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 +

Friday, March 14, 2008

The David Beckham of Singapore

Why doesn't Singapore have a David Beckham? Why are there no internationally illustrious sports stars? Well, recently I heard a story that provides a perfect explanation.

If you are a regular of my blog, you will recall a story I told you about a lecturer, who was an "expert in raising children", who spoke of toughening up the children of Singapore. He also spoke of something else.

He told a tale of a young Singaporean who loved to play football. Every day he would be out with his friends practising, or honing his skills, by himself. It was, for him, non-stop football. It was his consuming passion. Yet, his parents were not happy. He was not doing well at school. He neglected his books. They wanted him to study. So, they began to badger him. They involved professionals, too, to coax him back to the books. Their nagging and persuasions began to tell on him. Finally, one day, he stopped playing football and started to study. The football remained unused at home. No longer did he kick it daily. Instead, he began to apply himself to his books.

His parents were elated. They had won. No longer was their son "wasting his time" on football, now, he was deploying himself usefully at his studies. The lecturer seemed most pleased to be able to recount this tale of victory of the education system, over the frivolity of football. Yet, I saw something else entirely in that tale. They had persuaded an indifferent student, with no great interest in academia, to try harder at his studies - but at the expense of his lifelong passion. I doubt, very much, that he was happy studying, instead of playing football. I doubt he got that much out of it, too. Yet, because he had conformed, his teachers and his parents were happy. He was now doing what they wanted.

As anyone of imagination can see, however, there is a price to all this. Let us look at his future. Is it a better future to be an indifferent academic, with so-so grades, reluctantly acquired, than to be a passionate, experienced footballer, who lives for his sport? Which is the better life for him? Could he not have become a professional footballer? After all, even Singapore has professional football teams. Would he not have been happier as a footballer, than as anything else? Would he not, perhaps, have been more successful as a footballer than as anything else?

No-one should deny their passion, in life - nor allow others to persuade them not to pursue it. You see, I believe there is a reason for that passion. If you have such high motivation for something and love doing it - it is usually because you have a gift for it. You are expressing yourself more truly through doing what you love, than through doing what others wish you to. That boy is a born footballer. He should be a professional sportsman. If he had been a born academic, that would have been his passion - but it is not.

I think a great mistake has been made and a boy will not now, grow up to live his dream. Once again, in Singapore, we see the narrowness of its values, the limited range of what is permissible. A boy cannot be a footballer, here. He must be an academic. Well, tell that to David Beckham - and his parents. Beckham was a child whose early life was very similar to this Singaporean boy's: he lived for football, practised all the time, was forever out on a field with his "mates". What was the result? He became one of the most famous sportsmen in the world and is probably worth hundreds of millions of dollars (considering that his latest pay package is in the region of a quarter of a billion dollars for the contract period of a few years). Which is better then: to be a multi-millionaire sportsman - or to be a reluctant academic, with an average career thereafter?

Most Singaporean parents would never see the possibility of the former and will always push for the latter. Everyone plays safe. That is why Singapore doesn't have a David Beckham - and it never will, for as long as local values remain so narrow in their focus.

I only hope the boy starts to play football again - and auditions for a professional team. He would be a lot happier and fulfilled, that's for sure.

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged eight years and one month, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, four years and seven months, and Tiarnan, two years exactly, please go to: I also write of gifted education, IQ, intelligence, the Irish, the Malays, Singapore, 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 @ 8:29 PM 


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