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 +

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Hollywood from a child's perspective.

Fintan likes his cartoons, but that does not mean he accepts them unthinkingly.

On the 29th June, Fintan came to me with a plastic "Kung Fu" panda in his hands. He had recently seen the film and rather enjoyed it. However, something was puzzling him.



"What do pandas eat?"


"Then why does Kung Fu panda eat noodles?"

He had caught me at a moment when a ready answer wouldn't come to my lips. So, I am not sure I gave him a satisfactory answer to the question. However, it does show me that though he had seen the film when he was four, he didn't just accept that it could be, without questioning its premises. Clearly, it had niggled at him that the panda should eat food he had doubted a panda would eat.

This leads to broader matters, of course: children learn about the world from the films they see - but what exactly are they learning? Much of what they see in films relates in no way at all to the real world. Is this a beneficial thing? Is it harmful that children gain inaccurate understandings of the world from Hollywood? Fintan, at least, is thinking about what Hollywood is telling him - and doubting it. Yet, I would think most kids of his age wouldn't do that - they would just accept Hollywood's version of reality as in some way real, some where else that they haven't been to.

Of course, one may say that there is a lot of time for them to grow up and come to a truer understanding of the world - but some of the things that Hollywood "teaches" through its films are never outgrown - they inform even adults' view of the world. This can only be harmful. Indeed, the Mythbusters are making a good living out of debunking the myths - or lies, in fact - that Hollywood perpetrates. The world view it represents does not correspond to the real world in so many ways that we might overlook.

In a way, I am happy that Fintan is not accepting Hollywood's version of reality without question. There is the sign that he is thinking for himself and checking the facts of the situation with external reality. That can only be healthy - for it means that the model of the world that he builds for himself, over the years, is likely to be much more accurate - and therefore useful, than that built by a child who is in the habit of accepting whatever is told to them, without question. I only hopes he keeps it up.

I have to add, of course, that even though he doubted the film's premises in certain respects, that didn't stop him from enjoying it. He was able to view it from two perspectives: that of enjoying the tale as it unfolded, but also that of examining it for veracity and consistency with what he knew of the world.

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged eight years and seven months, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, five years exactly, and Tiarnan, twenty-eight 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 @ 11:08 PM 


Blogger Shannon said...

Nothing in media and film should go unquestioned. "Influence" by Robert Cialdini, in part, addresses how the media is used to manipulate consumers. I would not be surprised if Kung Fu panda was eating a certain brand of noodle. I would not be surprised if one could purchase Kung Fu panda chopsticks. Hollywood is known for its shameless marketing.

Is there any benefit to these kind of films aside from all of the consumerism? Maybe. Sometimes television and movies are a necessary distraction to a world that can be pretty disturbing. I let my daughter watch cartoons more for the entertainment value and less for the educational value.

3:56 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thanks for the book reference Shannon. I shall try to track down a copy.

Yes, there is a tendency for every product referred to, in a film, to have a real life equivalent (though I am not sure if it is the case with this film). It is an abuse, in some ways, of the viewer's open-ness in choosing that particular film to watch. It is taking advantage of them to advertise to them. The morality of it is questionable particular when the viewers are unsuspecting children.

Best wishes

10:14 AM  

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