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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 +

Monday, August 16, 2010

Singapore's Intellectual Class.

Anyone who knows Singapore well will wonder how on Earth I could have written a title like "Singapore's Intellectual Class." Singapore doesn't really have an intellectual class...or if it does, those intellectuals were never in my class (when I taught).

Singapore's education system doesn't produce intellectuals, in my view of what an intellectual is. Singapore's "top students", are very good at passing exams and in telling you what the world already knows. However, what they are not good at...in fact, are hopeless at, is in telling you something you don't know. In other words, they are useless at independent, creative thinking. In other words, they are not truly intellectuals at all.

Now, I am not going to lay blame at the foot of Singaporeans for this. You see, it is difficult to know the cause of this lack of intellectual calibre. Is it genetic? Or is it the fact that the education system requires and trains parrots? Are they parrots by nature or parrots by nurture? I am not going to answer the question here. However, I will say this: I don't think that Singapore will ever have a truly intellectual class. There is too much momentum there, in the way things are done. Singapore will not change until it has died as a nation. Then, perhaps, something new will come of it.

Of course, there is, perhaps, a good reason why Singapore does not have a home grown intellectual class: intellectuals think - and this singularly single party state has never encouraged its people to do that. There is nothing more threatening to a monolithic state than someone able to think of alternatives. Thus it is that true thinkers are not only not found, in Singapore, but not desired, either. A true thinker is the last kind of person Singapore wants.

Given these considerations, I found it most interesting what Lee Kuan Yew had to say on the matter (for those who don't know...which is much of the outside world...Lee Kuan Yew is modern Singapore's iconic "founder" and lifelong effective leader). I say "founder" because, actually, Singapore was founded by the Brit, Sir Stamford Raffles, long ago, though Lee Kuan Yew took it in a different direction.

Lee Kuan Yew recently called for the import of an "intellectual class", specifically from China and India. He stated that this class would be three times larger than the present intellectual class. (Yes. I know. Three times zero is still zero.) He envisaged this intellectual class as being leaders in their fields and as bringing greater wealth to Singapore. This should not be much of a surprise, since wealth or "economic growth" is actually the sole consideration of Singapore's leadership. He then went on to disparage the Malays, by saying that immigrants from Malaysia were "not so bright" and that they only came to Singapore because it provided them with opportunities not found at home.

So, Lee Kuan Yew wants to increase the number of PRCs in Singapore despite the fact that it is already overflowing with them - and to specifically exclude Malaysians from this drive for an "intellectual class". Again, this is not surprising to anyone who has followed Lee Kuan Yew's past pronouncements, quite a few of which involve disparaging one race or another, directly or indirectly.

To my eyes, it is very revealing that Chinese and Indian "intellectuals" should be required and not those from elsewhere. You see, I don't think that such immigrants would be likely to "rock the boat". They are likely to be good little workers, who don't cause any kind of trouble at all. They will tend to keep their opinions to themselves, if they have any. They will just get on with their jobs, in a diligent fashion. As far as being an effective "intellectual class" that is just about the last thing they will be. China, for instance, is not famous for its intellectual class. China is about as good at making intellectuals as Singapore is. They create pretty much the same kind of hardworking, but not at all creative or independently thinking people, as Singapore does. Thus, in importing an intellectual class consisting of said "intellectuals", Singapore can hope to have a greater concentration of what it already has: hardworking, unthinking, servants of the state.

The big, unstated question, here, of course, is why Singapore feels a need to import an intellectual class at all. What happened to its own? Why can't Singapore make its own intellectuals? After all, every other country (apart, perhaps, from China...) does...

The answer, it seems, from our own experience of life in Singapore, is that Singapore does not WANT a homegrown intellectual class. It does not want a class of people with two attributes: 1) able to think for themselves 2) know Singapore well. The combination of those two attributes leads to the possibility of CHANGE...and CHANGE is what the arthritic system of the Singaporean state resists mightily.

What does Singapore do to its potential intellectual class? Well, I can only answer, from personal experience, about what it does to non-Chinese potential intellectuals. My eldest son is half-Malay...he is also Singapore's most gifted young scientist - or was, until he left. I say "most gifted young scientist", since there is no other candidate of his age, with his achievements, in Singapore...or elsewhere for that matter. Now, you would have thought that a country seeking to build an "intellectual class" would have looked after him well? But no...we faced opposition, every step of the way, in seeking a suitable education for him. What was offered by the Gifted Branch was pure tokenism - an attempt to make it look like they were doing something, whilst they actually did everything they could to delay his progress. It was immensely frustrating dealing with them. Then again, when we made our own arrangements, and progressed without their "help"...Singapore's media began to tell lies about our son, to attempt to diminish him and so, perhaps, spare themselves the embarrassment of what they had (not) done. I only hope that Singaporean readers are not so naive as to swallow what their mainstream media say without reflecting on it, themselves.

Anyway, how are we to interpret this? It does seem that Singapore certainly doesn't want a MALAY intellectual of any kind, to thrive. If it had wanted a Malay intellectual to thrive, it would have been more responsive where Ainan was concerned. No. Singapore wants its intellectuals to be non-Malay - even if that means having to import them.

Then again, there is my own experience of Singapore. I am a very creative person...but in Singapore that creativity was not best deployed. At no time, was I given an opportunity, there, to create in the way that I can, so easily. Instead, my energies were directed towards teaching students who would never, in a trillion years, ever possess one quark of my creativity. It was laughable. What kind of moronic nation cries out for an "intellectual class" - but then fails to recognize or value intellectuals within its own borders? It is hilarious, in its fundamental stupidity.

If Singapore really wants an intellectual class, it should have done everything necessary to allow Ainan to flourish. It should also have made available, to me, a position in which I could be free to think and create. It should also have repeated those steps, however many times are necessary, to accommodate all potential intellectuals - and actual intellectuals - within its borders. Were it to do so, there would be no need to import an intellectual class, because one would already have been fostered within it.

It seems, however, that both Ainan and I are the wrong race, to have been invited to participate in Singapore's "intellectual class". Neither of us is from China or India, after all. One of us even has those dreaded Malay genes...so God forbid however could he be an intellectual?

Yet, we are intellectuals. Singapore's failure to value that fact doesn't change it. The funny thing is that we are establishing ourselves as intellectuals in Malaysia, the country that Lee Kuan Yew disparaged so, in his recent speech. Here, we are valued. Ainan is being allowed to grow, intellectually - and I am working creatively as a research scientist. So, all is turning out well for us.

The question, now, of course is: how will it turn out for Singapore? Will its imported "intellectual class" actually be intellectual? Will the people of Singapore support this renewed influx of outsiders? Will these "intellectuals" actually come from China and India...after all, China is booming and India is growing fast, too...so for how long will Singapore seem an attractive prospect?

From here, in KL, the whole situation looks rather funny. You see, Singapore would already have an intellectual class, if only it had looked after its own people and their families. What kind of country so singularly fails to nurture the minds of its own people that it needs to import them, wholesale, from overseas to make up the lack?

Singapore is the kind of country that smart people leave...like we did.

(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:
http://scientific-child-prodigy.blogspot.com/2006/10/scientific-child-prodigy-guide.html

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: http://imdb.com/name/nm3438598/
Ainan's IMDB listing is at http://imdb.com/name/nm3305973/
Syahidah's IMDB listing is at http://imdb.com/name/nm3463926/

Our editing, proofreading and copywriting company, Genghis Can, is at http://www.genghiscan.com/

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

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 7:36 AM 

67 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not sure if you are as "creative" as you think you are. If you were truly creative, you would have found a way to blossom, even in a hostile environment as you describe it. That's the real mark of creative persons, that they manage to see new possibilities in environments were other people don't.

Henry Ford, for instance. He lived in a "horse focused" environment, where everyone else focused on finding better ways to utilize horses. He could have claimed the same as you, and stated that he was in a "hostile environment" which didn't appreciate his creative effort to find alternative means of transportation. He didn't though. And went on to create a new niche in a market where it previously didn't exist. That's the sign of a truly creative and visionary person.

Also....... I must say you remind me quite a bit of other "school smart" people that I know. People who were good at school activities at an early age, and who were good at replicating and memorizing the exercises given in the text books. These people often get the impression, at an early age, that they are really smart people. And often they end up feeling non-appreciated later in life, like you do.

I think the main reason for the non-appreciation experienced, is not that the world fails to recognize their "real" genius. I think the main reason is the big difference which exists between the qualifications needed to excel in school activities, and the qualifications needed to excel in the real world. These are different kinds of beasts.

The problem is that the indoctrination happens at such an early age... that it almost becomes impossible for these people to reverse the notion of themselves being among the smartest persons in society. They find it hard when they move from being among the 2% smartest people in school, to being only among the 50% smartest in the real society. So... they blame it on society, and say that the society does not appreciate their genius.

It's a trap.

In that respect... I'm not sure if it's so smart to teach your children to believe that they are ultra-smart from an early age. I think it could be just as wise to teach them some humility, and to teach them that there IS a big difference between being smart in school activities and having success in the real world...

4:53 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Err...no. You are revealing a complete failure to know your subject, Mr/Ms Anonymous-too-cowardly-to-use-a-real-name.

Now, I will probably keep this shorter than I would like, because blogger has just failed to post my comment and it is irksome to have to retype it again.

To avoid loss of large chunks of text, I will try to post short pieces until I have said what needs to be said.

5:34 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Your little barb is full of assumptions about my life. So, I shall correct them.

Firstly, I had no interest in school in "memorizing school exercises". Indeed, such tasks were, though easy, rather unchallenging and boring. No. In fact, I approached all school tasks in my own way, always seeking to create something new, even if it was not required. Being creative is something I have been all life long.

One question before I go on: how much or little of my blog have you read? I ask because there is enough evidence of creativity on these pages for anyone but the most bovine of readers. So, either you haven't read much, or you have two horns (or an udder)...

5:38 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Your example of Henry Ford is very funnny. It shows a very limited understanding of what creativity is: only a Singaporean would see it in terms of finding a niche market in the business world!

There are many ways to be creative that do not involve marketing new products or founding a new business. Only in stupendously uncreative Singapore would that be considered an ideal model of creativity.

By the way, Ford did not invent the car...he just found a better way to make and market them. Thus his creativity was of a lower order than say, Karl Benz, who actually invented the motor car. It is interesting that you chose the successful business person as your ideal of creativity.

5:42 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

As for me not being creative - that made me laugh. It made me laugh because it is very like Singaporeans not to even know what a creative person is, when they encounter one.

In the past nine months, I have written half a book; written six research papers; applied for one patent, discovered the cause of a major psychological phenomenon and made another discovery too, soon to be announced. All that whilst being a busy father to three sons and a husband to boot.

For comparison's sake, 60% of academics publish no more than ONE paper in their entire lifetimes.

5:47 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

By the way, creatively speaking I am worth ONE MILLION CHINESE people. You see the patent rate for Chinese mainlanders is about one per million people. So, having a patent to my name, makes me worth one million of LKY's Chinese immigrants. Yet I have left because I was just not given the appropriate opportunities for myself or my family. What a stupid short-sighted nation Singapore is. Losing one creative person is worth almost all the immigrants LKY can cram into his tiny nation state. He has lost an entire family of them...and our story is but one of the many emigrants from Singapore who have left, some for similar reasons.

5:51 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

It is abundantly clear that you know nothing about geniuses, at all. They do NOT concern themselves with worldly success, but with their ideas. These they work on, usually alone, in solitude, for long periods, before announcing them to the world, sometimes only after decades of silent work. They generally do not found manufacturing businesses like Ford did. In fact, they may make very little money in their lives because that is not their focus. Basically, it is clear that you have no idea what creative people are like, or how they live their lives. Your inner model is the BUSINESS PERSON. That is something totally different and is usually a much less creative person than a typical genius.

6:02 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Re. top 2% at school. No.I was much better than the top 2%...and still am. That you don't know this only shows that you don't know much about me, or my lifetime achievements.

6:04 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Your definition of a creative person as being one who will overcome a hostile environment is really DUMB, I must say. You see there is no limit to how hostile environments can become, but there is a limit to the stamina people have to fight on. Eventually, a sufficiently hostile environment will overcome ANYONE, no matter how creative. It is frankly stupid that you think it fine that a creative person should waste their energy overcoming hostility around them, instead of getting on with creating. It can only reduce their lifetime creative effect to have to overcome such forces. Perhaps it could even extinguish their output. You really should think more and react less. How about challenging your own assumptions?

6:22 PM  
Anonymous Applelouver said...

I think the Brotherhood are quite clever

7:16 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Why do you mention the "Brotherhood" here? Is it because the post above is from one of them...or because you are holding them up as examples of intellectuals? Let me know which.

My only contact with the Brotherhood was when Darkness posted on here a year or two ago. His post was interesting...but I know little else of them. How many of them are there? What do they do? Do they show creativity in ways other than posting on blogs all over the place?

The Brotherhood do seem to be thinking...but I fear that one deliberately anonymous group, do not make a thriving intellectual class in a nation.

Singapore is a desert for true thinkers. It is a place where wealth, not ideas, is considered to be its water. There are more refreshing places in this world...

8:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well.... I just think you focus too much on being accepted as a genius.

I'd say focus more on producing the results which will make other people accept you as a genius, and then maybe you can claim to be one. Even if it is after "decades of work in solitude" as you say.

I think it MIGHT create hostility among other people when a person demands to be accepted as a genius BEFORE having produced the actual results.

I think the same advice goes for both "genius" and "creativity": Let other people decide whether you are creative, and whether you are a genius, based on what you say, do and produce. Do not try to enforce an understanding of yourself as a genius upon others. If you are truly a creative genius, then it will eventually dawn on other people, automatically, even if it takes time.

Also... do you for instance envision Thomas Alva Edison going around promoting himself as a genius?

I don't think he did.

Rather, he said that "genius is 1% inspiration, and 99% perspiration". In other words, he says that the important thing is not how you are born, or what abilities you have, but how you apply yourself. I think that's an important lesson to be learned.

Note: I'm not from Singapore, and I do not know who you are in person. I just read what you write on this blog, and try to reflect on it...

4:53

10:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good Morning Mr Cawley,

We are very disappointed in you Mr Cawley. You are out of line. And what you said was uncalled for. Don't you think so.

Take your time and reflect on your words carefully.

Singaporedaddy (internet Liaison officer of the Brotherhood)

9:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

there's few child prodigy in this world. you said child prodigies not suitable in school..so they need to go to university..then, y you bother much about this intellectual class?

they are for people that have iq above normal and not so call genius and gifted like ur 'child prodigy' or otherwise they might go to uni like ur child 2!.

u must not notice that in this world we are about the same in intelligent and not genius like u, ur children and wife, and ur family(because u live in that environment). we might not as creative as you(again because we are normal), but we need that (ic) to get proper job. Genius people get better job than us. we are really grateful of having job to live life.

in malaysia too, they have that kind of class. sure it is a class of 'reciting' and remembering the text books and facts. and its a ticket to be just at the bottom of u.

what am i saying that, let it alone. u dont know how frustated it is to not remember what u just memorize about ten times to answer quiz, test or exam. we dun have photographic memory.

i like gifted people and their creativity that make this world more colourful. but in the mean time, i know im not one of them. so, be grateful of what you have achieved and say thank you Allah.

Abdullah/malaysian

9:57 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Wow "Singaporedaddy". Wow. I am both puzzled and amzzed that you find offense in my words. In what way am I "out of line"...in what way does being "out of line" agree with the idea of free speech? Why are you trying to circumscribe what people do and don't say on the internet? What kind of organization that does that implicitly make you? Does it make you an intellectual one, or some kind of totalitarian one?

If you are truly from the Brotherhood, as you say, then you are laying claim to a rather peculiar privilege to dictate what people do and don't say in a public forum which is, in fact, a private blog.

10:10 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

So, Singaporedaddy, I can be allowed to understand your enigmatic viewpoint, what exactly are you upset with? Is it my contention that Singapore doesn't really have an intellectual class (it doesn't, as is obvious to any outsider who knows what intellectuals are). Or is it my approving statement that Darkness' comment on my blog was "interesting"? Or perhaps my further comment that the Brotherhood appear to be thinking? Perhaps, you misunderstood what I was saying when I said that a single group of anonymous individuals do not comprise an intellectual class. They cannot do so, because they are numerically far too small (as far as I know).

Instead of pouting and being all miffed, why don't you actually take the time to explain to me why the Brotherhood is upset with what I have written?

10:13 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

I have further said that I don't know that much about the Brotherhood. I don't. I know that Darkness is a leading figure. But that is about all. I know you distribute your thoughts across the internet on other people's blogs...but again, that is about all I know.

I don't know what you stand for. I don't know your purpose. I don't know your strength of numbers. I don't know what you do, in life. I don't know if you are a political organization, a creative organization, a brotherhood of like minds...or what? I have no idea really.

I raised the issue of whether you create in the real world as a genuine question to ascertain what you do. It was not a statement of "They don't create in the real world". Perhaps you took it to be so. Perhaps you feel inhibited in saying what you do in life, because that might identify you. In Singapore's political climate, I can understand that, if you have taken sharp political stands in the past.

You have no right to be offended when nothing that I have said constitutes anything more than genuine curiosity about what, actually, the Brotherhood are. You would do your fellow Brothers a service, by declaring, here, what that is in fact. Maybe however, you don't have a definition or a purpose or an underlying theme. I don't know. If you have, I would welcome a statement of it.

Thanks.

10:19 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

By the way, I wasn't stating that the post at the top was from the Brotherhood - I was ASKING whether it was. They are not the same.

10:21 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Singaporedaddy, without further explanation of what is your concern with what I have written it is impossible for me to address it, without, in fact, trying to address all possible concerns. This would be very time consuming, and quite boring for most readers. So, please, clarify what bothers you about my writing, here.

Thanks.

By the way, you should know that nothing I have written was intended to offend the Brotherhood. I am just seeking further information about them before I can understand their position.

10:28 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Some people might view your words, Singaporedaddy, as threatening. What a strange way to encourage intellectual discourse. You must truly be representatives of the intellectual class then.

Perhaps you might like to clarify whether a threat was intended.

10:30 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thank you Abdullah for your comment.

I do not wish to be misunderstood. I am grateful for everything I have in my life and everything I am able to do. It has, however, been frustrating at times not to have the freedom to fully express the thoughts and ideas within. Some places don't allow that so easily...

Best wishes to you on finding a way to lead the life of happiness you wish for.

10:33 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

4.53 : My purpose, in writing this blog, is to communicate both my understanding of the world and what the world is for me. Its focus is both personal and impersonal; self and other. It is not a direct attempt to enforce a view of me as a genius, as you have surmised. It is just an attempt to convey a stream of thought. What you make of that thought, is up to you. Some like it. Some don’t. Some read it, deeply and keep coming back again and again. Others read once and, most probably, never return. It is for others to make that choice, not me.

I am what I am. I know what that is. I know what I have done and been and what I can do and be. I also know that very few others are aware of this. I know that that lack of awareness leads to misjudgment and misperception as to who I am. Were they fully aware of the significant accomplishments of my life, then there would no such misperceptions. If I am to be understood, therefore, as I am, I must begin to communicate that life, that past, that set of works that, presently, are unknown to the wider world.

In my view, you are wrong to believe that genius is “automatically recognized”…many a genius has died essentially unknown and only in decades later, does their work finally come to the fore. Any work, no matter how creative, interesting or significant, achieves nothing, if it is not communicated. Leonardo Da Vinci’s scientific work, for instance, had no real influence, in a relevant time, because he did not publish his work. It only became known and appreciated in later centuries after science had advanced without the help of Leonardo’s insights. There is something rather sad in that: all that striving, throughout life, and, in the end, he had no direct effect on the world (in this respect).

7:24 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Regarding Edison, it is telling that you chose another businessman as an example of creative success. You see if you do a little research you will discover something surprising: Edison was a much better businessman than he was an inventor. Indeed, he was more of a great stealer of ideas, than a creative genius of an inventor. Just search for “Thomas Edison fraud” and you will find many interesting revelations. A typical Edison theft involved searching European patent records for profitable patents that had not yet been registered in the US. Edison would then appropriate them and register the inventions as his “own” in the US. Many of “his” inventions came by this route. Indeed, most of the inventions that he is credited with (for instance the light bulb) were invented by others, usually in Europe, prior to his claim to them. Another ruse was to copy ideas from other working inventors, then offer them a settlement to buy them off (which was always much less than the ultimate potential of the work). Then Edison would patent the ideas as his own. If the inventor refused to cooperate, Edison would proceed to harass the victim to death with his lawyers. Edison wasn’t a genius. He was a fraud and a monumentally evil man. Another example: Tesla (who was a true genius) did a lot of work for Edison. However, Edison refused to pay him anything for it for he knew that Tesla was in need of the money and paying him would have empowered his career. Far from being a great genius, Edison was one of the most unethical and reprehensible men in the history of America.

Now, my point is that Edison doesn’t know anything about genius because he wasn’t one. He is not in a position to opine as to the split between effort and insight. His way of life is no example to learn from, regarding genius.

Furthermore, rather than not promoting himself as a genius, as you think, he actually promoted himself as being much more creative than he truly was, by laying claim to inventions that were not his at all. Thus, he was FABRICATING a creative reputation. In this, he is in a category quite beyond any others I know of.

7:26 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Yes. It is important to produce creative work. However, effort alone without a spark of “genius” is not going to reach the heights of what humans can achieve. No level of work can do that. I have seen very hard working students in my time…but if they are not also blessed with high intelligence and significant creativity, the work never rises above solid mediocrity.

I believe that people can be born to be geniuses. Yet, you are right that they must also make something of it. Where we differ, however, is that I am willing to recognize such genius early on…whereas you would rather wait until they have filled several pages of a Dictionary of Biography. I rather think your kind of recognition would come too late for most people: it might not even come whilst they are alive…and what good is that to them?

As for my assumption that you were Singaporean: sorry about that, but you hold an outlook in common with the typical Singaporean that holds up business success as the most desirable type of creativity.

7:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well.... evolution seldom happens in giant steps. Most people who invent something new usually do it only as a small increment over what already exists.

Take for instance the automobile. Before it was invented, someone else had invented the combustion engine, and someone else had invented the horse carriage. The invention of the automobile simply involved putting these two elements together, and creating an engine powered horse carriage.

The "genius" in doing so was not in imagining that such a thing was possible. The genius in it was to understand that it was feasible, and that it was worth putting a lot of money and effort into. That's a kind of genius too.

Regarding Edison, I find an earlier quote from you blog, stating the following:

"Thomas Alva Edison was a classic divergent thinker, according to certain biographers. He was so divergent that he was completely unable to cope with school at all. His teachers thought him retarded and he was eventually expelled from school as a no-hoper. This is the Edison who invented the lightbulb and built a major electrical corporation. That is how different are the convergent world of the classroom and the divergent world of creative work."

Here you call him creative, and a thinker.

It makes me think that you kind of skew your arguments depending on what suits the situation... On the other hand, it may simply reveal that you have learned more about him in the mean time...

As for borrowing from other thinkers, I read your post about Peak Oil. I think that's an example of borrowing, since 99.9% of the intellectual content of it is only a recitement of the general consensus among other leading thinkers who have spent time thinking about the problem. I think "genius" involves adding significantly to a previous train of thoughts. I'm not sure if you do that in your article.

I do not mean this as criticism, as I understand that even "geniuses" have hundred ordinary thoughts for each genius one.

4:53

1:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Regarding whether or not other people will recognize your genius, I think it depends on how far ahead you manage to think. Leonardo, for instance, imagined a helicopter, at a time when it was not feasible or possible to pursue the idea in practical terms. I think that may have contributed to the fact that his idea was not given much attention in his own time.

New ideas have to be connected to older existing ideas in a readily understandable manner in order for them to gain instant recognition. If the connection is not so clear, or if you do not manage to make it clear for others, I think there is a possibility that you can be a "genius" and still not be noticed, as you say. I guess that'll be kind of sad in a way, if it's the case.

4:53

1:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Mr Cawley

i agree with much of your analysis in this article... (and probably many Singaporeans would, too)

However, there are a few points which I would contend with.

For example, is your son a Singaporean, Malaysian, or British citizen? You claim that the reason why he was not nurtured by Singapore was because he was half-Malay... However, I would be careful to make such accusations as I have personally known quite a number of Malay intellectuals who made it through the education system here and were never marginalised. There are Malays in high levels of politics as well as other industries here in Sg. I know some of them personally. I also have a good friend who is a half-Malay, went to all the good schools, graduated as a lawyer, and is now earning a tidy sum here in Singapore together with her husband. Her sisters are all half-Malay too and they are equally successful.

In elections, the only way for a party to contend in a particular GRC is if the team has at least one minority race represented in its team - and that includes Malays.

I think your problem is more with the Singapore authorities (which I agree can be overly stiff and bureaucratic at times) and the various barriers placed in education, etc rather than the fact that Ainan is half-Malay.

A friend's friend of mine who was a famous child violin prodigy was involved in a fiasco with MINDEF a few years back, when he won a scholarship to study at some prestigious music school in the USA, but MINDEF would not let him go - simply because of his NS obligations!! You may have heard of this incident. If that is how they treat one of our citizens, why would you expect them to give you special privileges simply because your son is a prodigy (and even more so, if he is not a Singapore citizen)??

P.S. If he is one, then I am sorry - but you get the idea.

2:45 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Ainan is half Malay and half Irish genetically - though I carry dual citizenship with both Britain and Ireland. Ainan was BORN IN SINGAPORE to a SINGAPOREAN MALAY mother...thus he is Singaporean by birth and citizenship. Personally, I was rather surprised at the difficulties we encountered with his education, given that he is, in fact, a native of Singapore.

Are your half-Malay friends, actually half-Chinese, too? IF so, that would make a lot of difference as to how they are accepted in Singapore.

I hear many tales of "glass ceilings" and inexplicable blockades in the careers of Malays in Singapore...so success and acceptance are not universal and probably depend on the random characteristics of employers and institutions encountered. All Malays I have met, have tales of discrimination to tell...if you ask them at the right moment and they feel like talking about it.

Yes. Singapore can be very rigid and difficult to deal with. I fear it does the nation great harm. However it is unlikely to change.

Thanks for your comment.

7:17 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

By the way, Malays are numerically few in positions of success in any industry in Singapore...much below the numbers expected. Many Malays grumble about discrimination they have encountered as a cause...

7:18 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

4.53 pm.

You like to search for the unlikely detrimental interpretation don't you? Or at least you seem to...

Regarding Edison: I have learnt more about him, since I wrote that other post, four years ago. I am not skewing my argument to suit the present purpose. I did add that "Certain biographers" thought that about his thinking...I wasn't saying that I thought that. So, in a way, the two statements about him, are not even in conflict, in that sense.

Re. Peak Oil. The purpose of that article was to raise awareness about the situation, among my readership and to suggest what they might do about it. Nothing more. It is not intended to be an original thesis - after all, I did not discover Peak Oil...Hubbert did over fifty years ago.

7:25 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Re. Peak Oil. My suggestions regarding every household in Malaysia becoming a net supplier of electricity rather than consumer, is my own sugIgestion and I did not see it raised in my background reading.

What I find interesting about your present line of attack, is that you seem to have taken it on yourself to find some kind of counter evidence that I am not a "genius"...this is almost funny. You seem invested in disproving me to be such, rather than in simply appreciating whatever there is to appreciate in what I write, should there be anything worth appreciating in any particular piece of writing. The big question, here, is why would you be so invested? What benefit is there to you, of "proving" such a view? There is no beneficial outcome that I can see...there is no useful product or advancement of human life. It is, therefore, an empty pointless exercise. So why do it?

7:31 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Your thinking can be summed up in the following description: you are like a man who would criticize me for sneezing by saying: "There you are. That is not original...OTHER people have sneezed before him."

You might even have said that of Leonardo da Vinci, to try to bring him down.

I hope you can see how your present style of critism, I mean, "analysis" is coming across.

7:34 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Of course, I mean, "criticism" not "critism"...typo.

7:34 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

You should understand that I use this blog as a forum not only for my own thought, but for awareness raising of issues which I think are important to Mankind as a whole. In some cases, these issues will not be ones I first observed...but that does not make them any the less important. Nor does it diminish the contribution I can make to them, by expressing the problem in words that can be understood, so that some steps might be taken to forestall or ameliorate the said problems. Doing so, does not constitute "unoriginality"...it constitutes social contribution. Sometimes such things need to be done.

7:39 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Regarding Leonardo's helicopter.

His biggest reason for lack of scientific influence is that his papers were not published in his lifetime and lay unknown LONG after he died. The people of his era had no idea what ideas he had had. Thus, they impacted nothing, changed nothing, accomplished nothing.

I agree that it is possible for an idea to seem so outre, so beyond present mainstream comprehension, that it is ignored, perhaps even thought mad, for decades, or even centuries. The real skill of a genius, therefore, is not only in creating, but in communicating that which has been created. If those two steps are taken, then creative impact is likely.

Leonardo only took one of those steps. That is why he "failed". That doesn't, however, diminish his genius, it only limited his contribution to the history of thought and its development.

7:48 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

4.53 pm

All that being said, I have enjoyed the challenge of your comments. It has been interesting.

Thanks for taking the time to comment.

Best wishes

9:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, I'm sorry I was being a bit direct.

My objective was not to hurt you in any way.

I wrote out of a general interest in the topic of intelligence.

My main thought about it is that a high measured intelligence often seems to come at the price of a somewhat "narrower focus".

I think this narrower focus in some cases may be a disadvantage in competition with other people with a broader focus, and less "specialized" brains if you like.

Meaning that a high measured intelligence may not make a person fit for solving all kinds of intellectual problems, and especially not across a wide range of different diciplines.

I think persons with a high measured intelligence should be aware of this... in order to not become disappointed later in life.

Anyway, I enjoyed the debate too.

Best wishes
4:53

3:28 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

4.53 pm.

Hmm...an interesting view of intelligence. No doubt there are some people who fit this view...however, there are others, like, for instance, myself, or Leonardo da Vinci, or Goethe, who would seem to be counter-examples. I have a "high measured intelligence", but I have worked in many different disciplines in my life and made contributions in many different thought forms. I have contributed in things as disparate as art, acting, physics, psychology, ethics, literature and even business! (among others)...so how do I fit into your schema? Are you suggesting that I must have a lower measured intelligence than the ones you are thinking of? Or am I a rare exception to this phenomenon?
I welcome your viewpoint.

Kind regards

10:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's hard to say where you fit, as I do not know any details of your contributions.

I believe a lot of people can make contributions across a wide range diciplines. But not som many can make significant contributions across a wide range of diciplines, I think.

So, I guess the question isn't whether you made contributions. But whether you became a master of acting, a master of art, a master of physics and a master of psychology, and whether you made significant contributions at the cutting edge of all fields.

I read a theory by a muslim pholosopher a while ago. I think it was Ibn Khaldun. His observation was that in most cases it is only possible for a person to become a true master of one particular craft whithin his lifetime. And in some rare cases maybe two.

I think that fits pretty well with my observations too...

An example from our current time:

Garry Kasparov. He is obviously a genius, and he obviously has a brain with an enormous capacity. He used to play chess. Now he's dabbling in russian politics. The question is: Does his enormous brain make it plausible that he'll also manage to become a true political master? In other words, is his intelligence a guarantee that he will have the capacity to succeed in that field too?

I will say it isn't.

But then again, maybe he's one of the persons who DO fit in my "theory".

Maybe you do not fit in it, and maybe you are more of a "universal genius". I'm not in a position to judge that, really, since I do not have access to any of the contributions you say you have done within the named fields, and if i had access, I wouldn't have been in a position to judge whether they were significant contributions or not.

So, I guess I'll just have to trust you if you say they are. And if so, I guess you are indeed an exception to the phenomenon I mentioned. :)

4:53

3:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Valentine,

You also forgot that you are a comedian of some talent.

You are the first person I have ever come across to have spoken of himself in the same breath in such exalted company as Leonardo and Goethe.

Thank you for making my day! You certainly cracked me up there.

9:19 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

The requirement to be a "master" is a bit vague: what does that mean? Is it referring to quantity of work, quality of work, or both? Does it infer total knowledge of a domain, or just an ability to contribute significant novelty and importance to it?

If quantity is a requirement then it would be difficult to be a "master" of many domains, since by increasing the number of domains, one is dividing the time that can be apportioned to each domain. I think, therefore, that one's attention should be directed to the quality of each contribution and not their quantity, as such. A specialist in one area, is likely to produce more in his one area, than a generalist operating in six areas, would produce in that one area (unless, of course, he was extremely hard working and had no life but his creative work and very productive, too...).

I am not going to stand in judgment on my life, for I have yet, I hope, to live a significant portion of it. I am sure, however, that I will have "mastered" more than the usual number of areas, if I am lucky enough to live out my full natural span.

Your comments lead me to wonder: what is your field? What do you do? You clearly have a focussed interest on the exceptional...if you feel able, tell me more.

Thanks for your comment.

1:40 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Re. Cracked up.

Every creative person differs from every other creative person. If they did not, they would not be creative. So, my listing Leonardo and Goethe alongside my own name, is not to say that I am the same as them. Indeed, they are not the same as each other and cannot truly be compared. No. I am saying that all three individuals exhibited considerable breadth in their areas of achievement. We share similar breadth.

As for the judgment of posterity...that is an impossible one to make, just yet, for I have much of my intended work, left to do. Leonardo and Goethe have lived out there lives, and completed as much of their work as they had time to do. The comparison, therefore, cannot be fairly made, until I have had the time to complete a comparable proportion of my intended work. Hence your laughter. You do not know enough about me or my work, to have any appreciation of it.

I will leave it for time to come...perhaps even time beyond my own life, for a fair assessment to be made. Who knows, then, whether there will be any laughter, at all? I suspect not as much as you presently think.

Thanks for your comment. It is always good to learn how others see things. Sometimes they see that which I do not or could not, for their eyes have a different perspective...

Have a good day.

1:56 PM  
Anonymous acln said...

valentine, i have no doubt you are not a stupid man. but have you ever considered that your daily insults on a country of 5 mil people may be considered insulting? Just cos a few beaurucrats may be giving you the typical red tape, don't you think its incredibly rude and not befitting a man of your intellectual stature to call us all stupid and short-sighted?

and for all your talk on your blog, i will say you are completely honest in one regard - you never claim to have ANY humility. its perfectly true in the rare times i come to read here. please don't make all your readers sound stupid or inadequate to understand you. i think you're just developing a siege mentality that everyone is trying to put you down. perhaps if you wrote in a more humble manner, people would be more accepting and would foster some lively debate rather than hate mail. then again, i kind of am willing to bet that you will either A. Ignore this. B. Reply with a comment on how I'm wrong C. Your next post will be on how some idiots accuse you of lack of humility. Your call.

But the last thing I would like to say is while yours and your kids achievements are impressive, don't look down or discount other people in this age. If ever you can find a way for people to pit their intellectual talent against you or your son, I think many people would gladly accept. Perhaps the result from that 'experiment' will be worth writing about.

9:31 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Acln,

Thanks for your comment.

Firstly, I fear I have been misunderstood when I refer to "Singapore". I am not, generally, referring to each individual in the nation, for instance, when I say, "short-sighted", but the administration, authorities and institutions of that nation. I have seen how they work - or don't. I have not met everyone in Singapore.

Secondly, I do not write about Singapore "every day". I have just written a few posts in the past few days. Very few of my posts since I left Singapore, concern it. You enlarge, in your mind, the problem you identify. It is much smaller than you think.

Thirdly, I do not write to "insult" Singapore. I write to reveal its true nature, to examine it and understand it. This is a useful service to Singaporeans, if they don't take it personally. People who identify themselves with their nation, however, might be offended by this. Perhaps you should ask yourself why you identify so closely with the city state itself? Has it really nurtured you so well that it is as a parent to you? Or has it been a rather cool, demanding, unfeeling father?

10:06 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Re. humility.

Yes. I realize that in Asian society one is expected to be "humble"...that it is to lower oneself before others, habitually and make nothing of oneself. Well, in my view, some Asians do it rather too often and rather too well. It is a form of misrepresentation that can get in the way of true understanding.

Personally, I prefer candid, truthful directness. It is simpler and everyone knows where they stand. Perhaps some Asians, who don't like this, could be more tolerant of different ways of being and try not to impress their "values" on outsiders who may not, necessarily, value them, for themselves. Different people have different ways of doing things. Not everyone need be the same.

Regarding your proposed intellectual "competition" between myself and Ainan and others. I find this suggestion very typically Singaporean: in Singapore everything just has to be a competition doesn't it? I find it, personally, rather boring and empty. The whole education system in Singapore is built around "scores"...and the highest scorers are referred to as "scholars", and given the highest positions in the land, when, in fact, they might have no true scholarly ability at all (ability to do research and contribute to scholarship). It is, to an outsider, a deeply ridiculous way of doing things.

10:16 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

You seem not to understand something, Acln: ultimately, over the course of a life, it will become clear who is the "winner" in your competition. All you have to do is be patient and see the total lifetime achievement of myself and Ainan.

Then again, it should already be clear where we stand. All you have to do is note the biographical details of Ainan's life, and my own...plus to do something increasingly less popular in this world: READ. If you read my blog, from beginning to end and you read the reasoning in my replies to commenters, you will see goodly evidence of a mind at work.

Anyway, please do not be insulted. No insult is intended. I only wish to put on record, my understanding of Singapore, as I experienced it. After all, that is my life and I have every right to record it. Though perhaps, Singapore being what it is, they would like to take such right away from their citizens (they would if they could...).

Have a better day than the one that led you to comment in pique. Thanks.

10:23 AM  
Anonymous Curious said...

Could you list out your published papers (eg., title, name of journal, volume, etc.)?

Thanks!

11:07 AM  
Blogger Desmond said...

@ACLN: Since when was Mr Cawley doing a personal attack on any individual? The post, in its entirety, was attacking the rigid Singapore "educational system model" that places all emphasis in the following aspects:

1) Rote learning & memorization
2) Exam results (and the subsequent comparative placements)
3) Stifling one's freedom of thought & individuality

Just even a tiny bit of actually opening up one's mind, doing some observation & introspection would reveal more critical deficiencies in the entire system, not just only the education component.

Go try it, express one's own viewpoints and opinions, especially if they run totally against prevailing sentiment. Chances are one would get replies ranging from "Weirdo / Errr... / *Blank stare*" at best to "You got a serious attitude problem" at worst.

Personally speaking the environment here is so suffocating that anyone with even half a brain would had already left (yours truly included were it not for less-than-ideal family financial conditions).

7:18 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thank you, Desmond for your own take on the education system. It is good to have a supportive voice amidst all the negative...and, it must be said, largely incomprehending ones.

It may be that Singapore is the way it is, partly because the more interesting and invididualistic people do as you wish to: leave. Only those who like to live encaged, conformist lives, remain - or those who cannot, yet, afford to leave.

Good luck, Desmond, on finding a way to live the life you want.

8:32 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

hmm...individualistic, I meant, of course.

8:33 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

I have received a hate mail from a "patriot". It is filled with very strong anger and is quite disturbing, to me, to read.

This "patriot" says that, since I only have 10 years experience of living in Singapore, that I have no right to comment on it, since I can't possibly understand it, in such a short time. I find that view laughable, at best. Singapore is not a large complex state. It is a very uniform, stratified, organized, simplistic city state which can be understood and FELT very quickly by anyone who is observant. It certainly doesn't take years to get a good grasp of what Singapore is all about. 10 years is more than enough to write deep and interesting books about it, should someone be so moved to do so.

Anyway, I see this statement that 10 years is not enough to comment, as a RUSE to prevent non-native born Singaporeans from expressing a view of the turgid little city state. It is the kind of thinking the PAP would like its people to believe, so that they don't listen to outsiders with some insights.

8:39 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

This "patriot" has not understood something very fundamental about what I write. It is meant to be CONSTRUCTIVE criticism. It is meant to be learnt from and acted upon to improve the society in question. It is not meant as an attack. It is meant, in fact, as a public service. IF that cannot be understood, then a person's reactions to my words, are at fault, and not the words themselves.

No-one should be angry at someone who is trying to provoke change for the better. Anyone who is angry at that, is someone with too vested an interest in things staying the way they are. That would usually be someone in power, or someone brainwashed by those in power, not to have an opinion of their own.

8:42 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Then again, this "patriot" attacks me for speaking of my achievements. Well, I find myself quietly amazed that this "patriot" hasn't actually read the series of posts that led me to discuss my life's achievements. The ONLY reason I mentioned achieving anything at all, was not out a supposed desire to boast (I care nothing for that), but out of a need to defend myself against the first commenter's unwarranted charge that I am "uncreative". I had to show that he was wrong in that assessment. I had no choice. Were I not to defend myself against his charge, others might believe so, and my creative reputation would have been diminished, possibly to the detriment of my career.

Everyone has the right to defend themselves against unfair charges...and that is all I was doing when I spoke of my achievements. That should be clear to anyone who has actually read and understood the exchanges above.

8:45 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

The "patriot" has challenged me to prove that I am a "fair blogger" by posting their intensely hate filled, anger dripping words.

No. I will not allow such hate on to my blog. If you want to talk about "fair" - it would not be fair to me, or to my family, to have such words on these pages. We all may read them - and I don't want anyone to be upset by them.

Perhaps rather than getting angry and hateful, on reading my words, you should do one of two things: stop reading them - or take the time to actually UNDERSTAND them and why I write them. If you did either you would have no cause for anger.

If someone is angry at something I have written, it is a sure sign that they haven't understood my intention. I always have a positive underlying purpose in writing. Please take the time to work out what it is.

8:49 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Re. Journal articles.

Please try googling me in Google Scholar, I believe they have indexed some of them (ones accessible online).

As for other work, I am intending to put together a personal website, when I have time, to collate things, for easy access.

Thanks.

9:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I meant for the word "master" to infer total control of a domain, yes.

Like Federer has it within tennis, Tom Hanks within acting, and Picasso had it within painting.

What I mean is that it's rare for one person to gain public recognition for his work across a large number of disparate fields.

And I think "public recognition" kind of is the key here. In order to be dubbed a "true" polymath, I think there is at least some kind of requirement that the work not only is contributed, but that it gains public acclaim in some kind of way. Or, that it ends up being oft-cited or referred to among peer researchers and professionals.

I'm not sure if this is a strict requirement though...

But I do think if a person is BOTH a genius and a polymath, then maybe it starts becoming somewhat of a requirement.

Again: I do not know anything about what you have published, so I'm just reasoning in a general manner here.

As for myself, I'm working within software development, and I have a masters degree in computer science. And I'm not a genius, as far as I know. :)

But, I do have a bit of an interest in the topic of intelligence. One of the things I find particularly interesting is the apparent non-correlation which seems to exist between a high measured intelligence and worldly success. It makes me ponder what intelligence actually is, and what it is that is measured, both in intelligence tests and through school grades.

4:53

2:35 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

4.53 pm.

As you make your views clearer, it becomes evident that the bar is climbing ever higher, for how someone could meet your criteria. If your criteria are, in fact, the ones that hold, in the real world, and not just in theory, then it is simple to understand why so few people, in history have attained this status.

As for "public recognition"...perhaps in time I will succeed in communicating my work. We will see. I shall try, anyway.

Re. computing science...it is more than possible to be a genius in that area, depending on creativity of approach. Norbert Weiner was...so you could be, too.

I think people of high intelligence may not be aiming for "worldly success". They may have other goals, like writing a good poem...which they may not wish to publish, or having a quiet life with the one they love. They don't have to aim for what others regard as "successful". Perhaps they live perfectly successful lives defined in their own terms. The problem is the "world" is judging them by its measures, and not theirs.

8:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, yes, I guess that could be an explanation.

Though I'm not sure why highly intelligent people should be over-represented among whose who do not strive for material success.

Maybe because they know they can get by pretty well without doing their best, I do not know.

As for raising the bar, I agree. But I think the bar for being called a genius should be somewhat high. Among those I mentioned, I'm not sure if anyone qualifies as a genius.

Tom Hanks is probably not qualified, and probably not Roger Federer either. But, I guess maybe Picasso could qualify...

I guess embedded in the term "genius" lies the ability to think of something which no-one else has thought of before. To be able to generate new ideas that hold water and stand the test of time.

Anyway, I enjoyed our discussion, like i said.

Good luck with your further work on this blog and on publishing your works and ideas. :)

4:53

3:59 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

"Journal articles". You are making a number of errors of judgment it appears. Firstly, I am surprised that you are not able to judge a work for itself, rather than because of what others say. You should make your own assessments. Secondly, if you read the articles in question, you will see that they usually make a note at the end on further publication. This is because I use the online journal to "claim priority". Copyright remains with me and the articles can be published elsewhere.

Citations take many years to build up. You seem not fully aware of this.

I agree with the methodological reasons of the journal in question. Traditional publishing has many probems. I don't know if you are familiar with them, at all...but the whole system is, in my view, a failed model. I have, for instance, been waiting TWO years, now, for one journal to publish one of my articles, which they said they would like to do so, two years ago. It seems that they both have a large backlog and are very slow in processing. A system that takes that long to handle an article is in trouble.

It seems from the nature of your comment that your interest did not have a positive motivation. It is also clear from your comment that you have not read the articles carefully. Perhaps you should do so, and take the time to understand what they are saying.

Yes, I try the best I can for my children...so should any parent.

8:28 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

By the way, for the one who was puzzled that I live in work in Malaysia (which he rather insultingly and ignorantly described)...well, my wife is a Singaporean Malay, so it all should be pretty obvious. You clearly didn't do your homework.

As for why not the US...I think about 300 million guns are a good place to start. I think the US has deep problems that I would not want to deal with, in raising a family. Furthermore, many of the poisonous remarks I have received on the internet, I have come from the US...so it is not an attractive proposition, in any way.

2:34 PM  
Anonymous Deborah said...

I'm not sure I agree with everything you've said. I do agree that a lot of students only know a few commonly held opinions about certain issues without having any of their own, but if it makes a difference, they're not intentionally apathetic of their own accord. Some people may just never have been encouraged to think for themselves.

And it can't be proven other than by anecdotal evidence that youth in other countries are able to think for themselves any better. Sure, they may have gone through a more flexible education system allowing them to exercise more creativity, but that doesn't mean that they took advantage of this to allow their minds room to explore new possibilities. Or, they could have been creative in one area (maybe an area in which they are exceptional and consequently is the one noticed) but completely lack personal opinion in another.

And I agree that what Singaporean students have done is learned to pass exams, above much else. This probably means that a lot of the essays we write and assignments we do are boring and predictable and lack new insight, which could be disappointing. However, this doesn't mean that students do not care about social issues outside of their academic life. Perhaps they aren't very skilled at putting their opinions into essays to be conveyed, but does that mean that they don't feel injustice when something egregious happens in their community? Having opinions of one's own is still a personal decision.

In fact, I could say that students today are better able to question mainstream viewpoints critically than before. The increased number of citizen journalism websites, and the fact that many students do comment and participate on such sites, suggests that they are becoming more dissatisfied with simply being told what to think and are beginning to want to make up their own minds about things.

Also with reference to 'school smart' people, I don't think that intelligence by rote learning and true intellectualism can necessarily be decoupled. Cultivated and naturally developing mental ability aren't mutually exclusive. Research shows that most geniuses get where they are by sheer hard work, even if initially they were undoubtedly gifted with special talent. Mechanical studying isn't really the problem, I think - what's the problem is settling for less with such mechanical thinking, not allowing oneself to overstep one's own intellectual boundaries.

Moreover, creativity is quite often overrated - it turns into blind anti-establishment sentiment and knee-jerk reactions to anything seeming to align itself to mainstream opinion in any sense. I don't deny that there is genuine creativity and inventiveness. It's just that creativity isn't always a force for good, especially when people feel they have to try to be creative - then they're just creating a new status quo that a new group of 'creative' people want to follow.

8:09 PM  
Anonymous Deborah (cont'd) said...

As for Singapore not having an intellectual class, I think it's difficult to say what an intellectual class really is. If you define it as a distinguishable stratum of society whose members are connected by common interest in academia and by common intellectual ability, I'm not sure that jumps out at me as being something really desirable. I would rather not have a group of elitist intellectual snobs perpetuating their own power. It's probably very possible to have an intellectual class that's not like that, but I'm trying to make clear that the loftiness in 'intellectual class' belies the potential for snobbery in such a concept.

I also think that the opinions we have are most valuable when they help society progress in some way. There's no guarantee that intellectuals can do that with their intelligence. There's a lot of pleasure to be taken in learning and discovery and intellectual stimulation that doesn't benefit anybody. That's not to say that such learning is not important - it can be very important for individual satisfaction. But then there are many ways of achieving individual satisfaction, and being clever (and developing that cleverness) is not the be-all-and-end-all of life.

I'm sorry if any of that sounded militant. Well, it probably did a little. I just feel strongly that not all Singaporean students are trained monkeys, not all are only good at replicating the content of textbooks. And if any are, that's not going to hurt them. If anything, people who are interested in learning beyond compulsory studies will do so, and gain pleasure from it, and those who are not will not, and will consequently seek fulfillment from somewhere else.

8:10 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Deborah, thanks for your many points.

Firstly, I personally never envisaged an intellectual class as a layer on society, as you do, all with an abiding interest in academia. No. Indeed, that seems too planned, too ordered, to me. I see an intellectual class, not as a group, but as many individuals who are intellectual and creative. I see such a class as made up of genuinely creative, thinking artists, scientists, writers, musicians, actors, philosophers, engineers and the like. I see it as vibrant awakening of the thinking abilities of a nation. Singapore, presently, doesn't have that. Too many people are satisfied with second hand thoughts and being told what to think. That is the real problem.

It is a bit funny that you don't want a group of "elitist intellectual snobs perpetuating their own power"...well, what does Singapore already have? A group of elitist PSEUDO-intellectual snobs perpetuating their own power. Would it not be better to have real intellectuals in their place? Anyway, most real intellectuals would not be anywhere near as interested in power as the present crowd of power-mongers. They would be too interested in their intellectual work to bother with all that.

10:48 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Re. geniuses.

No. Research does NOT show that most of them got there through sheer hard work. Were that true, Singapore would have more geniuses than anywhere else on Earth...but it has close to none. No. What the research shows is that EXPERTS get there through sheer hard work. True geniuses have not been studied, directly, because they are too few in number. The people studied were "experts" in their field. That is all.

10:51 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

If you have to try to be creative, then you are not really creative. Creative people, typically, find it is a natural aspect of themselves that is readily present. Your imagined class of people trying hard to be creative, is a class of people who are just not creative.

Re. over-rated.

No. It is not. Creativity is UNDER-rated in Singapore. There is seemingly a belief that Singapore can get by on none of it. Whereas, in truth, true creativity is more powerful than all Singapore's "scholars" put together. Creativity is not about being anti-establishment - unless that establishment is anti-creative (which Singapore's is, actually). You have misunderstood the dynamic. Creative people will rebel against repressive authority...but if the authority is not repressive, I think they will just get on with their creative work. If creative people in Singapore seem anti-establishment, that is the establishment's fault for being anti-creative in the first place.

10:56 AM  
Blogger tearsunderstars said...

Mr Cawley,

I've been through the Singaporean education system and right now studying in a Singaporean university. I've never really felt intellectually stimulated by the environment. I felt like it was just an obligation to me being born here. Also, everyone around me sees results as the defining standard to get better jobs, so I just "study hard." Right now in my university, I just don't want to study anymore. It's always about getting the facts right. I just don't understand what good it can do in my life. I used to dream a lot and it feels like they'll die eventually.

When I read your blog, sometimes I wish was never born here. I love music and Japanese manga. I don't know right now whether I can ever pursue them.

As for discrimination of Malays - I don't know much about it until I've read your blog. I met a Malay friend during my internship, and she says her mother says that Singapore discriminates Malays and Malaysia discrminates Chinese. "Why can't the world be equal?" She asked.

6:49 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Don't let your dreams die, Tearsunderstars: just find another way to live them.

If you like Japanese Manga, and music...have you ever thought of visiting Japan? See what it is like, since if you enjoy one aspect of their culture, perhaps you will like other aspects too. It is just a thought.

Don't let yourself be defeated by the Singaporean education system...it isn't built for self-expression, self-realization or the fulfilment of a creative destiny: it is built to make robots out of people. Don't be a robot...be the fully human being you are meant to be.

I suggest you spend some time overseas in an intellectually freer country: try Europe, perhaps, or any more relaxed a state. Find yourself and what makes you feel happy and fulfiled because it sounds like what you have now, doesn't do it for you.

Best of luck.

7:07 PM  

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