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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 +

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Memories of a childhood: the parents' view.

What will I remember of my children, when I am older...when I have become the grandfather, I knew as a child?

I think I will remember the times my children showed the perspective of a child, the times they revealed their growing characters, the times they were simply sweet in action, thought and feeling.

A few days ago, we were shopping with Tiarnan, 28 months, in tow. We had brought his stroller with us, to help us convey him at those times when he didn't feel like walking and we didn't feel like carrying him. Of course, as anyone who has pushed a stroller will know, using one is not entirely without its problems. In particular, there is the little matter of stairs...

Tiarnan had a characteristic way of dealing with stairs, when we approached them. He wanted to do it himself. He took hold of one end of the stroller - and, in the guise of helping him a little, we took hold of it at two other places, too - and proceeded to carry it up the stairs (and later down the stairs).

It was funny watching him at work. He is a small boy...a toddler of two. Yet, he took a hold of the stroller with fierce determination and exerted all his might to carry it (as seen by the strain in his face and the earnestness of his expression). So, our little Samson carried the stroller up the stairs - doing so, all the way, without letting up. We could see that it was an effort for him - but he was determined not to give up.

When he got to the top, he set the stroller down and punched the air with one little hand: "I am so STRONG!", he declared, "I am SO strong."

Indeed he was.

It was a fun afternoon in the company of our diminutive Titan. He managed to help us carry the stroller up and down every stairs we met. He just wasn't going to let us struggle alone with it, without his help.

Seeing him shouting jubilantly about his strength - and the image of his straining body carrying the (comparatively) giant stroller up the stairs and two memories I think I shall recall in my later years, as being typical of the young Tiarnan. It is already clear that he likes to take up challenges and battle on, with determination, to their completion. These may be either physical or mental - but it is the physical ones that are particularly funny to watch, because he is just so small. (However, don't tell him that...for he is "so strong").

Before my kids, shopping was just shopping. Now, it is an adventure. That is a good change, I must say.

(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: http://scientific-child-prodigy.blogspot.com/2006/10/scientific-child-prodigy-guide.html 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 @ 3:09 PM  1 comments

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Plagiarism in the classroom.

I once taught at a tertiary institution in Singapore which shall remain nameless, given the topic in hand.

One day, after my lecture, a Chinese mainland student came to me with a rather earnest expression on his face. He presented me with a bundle of printed sheets, clearly taken off the internet. They were of an academic paper.

"Can you help me?" he began, clearly under some sort of pressure to get something done.

"How?" I asked, wondering where this was leading.

"Can you help me write my thesis?", he said, thrusting the academic paper towards me.

I felt most uncomfortable, at once - but didn't want to be abrupt.

I looked at the paper. It was not written by the student who had given it to me. It was a very complex academic paper written by someone who did not know the meaning of clarity. I could barely understand a word of it on first glance - and I was a native speaker of English accustomed to academic papers. It was the kind of paper that required very careful consideration to extract any meaning from it at all. It had been written by someone gifted in abstruseness but utterly ungifted as a writer.

"What do you want me to do?"

"Can you rewrite this for me?" He asked, without any consciousness that he shouldn't be doing so, pointing at the heavy paper in my hands.

"So...", I began slowly, as the enormity of the academic crime he wanted to involve me in, came to be understood by me, "You want me to write your thesis for you..."

He nodded, again unaware that what he had asked was wrong.

"And you want me to do so by taking all the ideas from this paper?"

Again, he nodded, unaware of the dishonesty of his request.

"No." I said, to his evident surprise and apparent anger. "Why don't you write it yourself?"

He was most put out. The notion that I, his teacher, would actually refuse to help him cheat his way to a degree was seemingly quite beyond him. He seemed shocked, angry, disappointed and speechless all at once.

What made his attempted crime all the worse was that he was completely incapable of understanding the paper he had decided to plagiarize. It was most definitely beyond him - yet he wanted to borrow its erudition for his own advancement. His English was decidedly dodgy - almost as bad as his morality. Yet, he had identified it as being just the material he needed to secure him his degree.

I don't know whether he managed to get any staff member to help him plagiarize a paper for his thesis. Perhaps he thought that I, being a foreigner, would be an easy mark, not being directly involved in the everyday issues of the College, in Singapore. Perhaps he asked other expats and found one who eventually obliged. All I know is that there was no way he was good enough to write a dissertation in English, at all, ever, by himself.

He never came to me again with such a request.

The incident, however, made me wonder how common plagiarism is, in Singapore. Is it widespread? Are hundreds or thousands of students "earning" degrees on the back of plagiarism? Is academic dishonesty rife in Singapore's educational institutions?

I do not have an answer. However, the very boldness with which that young man from China approached me made me think that he thought it a normal thing to do. He seemed almost to think it was his right to get me to help him win his degree by such unfair means.

Perhaps it is not a Singaporean problem, but a problem of the Chinese mainlanders who come here. If that is the case, then Singapore's educational institutions need to be alert to this possibility lest they end up handing out qualifications to the most unqualified people of all: cheats and plagiarists.

(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: http://scientific-child-prodigy.blogspot.com/2006/10/scientific-child-prodigy-guide.html 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 @ 10:58 PM  6 comments

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Happy 5th Birthday Fintan.

Fintan is 5 today. Happy Birthday, my son!

The tale of his day's activities will have to wait until tomorrow...but I just wanted to mark the day with this brief post.

Personally, I think it rather incredible that five years have passed since I first saw him enter the world. Now he is a big, sturdy young boy full of enthusiasms and well observed comments. How quickly it all happened.

(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: http://scientific-child-prodigy.blogspot.com/2006/10/scientific-child-prodigy-guide.html 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 @ 8:59 PM  3 comments

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The beauty of a car

Can a toddler see the beauty of a car? Is it something that communicates to the very young and unformed? It seems so.

Today, Tiarnan saw a red Ferrari in Orchard Road. It was parked off to the side near Borders. He was running at the time he spotted its sleek curves. He immediately halted and stared at it for a long moment. Then he did something both strange and sweet. He approached the car by the passenger side door, stretched out his arms and pressed his cheek against the car door.

He was giving the Ferrari a hug.

I rather wish I had had a camera: it would have made a good moment to capture.

He stood with his arms and face against the car door, communing with the beautiful machine. Once he had done so to his satisfaction, he parted and began to run again, his greeting fulfilled.

So, the beauty of supercars is apparent even to a toddler: the carefully crafted aerodynamic lines of a sports car are aesthetic even to a toddler's eyes. It was a special moment to see him respond so to such an adult thing, as a supercar.

Now, of course, I have to wait in dread for the moment he asks for a Ferrari, for himself.

(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: http://scientific-child-prodigy.blogspot.com/2006/10/scientific-child-prodigy-guide.html 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 @ 10:27 PM  0 comments

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Value of An Individual

I came across something rather saddening recently. It was a blogger writing of his opinion that he had nothing worthwhile to say - because others "wrote better" than he did. He listed several Chinese names - and my own name, which is why I came across his blog.

Now, the first thing that occurred to me, on reading this, is that he was unaware of his own value, as an individual. He writes about things others never could - because they have never been, and never will be, him. He may consider what others write to be more "worthy" - but that does not make what he writes worthless. None of those that he praises by picking out as being "good writers" could have written his blog posts - for his posts come from his life, his views, his understandings and his experiences.

It is easy to forget, in a competitive world, that, in one sense, none of us have any competition at all. We are all unique. There will never be another "us". We will live but once and then be no more. Nothing can be more valuable, therefore, than the individual - for each of us is irreplaceable and inexchangeable by any other, ever.

So, to all those bloggers and other creatives out there (for blogging, at its best, is a creative activity, or should be), do not ever feel diminished by the greatness of another. No other can be you. No other can write, think, feel, act as you do. Whatever you do comes from whatever you are - and there is only one like you - and that is the one you see in the mirror every morning.

Should that blogger ever read this page, I would urge him to write on - and express the unique self that he possesses. I would urge the same call to express the self, upon all others. In whatever way you can express who you are, you should do so - for no-one will ever again be as you are. Make your uniqueness count: express it.

(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: http://scientific-child-prodigy.blogspot.com/2006/10/scientific-child-prodigy-guide.html 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 @ 9:55 PM  6 comments

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