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, April 22, 2008

What is said and what is done.

There is a difference between what is said and what is done. This is perhaps most noticeable, in some societies, in the utterances and actions of politicians.

A recent example were the parting words of Tharman Shanmugaratnam, the departing Minister of Education, in Singapore. He said: "Treat the brightest kids as the country's precious resources. Groom them, but more importantly, instil humility in them by making them aware of their weaknesses." and "You don't need a whole load of individuals in any society to do something exceptional but we need more of them in Singapore - people who want to break barriers essentially."

I found his words particularly interesting set against what we have seen of the actions and inactions (more to the point) of the education system with regards to our son, Ainan, who shows great scientific gift and promise. Despite his promise, however, it has been hard to secure what we have needed for him, here, in Singapore. If the State's actions were actually consonant with Tharman's words, it would have been easy to get his needs met. Over the past year and a half we found the Gifted Education branch ineffective at best, obstructive at worst. They did not seem to have Ainan's education at heart at all. We were left wondering why they even existed. That is why we gave up on them in the end.

Long-term readers will also know of our difficulties in securing homeschooling permission (still not given). In all, the state response to Ainan has been poor. There is, however, a promising development which I cannot speak of just yet - but it has taken too long to arrange: it should have taken a week, not a year and a half.

I would say, therefore, that Singapore's Ministers say the appropriate things with regards to gifted children - but I would say, from personal experience, that Singapore is not actually doing those things. It talks, but it doesn't act. The result, sadly, for Singapore, is that gifted children leave Singapore because they are unable to find a suitable education here. That is the reality which Tharman's fine words obscures.

If Singapore's inactions costs them a single genius, that is worth more than ten thousand imported scholars from China, in terms of what that one person could really do, given the chance to develop properly. As I have posted, in the past, though, the real focus does not seem to be on grooming local talent - but more on recruiting overseas talent to compensate for the outflow of frustrated local talent, who cannot get what they need here.

I hope that the incoming Education Minister listens to what Tharman has said, and actually makes a system that is truly supportive of the aspirations of its most gifted students. They could start by allowing us to homeschool Ainan.

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged eight years and four months, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, four years and nine months, and Tiarnan, twenty-six months, 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, wunderkind, wonderkind, genio, гений ребенок prodigy, genie, μεγαλοφυία θαύμα παιδιών, bambino, kind, niño, gênio criança, gifted adults and gifted children in general. Thanks.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 6:26 PM 


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