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 +

Thursday, August 28, 2008

On being considerate on public transport.

Today, I journeyed on a bus. It seems a simple thing to do, but a lot of people conspired to make it a hellish trip.

I shall explain. Shortly after I boarded the bus, a group of school kids got on. They were secondary school children of about 16 years old. There were, I estimate, 25 to 30 of them. They crowded out the bus, standing in every nook and cranny and taking up every available seat.

Now, I have no issues with such groups of school children, usually, but, today, they did something en masse which I found quite insufferable: they spoke. Now, I am not about to speak out against Singlish again. The fact that many of them did use Singlish is not the matter I am concerned with. What bothered me was the volume with which they spoke. They competed with each other to speak above the volume of their fellow school children. Each child had to speak loud enough to drown out their competing neighbours, who, in turn, spoke louder so that they could be heard. What happened, almost immediately, was that they were all speaking as loudly as they were physically capable of doing.

The cacophony was deafening. I did the only thing I could: I put my fingers in my ears. Now, this achieved two things: it brought understanding, sympathetic smiles to the people opposite me, who had no trouble grasping what it was I was troubled by - and it lowered the volume just enough to be less than painful. What surprised me, however, was that, EVEN WITH MY FINGERS IN MY EARS, the bus load of jabbering school children was STILL too loud to be comfortable.

I kept my fingers in my ears throughout the journey and there was no respite from the deafening overlapping roar of voices around me, for, to my misfortune, the school party did not get off before me.

It struck me as strange that simply because a lot of 16 year olds were in one place together that they should think they have the right to become an unpleasant nuisance to everyone around them. No-one has taught them to consider their fellow human beings. A bus is a small space. It cannot take much noise before it becomes discomfiting. Adults don't talk much on buses. Adults sit in silence. I think teenagers should too. At least, they should not speak at a volume that they become unpleasant to everyone on the bus.

Schools play a part in this. They should teach their charges how to behave in public. Not becoming a cacophonous mass of teenagers is one thing that they should be taught to do. If they want to speak - then why not all choose to speak quietly to each other. Then, there would be no need to raise voices until all are shouting at maximum volume.

All the children were dressed from head to toe in light grey, should anyone be able to identify the school in question and communicate my observations to someone in a position to influence them.

I wasn't the only person who found them unpleasant. Many of the faces, nearby, showed as much discomfort as no doubt mine did. The only difference is, I put my fingers in my ears. Perhaps the others didn't want to draw attention to themselves.

I did note something about the teenagers' conversation: none of them within earshot (most of the bus) were saying anything that was worth saying in the first place. Their conversations may as well not have happened for all the purpose and content they imparted. I only wish they had realized that and didn't bother to speak in the first place.

I had a funny thought as I sat there. I wondered what they would think if I spoke up and told them to be quiet. No doubt they would think me most odd, for trying to shout above them, to get them to be quiet. Yet, strangely, none of them seemed to consider that they were all shouting in the first place - so why should my mooted request for them to be quiet be seen to be unusual? In the end, I said nothing, but just kept my fingers firmly in my ears.

There is no doubt that one's own car seems an attractive idea, at times like this. There is no way there is ever going to be thirty teenagers shouting at once in my car, that's for sure.

(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 @ 8:26 PM 


Blogger Miao said...

I frequently take public transport, and I've observed that there are other kinds of nuisance:

1) People who play their music (though 'music' is really a gross misnomer - 'noise' would be a much more appropriate term) SO loudly that everyone can hear. They don't seem to appreciate the fact that not everyone shares their tastes in music. Perhaps they think that they are doing the other passengers a favour by sharing 'great' music, but they seriously have no idea how annoying they are.

2) People who sing loudly in all the wrong pitches. These people usually have their earphones plugged in, and they have a habit of singing audibly along with the music. They are totally oblivious to their surroundings. (The less charitable opinion would be that they really have the intention of 'entertaining' the other commuters with their 'beautiful' voices.)

Unfortunately for me, I've encountered such rude behaviour quite a number of times. Even if you had asked those teenagers to lower their volume, I imagine that they probably would've retorted, "This isn't a library lor; and who are you to tell us what to do anyway?" Some locals simply lack social grace.

12:30 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Those teenagers were shouting at each other at close range - a whole bus load of them. It was truly obnoxious.

You are right. People are not considerate in public. They don't realize it is a SHARED space and that others must be respected in that space.

Best wishes

1:28 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

By the way, my wife says that uniform matches the description of NJC - National Junior they were older than 16. They should have known better.


1:29 AM  
Anonymous KS said...

Maybe your next post can be about appalling behaviour in the library? The "quiet" rule seems to be the only thing that is half-heartedly obeyed.

12:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As you have noticed there is a cultural difference in the amount of private space that will be very uncomfortable for you in these situations.

Its strange for you to see NJC age minors chattering like small noisy schoolchildren. I think Sporeans grow up a little later.

PS. What happened to your post on Ethnic Unity?. And my comment in Myth of Bilingualism is not published yet?

8:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Valentine, I have posted a comment on this post and 2 others which you have either not published or deleted from view (Ethnic Unity & Singapore's Bilingualism)
Are you going to publish them or not?

3:02 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Hi AA,

What do you mean what has happened to my post on ethnic unity? Please tell me what you mean.

I have found one comment that references language. It is a bit insulting. I will take a better look at it tomorrow.


10:52 PM  

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