy one that actually allows its readers to comment. For instance, the Daily Telegraph - they published my comment within eight hours. I think I will stick to them, then.

(If you would like to read about Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged seven years and three months, or his gifted brothers, please go to: http://scientific-child-prodigy.blogspot.com/2006/10/scientific-child-prodigy-guide.html 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 @ 3:23 PM  4 comments

Tiarnan's speed of reaction

Yesterday Tiarnan showed an interesting side to his physical development: reaction time and co-ordination.

You see, Tiarnan was standing beside the front door to our house. Those of you who have read many of the early postings on my blog will know that this is a very heavy wooden affair. Well, as he was standing there, the door suddenly began to open - and yet Tiarnan was only inches from it when it began to do so. I was too far away to do anything about it - but what impressed me was what Tiarnan himself did about it - he ran backwards, at once. Were he to avoid being struck by the door, there simply wasn't time to turn around - and so he ran backwards. He reacted very fast and began to move as soon as the door began to leap towards him. He did about five or six quick backward steps taking him out of reach of the door.

It was interesting to note that he did not stumble or fall in this backwards motion - and yet it is the first time I have noted him moving backwards like that. It seems he got it right, first time (though he may have run backwards on other occasions unobserved, of course). What was also of note is the speed of reaction he showed: he was so close to that door that, to avoid being struck, he must have begun to move very shortly, indeed, upon perceiving the movement of the door. I think he reacted rather more quickly than a typical adult would do.

Had he been struck by that door, it would have been really unfunny, so heavy is it. There is no doubt that he would have been injured.

I will have to make sure that the guest in question learns the value of knocking on the door, first, before opening it. Not everyone in Singapore behaves as people would in England.

(If you would like to read more of Tiarnan, thirteen months, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, three and Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged seven years and three months, please go to: http://scientific-child-prodigy.blogspot.com/2006/10/scientific-child-prodigy-guide.html 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 @ 10:42 AM  2 comments

Stanford University, EPGY, in Singapore

Yesterday, Raymond Ravaglia, the Deputy Director of the Education Program for Gifted Youth, at Stanford University, gave a talk in Singapore.

He spoke on the EPGY program - what it was and what it offered to students who took part. The audience was a small gathering of parents of children in the Gifted Education Programme, directed to the talk by the Ministry of Education.

EPGY started to give summer programmes in Singapore in 2004. The coming programme (I prefer this spelling!) in June will be the seventh such programme in Singapore. There will be six subject areas covered: English Expository Writing (ages 14 to 16); English Creative Writing (ages 14 to 16); Mathematical Logic and Problem Solving (ages 13 to 15); Physics: Quantum Mechanics (ages 16 to 18) and two courses for the Elementary Level: Elementary English Creative Writing (ages 10 to 12); and an Introduction to Mathematical Logic and Problem Solving (ages 10 to 12).

Unlike the EPGY courses at Stanford itself, these courses would be non-residential - which saves on costs. Courses are to take place, as I understand it, at the Hwa Chong Institution - a Singaporean Junior College (ages 16 to 18 years).

Raymond Ravaglia was passionate about the need for gifted children to be stretched, and not under-challenged in the classroom - and he saw EPGY as meeting this need.

Singapore is the only country outside of the US, which holds EPGY. The reason? According to Raymond Ravaglia, "Singapore is a good supplier of Stanford..." by which, of course, he means that many Singaporeans go to Stanford University.

I pointed out to him that EPGY have no Chemistry option, in Singapore. He said that one would be introduced - and a Biology programme too, in the near future, but that they were concentrating on options that had the broadest appeal, at present.

To administer the EPGY in Singapore, Stanford University have established an Administrative Office here, called V-Campus. The local representative here, is Lim Yian Poh. (His title is CEO).

A funny moment arose when Mr. Lim Yian Poh, saw Ainan reading a copy of Scientific American on Black Holes: "A seven year old reading Scientific American..." he mused, bemused!

I asked Raymond Ravaglia about the admission of youngsters to Stanford - say seven, eight or nine years old - and he said: "I would discourage it. Stanford isn't set up for students under seventeen, on the legal, social and emotional front..."

So, Stanford wouldn't be appropriate for Ainan, then...except perhaps later on, at a higher level. We will see.

It was interesting to get the opportunity to meet a representative of an American University and gather an impression about what that was all about. By the time, EPGY gets around to Chemistry, it will probably be too late for Ainan - he will have passed that point already (I think he has by now, anyway) but by posting here, other parents and children might be helped.

Good luck all.

(If you would like to read more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged seven years and three months, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, three and Tiarnan, thirteen months, please go to: http://scientific-child-prodigy.blogspot.com/2006/10/scientific-child-prodigy-guide.html 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 @ 10:16 AM  2 comments

Friday, March 16, 2007

More lessons from the classroom: morality

I wrote, recently, of the lack of imagination observable in many young people today. What implications are there for their functioning in the world?

Well, one implication came to light today in another brief conversation, I am aware of:

Teacher: "What would you do if you found a wallet in the street?"

Student, from mainland China (the same one as in the earlier posting):

"I have never found a wallet."

End of both thought and conversation.

This particular student has displayed a lack of imagination in many contexts, in the past, however, the implication that he was unable to consider a moral situation - because he lacked imagination - is a new observation. It is shocking to realize that the lack of imagination means he is not able to consider his own responses in situations he has never been in. Fundamentally, therefore, it means that he cannot know himself. Lack of imagination is, therefore, a kind of pervasive mental disability whose wide-ranging effects are little appreciated. We think of it in terms of not being creative - but it is much more than that. Without imagination a child is not fully human, and lacks the mental resources to understand themselves. Imagination is a key aspect of what it means to be a fully alive, thinking being.

Any education that imperils imagination, imperils the very future of Man. A world without imagination, is a world in which people cannot even understand themselves - never mind the world they live in.

Is this young man - for he is eighteen or nineteen years old - unable to imagine because of some native deficiency - or is it because of the way he was educated in mainland China? In some way, I hope that it is a deficiency, for if it is his education then the implication is clear: there may be over a billion like him, all having received such a debilitating education. I don't know which it is - but I can tell you this: I have seen this lack of imagination in many others of his origin. I do not know the cause - whether it be innate or environmental. The question may be essentially undecidable without doing an experiment that would, itself, be questionable.

I will keep you posted on more observations of this phenomenon, as and when they arise.

(If you would like to read of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged seven years and three months or his gifted brothers, Fintan, three, and Tiarnan, thirteen months, please go to: http://scientific-child-prodigy.blogspot.com/2006/10/scientific-child-prodigy-guide.html 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 @ 10:21 AM  2 comments

Tiarnan completes his nursery rhymes

On the 14th March we were out with Tiarnan, thirteen months, in his stroller.

Tiarnan is a natural tourist and likes nothing better than to see a new vista pass by from the vantage of his snug seat in his stroller. He will peer curiously all around, point and comment. Should anyone be leaving the house, he always makes a great fuss until someone indicates that they are going to take him with them.

Syahidah began a nursery rhyme, which he liked, "Round and round the garden, like a teddy bear, one step..."

"Two steps." he piped up, completing the line. It was a little bit of a surprise since he has never joined in the rhymes before - he has just listened, smiled and laughed.

We tried it again: "Round and round the garden, like a teddy bear, one step..."

"Two steps." he said again, knowing his part and playing his role, with a broad, engaging smile.

I will have to upload a photo of his smile, if I can capture it - for it is so broad it fills his face and bares his teeth endearingly. He has the biggest smile of any of our children. It is the sort of smile that makes strangers want to give him a hug.

We carried on with our walk, and our rhymes, Tiarnan joining in at the appropriate moment. It was a pleasant interlude.

(If you would like to read more of Tiarnan, thirteen months, or his gifted brothers, Ainan Celeste Cawley, seven years and three months, and Fintan, three, please go to: http://scientific-child-prodigy.blogspot.com/2006/10/scientific-child-prodigy-guide.html 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. Thanks)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 6:56 AM  0 comments

NUS High School: the rarity of acceleration.

I have learnt that academic acceleration is practised rarely in Singapore. That is why I had got the impression that it isn't practised at all: one simply did not hear of cases - and what one did hear was that: "Education must be age appropriate."

At the National University of Singapore (NUS) High School for Mathematics and Science there are about six hundred and sixty students, presently, if I recall our conversation with the Principal correctly. Out of those students, only ten are accelerated. All the others are in the year according to their age. That was not a misprint: 10 are accelerated.

Yet, what does this mean? You see, the academic standard required, at any given age, at NUS High is greater than that of other "High Schools", according to the Principal. So, in the sense of the standard of work at a given age, ALL the students at NUS High are accelerated. However, only those ten are officially age accelerated on top of the higher demands of the school.

Ainan would be the only student of his age (seven) to be in the school. As posted on another occasion, it was clear from staff reactions that no other primary school pupils are at NUS High at present.

I will let you know more, when I do. Thanks.

(If you would like to read more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged seven years and three months, and his gifted brothers, please go to: http://scientific-child-prodigy.blogspot.com/2006/10/scientific-child-prodigy-guide.html 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 @ 6:14 AM  0 comments

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Tiarnan tries inter-species communication

At the Imax theatre, yesterday, there were many giant images of animals projected on the hemispherical screen. Among them were lions - giant gaze filling lions.

Now, what do you think Tiarnan did when he saw a giant lion appear before him? Cry perhaps? Cower away, as any baby might on being confronted by something so alien, bristling with giant teeth?

Nope. He looked up at the great cat and tried to talk to it. "Grrrhh", he said, in a minute and most endearing growl, as if the giant cat would be able to hear him. Tiarnan tried to enter into a dialogue with the cat. He knew lions made such noises and had deduced that was Lion Speak...the language of the lions and thought he would have a go at it.

Sweet.

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 4:02 PM  0 comments

Ainan's memory for molecular structure

Ainan has the habit of drawing molecules. There are two categories: the ones he reads of somewhere, and the ones he invents.

The molecules Ainan draws are now very complex. They contain anywhere from dozens to hundreds of atoms. He draws them with each atom labelled and each bond drawn. What I find uncanny is his retention for this information. For most people, the molecules would simply be too complex to hold in mind, at one time - yet Ainan need only study a molecule briefly, before he is able to reproduce the structure, later, from memory.

I suppose that his memory for molecules could be seen as analogous to some musicians' memory for music: they hold in their minds thousands of pieces of music. So, too, is it with Ainan - but what he remembers is molecular structure.

It has not passed me by that this absorption of structures may lead to interesting developments later. For, it is only when one has internalized a great body of knowledge about a subject - and made it one's own - that one can make evolutionary or revolutionary changes to that body of knowledge. Ainan is building for himself a very deep understanding of the molecular world - and yet he is only seven years and three months old. I don't know where it will lead him - but that there are interesting places it could take him, is clear.

This is just the beginning of his growth: I feel a quiet excitement when I watch him at work - an excitement at what might come of all of this.

(If you would like to read more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, please go to: http://scientific-child-prodigy.blogspot.com/2006/10/scientific-child-prodigy-guide.html I also write of child prodigy, child genius, adult genius, baby genius, gifted education, IQ, intelligence, savant, the creatively gifted, gifted adults and gifted children in general. Thanks.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 10:22 AM  0 comments

On the genetic inheritance of gift

My father was an enormously strong man, in his youth. His strength would have been legendary, had he lived in earlier days, that lauded such things. As it was, however, he found daily uses for his strength, in the way he went about tasks. He was a man who could lift furniture upstairs, on his own. He had no need of the help of another. He could move objects that would be unmovable, at all, to a typical man, with casual ease. Many a time, as a child, I would wonder at the strength he applied to his daily tasks, in the garden or about the house. Unseen by me, he would apply his strength too, in his business – but for privacy’s sake, I am not going to say what that business was. That his strength was an asset to him, even in modern life, is clear, and in some ways, had he not been strong, he would not have been the success he became (for reasons I will leave undescribed, for they would tell too much about his life – and that wouldn’t be fair).

Now he was an enormously strong man – and I inherited some of that from him, for I have always been a strong man – stronger than most men – yet, not as strong as him, I think. The strength has been handed down to me, somewhat diluted.

I look at my sons, now, in particular, Ainan, and no longer see the strength there, at all. You would never guess, looking at Ainan, that his grandfather was of great physical strength. Ainan does not possess the build that promises a large musculature to come: his is the slightness of the eternal academic, not the strength of a fearsome warrior of old, as, no doubt, our forebears in the old celtic world, were.

So, why do I discuss this? Well, looking at Ainan today, in relation to me, I felt our disparity in strength, and remembered my father’s greater strength before me. Is this, then, the destiny of all genetic gift? Is it to be lost little by little, generation by generation, until all is diluted to nothing? Looking at the decline in strength from grandfather, to father, to son, it might seem so, but all, as usual, is not what it seems.

If we look wider than a single line, we see a different story. I have three brothers, two of whom are stronger than me. I am the shortest male in my family, (though six foot tall) but not the lightest, though the two I estimate to be stronger than me, are both heavier and taller than I am.

My father’s genes have spread wide and each of his children carry half of them. He bore gifts of the mind and gifts of the body – for his mind is good, very good – and his body, in terms of strength, in particular, was most well equipped.

Looking at my brothers, I can see that my father’s qualities of mind appear in them in various admixtures – and so too his strength, in various proportions. I don’t know how many genes are involved in the gifts of the mind and the body – but we each have half of them. It seems, from observation, that there must, for strength, be more than one gene involved – for one can see a gradation across the sons: from quite strong, to strong to very strong to ferociously strong.

My father’s gift of strength lives on – and it is possible that one of his sons is stronger than him, in one way – for one son is six inches taller than his father, allowing him an advantage of scale, even if, for his size, he is weaker.

So, too, is it with my children. Ainan missed out on the gift of strength, it seems – but his brother Fintan did not. Fintan is thickset, well-muscled and, like all Cawleys, stronger than you would estimate. So my own gift of strength has not been lost – it is just not evenly distributed amongst my sons.

I do not know whether Fintan will be as strong as me, or whether, like one of my father’s sons, stronger than his father – but that he has inherited greater than common strength is clear. So, the gift goes on.

I would think it is like this with all genetic gifts. Looking both wide and deep, one will see that the gifts pass into one branch of the family, but miss others – and then further branch again, passing into some lines and not others and so on, forever. Nothing will be truly lost as long as one rule is adhered to: have several children – so that each may bear half the genes and so at least half of each gift, onwards.

I ponder this question because Ainan has certain mental gifts which were evident in my childhood and, no doubt, were anyone around to watch, in my father’s before him: how many more generations can this continue?

The answer is, I think, forever – as long as each generation has enough children so that some – well, at least one, - expresses the gift in question and may pass it on.

As it is in our family, so it is in yours. Whatever gifts you have in you, may be passed down – you just need to have a kid or three. Don’t worry that some have it and some don’t – (or some have more and others have less) because all bear some of it, onwards.

Now all I have to hope for is that I become a grandfather, one day – and watch the story begin to unfold again. There would be satisfaction in seeing that genetic continuity at work. I only hope my children want to have children when they grow up. We will see.

(I should add that even my father is not the strongest man in family legend – there were much larger and stronger men, still, in our background. Looked at physically, therefore, there is evidence of decline in strength over many generations, I would say. (In the direct line, there is decline…but the genes spread wide and are around somewhere). Once, it seems, my forebears had a use for such strength – otherwise they would not have evolved to be so strong, I would think. Looking at the history of the area and of the family, I would say a lot of that would have something to do with the war-torn history of the Land of Ireland, in times, before the gun, when strength was a man’s greatest defence – and offence, too, I might add.)

(If you would like to read about Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged seven years and three months, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, three and Tiarnan, thirteen months, please go to: http://scientific-child-prodigy.blogspot.com/2006/10/scientific-child-prodigy-guide.html 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 @ 7:31 AM  0 comments

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Tiarnan and the fifty foot animals: Imax

Yesterday, Tiarnan, thirteen months, sat and watched a safari documentary, on Imax.

Perhaps you don't know what Imax is: it is a film format that allows the projection of the image onto a very large curved screen that enfolds the audience, filling the entire field of vision from far left to far right - from high above, to far below. It is not a 360 degrees format because chairs are in the way and audience, too...but it is pretty much as close as you can get in a cinema.

There is another thing about Imax you should know: the images are enormous. Everything is far bigger than it is in a conventional cinema. Every animal was a giant monster. Every vista endless. The scale is what is stunning to an adult. To a young child it is usually frightening.

When Ainan first saw an Imax film, he found it frightening. Fintan was terrified of it, when it came to his turn. Yet, surprisingly, Tiarnan reacted without fear, at all - he just displayed an intense curiosity about the animals on the screen all around him. Tiarnan's reaction was just pure curiosity.

I find it interesting the way each child reacts differently, when exposed to the same stimulus. There are such variations between the children - and yet they are brothers. How much greater, therefore, are the differences between children who are not brothers?

Truly, we humans are a various breed. I find that encouraging: for perhaps there is room among us, for all kinds, and all outlooks and all perceptions. The only battle then, is for us to accept each other - whatever kind we might be. Looking at the world, however, it seems that that battle has only just begun.

(If you would like to learn more of Tiarnan, thirteen months, or his gifted brothers, Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged seven years and three months, and Fintan, three, please go to: http://scientific-child-prodigy.blogspot.com/2006/10/scientific-child-prodigy-guide.html 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 @ 8:56 AM  0 comments

The Daily Mail, UK: seekers of the truth?

Are the Daily Mail seekers of or censors of the Truth? I am left to wonder after a recent attempt to comment on one of their stories, online.

You see, two British papers - at least - covered a story about a walking six month old baby. They made a really big story of it. Now, as regular readers of this blog will know, my son Ainan was walking at six months. So I tried to comment on these stories pointing this out and also pointing out that in many other ways my children were more precocious than the child covered (he hadn't started speaking yet, for instance), and yet, oddly, had been ignored by the media.

The Daily Telegraph published my comment. The Daily Mail did not. Now you may say perhaps they have not had time to publish it: well, it is now Wednesday and I tried to comment on Friday. The Daily Telegraph carried my comment eight hours later (they had gone to bed, so had to wait until morning). The Daily Mail has ignored my comment and failed to publish it despite asking on their page: "If you know of a more advanced baby let us know." Well, I let them know...but they didn't want to let any of their readers know. Now, why is this? Could it be because it puts their story into a bit of a shadow? Could it be that I wrote "Singapore" on the location entry...and that they wouldn't want to cover a "Singaporean" above a Brit - not knowing that I grew up in Britain? It is all a little disappointing. You see, I used to read the Daily Mail. I used to enjoy their moral sounding campaigns on many issues. How moral are they being now? Is it moral to censor a story that surpasses one already covered? What would a true journalist do in that circumstance? I would have thought that a real journalist, on hearing of a better story would not censor it, but would actually contact the person concerned and cover it. That is what journalism should be about. Clearly, that is not what the Daily Mail is about these days.

There are some very advanced babies in this world - but curiously, your national newspaper may do nothing to let you learn of them. Interesting isn't it?

I am not impressed.

(If you would like to read about Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged seven years and three months, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, three, and Tiarnan, thirteen months, please go to: http://scientific-child-prodigy.blogspot.com/2006/10/scientific-child-prodigy-guide.html 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 @ 8:25 AM  2 comments

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Fintan, the natural actor

Fintan, three, likes to dress up. He is our local "super-hero". Sometimes he is a Power Ranger, sometimes he is Superman, which is his favourite.

A couple of months ago, he was dressed as Superman, in our locality. We had just been shopping and were walking across the playground. There were many parents, maids and children there. Little children remarked on the advent of Superman. The adults, though, were funny: several of them cried out - "Superman! Hello!" or a variant. What impressed me was Fintan's reaction. He just gave a little nod to acknowledge them, as if it were his due, to be so called.

I understood then, that Fintan was very much an inhabitant of the role, as any good - or natural - actor should be. In donning the cape and elastic clothing of our superhuman hero, he had also adopted the belief that in some way he was Superman.

The nod was so natural, that he gave in acceptance of their comment, so appropriate, that all thought of laughter was stilled in me. Imagination like that requires respect - and is so often lost as a child proceeds through childhood into adolescence.

I hope Fintan, three, retains this imaginative quality - and makes use of it in an interesting manner.

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 8:36 AM  0 comments

The Flynn Effect: are we all getting smarter?

For decades now, the average IQ of people has been on the rise, at mean rate of one third of a point per year. That is 3 points per decade. So, are we all getting smarter, then?

The short answer is no. You see the question is, for whom is the tally rising?

Research indicates that the mean IQ is rising because the IQ of those who are in the lower segment of the population is increasing. The higher up you go on the IQ scale, the less the IQ is improving. For very high IQ types, it is isn't budging, decade on decade.

Now, this presents us with a very real problem. You see, IQ tests are regularly "re-normed" to take account of this average rise...and these rising scores are reset to 100. Thus IQ points vanish, in this adjustment. This would not matter were the change in IQ the same across all IQs - but it isn't. High IQs are not really changing - but do the norms take account of this? From what I have read, and understand, the test takers are adjusting the test results, assuming that the Flynn Effect is a universal phenomenon. Since it isn't...what effect does "re-norming" have. Well, as you might have guessed, it artificially depresses the IQs of people in the upper ranges.

So, again, we have identified a source of IQ score depression for the most gifted, introduced into modern tests.

With all of these score depressing effects, (see my previous post The Great IQ Con) preferentially exerted on the most gifted, it seems that, ultimately, modern IQ tests are being designed by people who either have an agenda, or are themselves pretty stupid. Perhaps it is both, since you would have to be pretty stupid to have an agenda against the brightest among us.

What can we conclude from all of this? Well, it seems sure that whatever uses are intended for modern IQ tests, getting a true measure of the intelligence of the most intelligent is not one of them. The tests are quite useless for that - in fact, the typical modern test will give a very distorted picture of anyone who roves into the highly gifted territory and beyond. This obviously can have significant impacts on whether or not these children receive appropriate education, or not. In all, it is quite a serious issue.

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 12:15 AM  9 comments

Monday, March 12, 2007

Tiarnan's fine motor control

When you are small, it is difficult to manipulate objects which are even smaller. Little hands fumble when the going gets too delicate. At least, that is how it usually is. Yesterday, I saw something to make me question that assumption.

I was holding Tiarnan in my arms, by the door to my home, when he reached out to a white plastic cover of a strange switch near the exit, whose purpose I have yet to divine. It is long, thin and black and sticks out above the light switches. It has a white cover on it. The cover is about three millimetres in diameter and one and a half centimetres long.

Tiarnan held this cover between thumb and forefinger and removed it by sliding it off. He looked at it a moment - then, he did something that any parent of a young child would know is unlikely: he put it back. He slid it on over its three millimetre wide target and smiled to himself.

The fine motor control required to do that is really quite advanced - and so too is the hand-eye coordination, for a thirteen month old child.

This is another demonstration of the fine control that Tiarnan exerts over his own movements. First his drawings that are not scribbles - and now this. This is a type of gift in itself - and, in Tiarnan, I think it will manifest in the type of control of the world we call Art. We will see.

(If you would like to read more of Tiarnan, thirteen months, or his gifted brothers, including Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged seven years and three months, and Fintan, three, then please go to: http://scientific-child-prodigy.blogspot.com/2006/10/scientific-child-prodigy-guide.html I also write of child prodigy, gifted education, IQ, intelligence, 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 @ 10:36 AM  2 comments

Conversation from the classroom: creativity at risk

I heard something today which is enough to alarm anyone who values creativity. It was nothing more than a fragment of a real conversation that took place, but the implication of it, is quite unsettling.

Teacher to student: "I would like you to write a dialogue on buying something in a shop."

Student from mainland China: "But I don't want to buy anything."

Teacher: "Imagine, then."

Student: "Imagine?" He sounded as if nothing more impossible could have been asked of him. "I can't imagine."

End of conversation.

The student in question did not believe it was possible for him to imagine buying something, without actually having the desire to buy something. That was one imaginary leap too far.

It worries me that creativity of even the most basic kind is so difficult for so many young people today. They live in "what is"...and cannot change their thinking, in any way, to create "what is not."

I don't know about you, but it is one of my greater concerns, to see this inability at work, all around me. I will write more on this in future. I just found that conversation sobering enough to have to report.

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 10:27 AM  0 comments

Sunday, March 11, 2007

The Great IQ Con

Perhaps you have taken an IQ test. Perhaps you scored well. Perhaps you think you know your IQ, then. It is probable that you don't, however.

You see IQ tests don't behave in the way that people expect. They don't actually measure the upper ranges of humanity very well, at all. In fact, they are a source of much mismeasure. The modern IQ test isn't equipped to ascertain the most gifted among us at all - in fact, it is almost as if they are designed to hide them. Perhaps that is exactly what is happening.

I should explain. Everyone has heard the phrase "ceiling effects" - but there is much more to it than this. Firstly, when do ceiling effects invalidate the test result? One researcher put it that if you have answered 90% of the test items then that test cannot measure your IQ. The result is invalid. Indeed, an IQ test can only give an accurate result if you are able only to answer HALF the questions. The higher your point of failure to answer is above that, the less accurate the result will be.

When else might we see ceiling effects? If you scored in the 99th percentile on ANY subtest, then that test is, more than likely, underestimating your score. It cannot determine how much beyond that score you would have scored in a test with a higher ceiling. This is important to note. Just because this has happened, does not mean your score - or your child's score would have been astronomically beyond the ceiling - it might be in the right place after all - but it is more than likely that it is an underestimate - and it could be a very great discrepancy indeed. There is no way of knowing.

That seems bad enough. But wait until you hear about what they do to the "norming". Did you know that the number of extremely gifted individuals is higher than expected for a normal distribution of intelligence? Did you also know that the number of extremely intellectually impaired individuals is much higher than expected too? In a rational profession, given to promoting truth, above convenience or dogma, you would have thought that psychologists would acknowledge this...but no. What do IQ tests do? They eliminate the phenomenon by cheating the test.

What I mean by this is that the norms of the test impose an artificial correction of the results to eliminate the unexpectedly high number of extremely gifted scorers. They "compress" the upper scoring range to fit a normal curve, artificially "re-norming" or depressing high scores. Basically, modern psychometric tests steal IQ points from you, by pretending those points don't exist: they are simply squashed out of existence.

How many points are lost in this fashion? I have seen one estimate, by a psychologist not happy about the situation, placing the discrepancy at 25 points, for high scorers. This means someone who would have scored 180 - and been labelled "profoundly gifted" - may be renormed to score 155 - a much more common seeming score.

In practice, how much discrepancy do all these effects add up to? Prepare to be shocked - but first place an estimate on it yourself and see just how honest and fair to the gifted population modern psychometric testing is.

Got a number?

Well, the measured difference on real life test cases between some extremely gifted children measured on old style tests, with higher ceilings - and modern tests with much lower ceilings is - an unbelievable 85 to 107 IQ points.

That means something very clear. The most gifted segment of the population will not now be identifiable - but will score similarly to those who are moderately or slightly more gifted.

One real life example scored 120 points on a WISC test. The same person scored 220 on an old Stanford Binet LM. Now, that is disturbing. For the child would not have been admitted to a gifted program on the basis of the first score - yet was clearly very profoundly gifted when measured on a test with a higher ceiling.

Remember this: you DON'T have to score at the top of a test, to be affected by the ceiling. Ceiling effects get stronger the closer you get to the end of the test - but make the test totally invalid by the time 90 per cent of the test items are answered. Yet, long before that point, they could be making a significant difference to the results.

IQ is not what it was - and it never was what we thought it was, anyway. What a con.

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 5:04 PM  5 comments

The Environmentalist: a solution to Earth's problems

Ainan, as many of you know, is just seven years and three months, yet he has clearly observed the destruction of the Earth's environment, with growing puzzlement at Man.

Ainan is not impressed with an adult world that so casually destroys the only Earth we have. So, on the 23rd of February, 2007, Ainan quietly drew up a solution to the situation which, rather sadly, told me his view of the future of Earth.

He drew up a recipe for a new Earth.

In six pages, he noted what materials you would need and what you would need to do with them, to recreate the Earth and its' atmosphere. He drew the formation of the Earth in the manner he suggested and the multilayered atmosphere he wanted to make on top. He labelled the properties of each layer. It was quite a touching document to read.

Why is it that a seven year old can see that the Earth is in trouble - but all the world's leaders persist in being blind to it? Why does a seven year old understand that Man does not have the resolve to do anything en masse to protect the only Earth we have - so he proposes that another may have to be made, one day?

I would rather we were led by a child like Ainan, than a man like certain world leaders that could be mentioned. Although a child might be young in years, that does not mean they will also be short in vision - which so many leaders are.

I will keep his "Recipe for a New Earth"...and show him it when he is an adult. I only hope that by the time he becomes an adult, he can laugh loudly that he had ever thought such a thing was necessary. God forbid that he should receive it in sadness in a time when his prediction had already become true.

Let us leave a living, vibrant world for our children and grandchildren. Not a dead one that needs a child's replacement.

(If you would like to read more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged seven years and three months, please go to: http://scientific-child-prodigy.blogspot.com/2006/10/scientific-child-prodigy-guide.html I also write of gifted education, IQ, intelligence, child prodigy, child genius, adult genius, baby genius, savant, the creatively gifted, gifted adults and gifted children in general. Thanks.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 8:16 AM  4 comments

Fintan makes fun of Daddy

If you are a parent, you will know that having an energetic child is a "mixed blessing". Yes, they are fun to be around...but sometimes that "around" is a little too big - and that child gets everywhere. Fintan, three, is one such child.

Today, Fintan wanted to run around, while we were out and about with him. Singapore is a small city with a population which, in my opinion, is proportionately quite large. Public places are often crowded places, therefore. Having a child who is ever running far and wide can easily lead to a lost child.

We took a bus on Orchard Road, to go to buy some electronic goods (more of that in another post). Fintan wanted to run around inside the bus...but that isn't acceptable, and wouldn't have been welcome, so, instead I sat him inside of me, locked away safely between me and the window of the bus.

To distract him, I pointed out of the window at things we were passing, thinking it might settle him down.

"Look Fintan at all those flags!" I pointed at a wall of flags on a shopping centre.

Then: "Look Fintan, at those neon lights!"

"Neon lights", he echoed, learning the name for them.

Then he said something with what I took to be sarcasm:

"Look Daddy, the sky is there!"

That silenced me. I hadn't heard him be sarcastic before, but now that I did, I knew my ruse had not fooled him, at all.

Perhaps, my attempt to distract him was just not sophisticated enough: I will have to recalibrate my view of what is appropriate for him.

The manner in which Fintan makes his social understanding plain, is always so clear, that sometimes I am humbled by him. He sees through everything - and always chooses an apt way to reply.

I think he is going to grow up to be a funny guy. He is a funny little guy already.

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 12:49 AM  2 comments

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