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, November 21, 2008

Another classic Russian tale.

To teach, is to learn of worlds far away. The meaning of this becomes clear, with some teaching experience (which I advise everyone to try, sometime).

One lesson came to me one day, in a conversation with the, by now, famous Russian student I have written of, twice before.

I asked her: "When did you last go to the library?"

"I have never been to a library." said this twenty-four year old woman.

My somewhat stunned silence was my only answer. She took this as a challenge of some kind.

"Why?", she began, defensively, "For what?"

Again, I didn't answer. I let the amazement of her fellow students answer for me.

She had managed to get to the grand old age of twenty-four without stepping foot, even once, in a library.

Perhaps not liking the silence that had greeted her words, she began to talk:

"When I was in school, I got the clever boys, the ones with glasses, to do my homework." (She paused momentarily, as if for effect). "I never did it." She looked up at me, quite proud of herself.

So, not only had she never been to a library, she had never done her homework, either.

"Did you get good marks?" I enquired, keeping judgement from my voice.


On another occasion she revealed: "I never read books. I learnt English by talking, only."

When all these statements are put together, one gets the impression of a determinedly illiterate girl, thriving in the modern world on social skills alone. She has never entered a library; never done her homework, never read a book...yet she manages to get by with a smile and her feminine ways.

I find her revelations a bit of a shock, actually, brought up, as I was, in a world that believed in the primacy of literacy and learning. Here, however, was a girl who believed in neither - and was quite proud of it, too. The funny thing is, she also managed to make her way, despite rejecting the two major tools of the educational world: reading and knowledge.

How many others, are there, like her, in the world? Is she a rarity or is she common in some parts of the world? I wonder...answers, please, if you have any knowledge of this matter.


(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 @ 1:21 PM 


Blogger Shannon said...

I know several illiterate people. Extreme poverty prevented the educational opportunities that many take for granted. My mother-in-law could not read or write because she grew up in a very remote part of Bangladesh. She worked as a child to help support her family. Illiteracy is common in certain parts of the world. As far as your student is concerned, perhaps she could use a referral to a decent psychologist. Is there a counseling center on campus?

5:24 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thank you, Shannon, for sharing your mother-in-law's tale. Hers is a different situation from my Russian student's, however. Your mother-in-law had no choice in the matter and probably would have chosen otherwise; the Russian, on the other hand, is wilfully ignorant and a deliberate non-reader. You are right in thinking that there are probably psychological issues at work (for why else would she be rejecting all the advantages of functional literacy?)

Yes. There is someone she could talk to - whether she will, however, is another matter. I am sure she would dismiss the idea, just as she dismisses reading, writing and thinking.

Thanks for your comment.

11:21 PM  
Blogger Intinth said...

I enjoy reading about your Russian student because you describe her as though she does not have a care in the world - she is confident in herself and is coping in the world as a non-academic. There must be a bell curve for people's interest in academic matters and I imagine she is just disinterested however from your description she does not sound like an unintelligent person either which is why I find your discussions fascinating.

I live in a country where many people never see the inside of a library and certainly have no books at home, however they would not be able to hold the conversation that your Russian friend held. I find her attitudes in some ways amusing, but would love to know what she aspires to - what does she want out of life. Perhaps her goals for life are so simple that she does not need to go into a library or do anything academic. On the other hand if she does aspire to anything which would need academic input then perhaps she does need to change her views.

I look forward to hearing more about her. Perhaps I would feel differently if I had to deal with her in real life and not just hear stories about her - then perhaps I would also express horror or even disgust or I may feel sorry for her, however from just reading it I have to smile and find it amusing. I agree that there may be psychological issues involved, but would have to know what she wants from life first to decide that

1:32 AM  
Blogger Shannon said...

I expressed concern for this student due to her misguided gender perceptions. Men cannot always be counted on to swoop in and save the day. How is she going to manage when there are no "clever boys" to help her cheat on homework? What if she never finds that rich husband? Better guidance may help prevent some of the awful disappointments that may be headed her way.

3:24 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

I agree, Shannon, that she may be in for disappointment. Firstly, she is 24 now...but her youth won't last long - and her strategy depends to a great extent on the qualities of youth. Once she ages, I don't think her methods will be as effective - and there will come a point when they won't really work at all.

She has selected a very short term strategy, if she cannot find that "rich husband".

I will see if she can be helped, in some way.


9:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

common thing.i guess, as i surrounded by them.

10:04 PM  

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