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 +

Monday, June 16, 2008

A cause of death: legislation against fitness.

Singapore is undoubtedly the only country in the world with legislation against physical fitness.

Let me explain. Recently, I posted about Bangladeshis being forbidden to play football in a disused field. I wondered if this was a specific case of bias against them or if it is a general rule that no-one can just play football anywhere. I am assured, by Singaporean readers, that it is a general rule against football playing in public spaces.

Think about that for a moment. Singapore has a rule against youngsters playing football in spare ground - such as the grass near HDB estates. What, actually is this rule? It is a legislation against physical fitness. Few children will exercise methodically in a gym or on a track - but many will, without knowing it, do a great deal of exercise in the course of playing a game of football. Thus, in depriving youngsters of the freedom to play football when they please, they are also stunting their physical development and reducing their physical fitness.

Why should we care about this? Well, the recent deaths of two national servicemen, while exercising physically, has been blamed, by some commentators, on the reduced physical fitness of modern Singaporeans compared to their forebears. If this is the actual cause, then one has to consider whether rules against free physical play directly contributed to their deaths. Had football and the like, been allowed, just anywhere, there would have been more opportunities for physical play in these young men's childhoods. They would therefore have become fitter - and would have been better prepared for the rigours of National Service.

It is possible that both young men would be alive today, if physical fitness was encouraged by allowing children to do what they please, in the way of activity, wherever they please, instead of regulating it.

The more I come to understand Singapore, the more I come to realize that it is the strangest country I have ever lived in (out of the twenty or so I have visited).

Singapore loses more than the physical fitness of its children by these physical freedom limiting policies. They also prevent young sportsmen from developing. Singapore doesn't have a David Beckham -and they never will until children are given physical freedom, to play where they will.

Just to put David Beckham's accomplishment into perspective, into terms Singaporeans like to think about - his net worth is equivalent to a whole Cabinet full of government Ministers. (His most recent deal was around a quarter of a billion US dollars, as I understand it - and that is just one of the deals in his career).

So, I would like to see little footballers and other games players, busily at work in every spare corner of Singapore. It would be a fitter nation for it. There would most likely be fewer servicemen deaths - and there might even be a few international sporting stars to be proud of, as a result.

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged eight years and five months, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, four years and ten months, and Tiarnan, twenty-seven 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)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 7:39 PM 


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why is Singapore the strangest country you have visited?

9:51 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

It is the strangest place because it has a lot of really quite mad rules against ordinary human behaviours. Here, things which are acceptable and accepted in almost all countries can quite arbitrarily be banned - like playing football in open spaces. It is probably a function of the fact that one group of people have been in power for the entire history of the country and have no checks and balances against their every whim. The result is really odd. The oddness is something one comes to understand only after a while: it takes time to come to know what is permissible and what is not. What one never comes to understand, however, is just WHY things are the way they are. From a Western perspective a lot of it doesn't make sense - or might be viewed as just plain wrong.

Best wishes.

11:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm glad you've hit the culture shock bump. Too many westerners are quick to extol the 'free market' and 'democratic' society of Singapore and are totally ignorant of its quasi dictatorial government.

There is an air of resignation among ordinary people to simply accept it and move along. What is not explicitly banned in western countries is generally allowed, the reverse seems to be truer in totalitarian Singapore - nothing is legal unless explicitly allowed.

1:03 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

I am not sure that a country that behaves in this way can have a long-term future. You see, eventually people become sick of having their basic freedoms constrained and no longer co-operate, in some way: the result is that things begin to fail to work - or people just leave at such a rate that the country is no longer viable. I don't think Singapore is very far from that already - from what I hear, on the ground, the true emigration rates are extremely high.

It is all very strange to observe from the sidelines. To me, it looks a lot like the long-term effect of what is being done hasn't been considered or understood. In the long-term, this path leads to a dead-end.

Best wishes

11:44 AM  

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