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 +

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The impossibility of winning approval.

The first lesson that everyone should learn, about Singaporeans, is that it is impossible to satisfy them: whatever one does, will be seen to be wrong, by some. I shall explain.

On my blog, I have written of the ways in which Singapore's education system did not help Ainan, when it could have done. I have written of its obstructiveness, of its sloth, of its lack of imagination, of its essential unwillingness to do the obvious. I have also written of the times and people for whom we feel gratitude for their support. However, the response to my blog, in certain quarters, is very revealing: they criticize me for being "ungrateful" and for "attacking those who helped you". Well, that is just not true: I have thanked those who actually helped us - and I have criticized only those who did not help us. At no time, have I attacked anyone who helped us, in any way. It seems that these critics have a very selective way of processing information: they only see the criticisms, and do not recognize who the targets are. They also ignore the times I have thanked people.

So, the situation is simple: if I point out the failings of anyone with respect to Ainan, they call me "ungrateful"...but if I express gratitude, as I did in my last post - they are either completely silent, OR THEY ARE NEGATIVE and CRITICAL. Basically, whatever I write, I attract criticism and rebuke from a certain portion of readers who are almost always Singaporean (I don't know why, but they seem to love to bring down their countrymen).

You will note that my last post, which has now been seen by hundreds of people, attracted only two comments: a negative one from "Keith" - from Singapore, saying Ainan had no right to an education, anyway - and from a girl inspired to thank me for what my blog has given her. Note that the Singaporean is critical and hostile - and the foreigner is thankful. I am truly puzzled that this should be so, because the post is one of thanks to an employee of a Singaporean educational institution. Apparently, thanking people is regarded as bad form, by some Singaporeans.

This is not the first time I have seen this tendency from Ainan's countrymen. It can mean only one thing: some people simply resent what we are and what we are doing. So, if we say something negative, they will attack us - and if we say something positive, about the same thing, they will ALSO attack us. They will attack us whatever we do.

Given this, I think it was wise of us to move overseas. All the people we have met in our first two months in Malaysia, have been very pleasant towards us - and I can see, too, that the online chatter, from strangers, is much warmer about us, too. To me, this is mysterious. Ainan was born a Singaporean - but there were too many people there who were cool towards him, or even downright hostile. Yet, we have found the opposite, so far, here in Malaysia. The general tone towards us is warm, some very warm indeed. How strange.

Anyway, it is good to recognize this situation now, rather than have spent more years, being subject to criticism in Singapore. Life looks likely to be happier here, in KL.

I should point out that not all Singaporeans were critical or hostile towards us. Some were nice. It is just that their niceness was drowned out, particularly online, by those who were unpleasant. That is a pity.

Despite this tendency of online critics to criticize us whatever we do, we shall continue to do as we are. There is no point in trying to adjust our behaviour or online presence, to cater to the critics, because, as is abundantly clear, they will criticize us no matter what we do.

So we shall just be ourselves. It is all anyone should be, or should do, whatever others say.

Have a good day.

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, 10, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, 6 and Tiarnan, 4, this month, please go to:

I also write of gifted education, child prodigy, child genius, adult genius, savant, megasavant, HELP University College, the Irish, the Malays, Singapore, Malaysia, IQ, intelligence and creativity.

My Internet Movie Database listing is at:
Ainan's IMDB listing is at
Syahidah's IMDB listing is at

Our editing, proofreading and copywriting company, Genghis Can, is at

This blog is copyright Valentine Cawley. Unauthorized duplication is prohibited. Use only with permission. Thank you.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 2:11 PM 


Anonymous keith said...

Mr Cawley,
You are attempting a character assassination.Yes I'm critical but I'm not stupid or inhumane.I merely pointed out the fact that Singapore Poly provides education for its 17440 enrolled students, with 15523 doing full time diploma courses (as of AY2009 Semester 1).To provide private tuition for your O-level chemistry prodigy son,is simply wasting public resources.I wish you good health and more opportunistic new year ahead in malaysia.

3:41 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

I am not attempting a character assassination, although in your case, it would probably not be too difficult to do so. No. I was merely pointing out that you had been inhumane in your response and also markedly short-sighted as to Singapore's long term intellectual health. Singapore needs people like Ainan to flourish, not to be suffocated, if it is to be effective on the internation stage.

Re. O Level. No. He has much more than that. He has done AS level Chemistry as well as O level Physics and Chemistry. He has also taken many courses at tertiary level - in the past and now, across a broad range of subjects.

Contrary to your view that Ainan had "private tuition" at SP: he did not. He joined the normal classes alongside the other students. NO SPECIAL CLASSES were arranged for him, there. He simply joined the mainstream modules. Thus, the true cost of his presence to SP and to Singapore was ZERO - because those classes would take place anyway.

However, the classes were stopped. Apparently free is too expensive for Singapore's strained resources.

4:11 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

By the way, Keith, it is never, in my view, a waste of public resources, to help a child reach their fullest potential. Indeed, such a child is likely to return the favour many fold to the society that was kind enough to so nurture them. On the other hand, societies which don't nurture them, lose them. Which society is the wider model?

7:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Mr Cawley,

Good luck for your move to Malaysia. Hope Malaysia brings you and your family better education and standard of living.
I hope to hear more of your experiences in Malaysia.

A Singaporean

4:12 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Dear Singaporean,

Thanks for your well wishes, they are appreciated.

So far, we do, in fact, have a better standard of living - and the educational opportunities for Ainan are better too. Thank you.

I wish you well, there, in Singapore, too.

Kind regards

10:35 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

The comment a little above should read "which society is the WISER model"...not wider.


10:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi Mr Cawley,

I do not like many of the policies in Singapore, and I also think there are a lot more that our education system can do, esp. for the talented and gifted youth here. While I agree with many of your observations about Singapore in general, I do not really like some the generalisations you have made (probably it is your style of writing, but many readers may be put off by them).

Anyway, I want to congratulate you. I think it is a right move to get out of Singapore, for the sake of your prodigious kids.

Regarding your post on words of thanks to an employee of a Singaporean educational institution, I think it is the way you stressed that he is 'MALAYSIAN' chinese which may have irked some readers. He would need his boss' and SP's support in order to make the necessary arrangements, so I think some words of thanks to SP (even it may be just a tad) might silence those who think you are being "ungrateful".

All the best in Malaysia!

6:03 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thank you for your well wishes, re. Malaysia.

Re. SP. Perhaps I did not express myself well enough. It is difficult to express the evolution of one's feelings over time, in one short post. We were very grateful to begin with, when SP said yes, to Ainan. I agree that senior management would have to be in line with Dr. Ng's initiative (though he was senior himself). So, we were grateful for that. However, it is very difficult to CONTINUE to be grateful, when they changed so much in their behaviour later on. The Director of SP (who we met and was on Dr. Ng's side to begin least he let Dr. Ng proceed), did not even reply to us, at the end, despite repeated emails. He wouldn't answer us. He wouldn't explain to us why SP's stance had changed. Given that change, we would not be human if our feelings on the matter remained unaffected. At the end, they were snubbing us and refusing to communicate properly. That has a serious effect on how one views them. I hope you can understand that.

Thanks for your comment. It prompted me to express myself more fully.

Kind regards

8:05 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

I mentioned the fact that Dr. Ng is Malaysian Chinese because it became abundantly clear, once he fell ill, that he was the motive force behind SP's open-ness to Ainan. Once Dr. Ng was out of the way, the Singaporean staff who remained behind, did not behave with even 1 % of his supportiveness. We were actually really surprised by this, since Ainan is Singaporean, by birth, after all.

So, the post above is written with understanding, after the fact, of where the true support had come from.

I hope that is clear.


8:16 PM  

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