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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 +

Friday, August 20, 2010

YOG and Singapore's strange priorities

Singapore is a wealthy country, supposedly. I say "supposedly" because sometimes they say they haven't got any money. That was what we were repeatedly told, when we sought educational provision for Ainan. The Gifted Branch said: "There are no resources available" and "Chemistry classes are resource intensive." and the real kicker: "Why don't you find a private school and pay for it yourself?" We did. They wanted 600 dollars an hour for a lab class for Ainan! I don't know about you, but we couldn't pay that.

Now, we have already ascertained, from our experience, that the supposedly rich Singapore was unwilling to allocate sufficient resources to accommodate one prodigious child, educationally. So, it must, in fact, be a truly cash strapped nation, then? It must be a nation on the edge of financial collapse. Or perhaps, Singapore doesn't want a half-Malay boy to succeed and become an example to his particular minority race.

Imagine, then, my surprise when I learned that Singapore has spent 290 million US Dollars, so far, on the Youth Olympic Games, being held there. How odd. Surely Chemistry classes, for one child, would not have cost 290 Million US Dollars? Perhaps Chemistry teachers are much better paid than I had thought.

It is easy to see what is happening here. Singapore is able to make a goodly fraction of a billion dollars available, to host a high prestige event and draw global attention to itself...but it is not able to ensure the adequate intellectual growth of a single unusual child. Why? Because they don't see the prestige in it. They don't see any status raising, in it. There is not, in short, enough "gloss" in it, for them. Singapore is the land where substance, is always sidelined, for show.

The funny thing is, of course, that they did not have the imagination to see that Ainan's achievements also brought a lot of attention onto Singapore...and a whole lot more cheaply than the massive Youth Olympic Games did.

290 million US Dollars is a lot of money. Imagine if the top 1000 most promising children in Singapore were given an equal slice of that money. That would be 290,000 US Dollars each. That is enough to buy each of them the best educations in the world. Would that not make more true, substantial difference to Singapore than the froth of seeing young sportsmen and women - or sports girls and boys, prancing their stuff?

Now, I don't wish to be misunderstood. I have characterized the YOG, before, as an important outlet for young sports people to begin to make their mark in their necessarily short careers. So, I do support the idea. However, I think some things are more important, to a nation that wishes to be worthy, than that.

So, by all means have the YOG - but only AFTER you have fully satisfied all the educational needs, special or otherwise, of your citizens.

Some say that Ainan is not a Singaporean...well, he was born one, and so, in my view of what a country should provide for its natives, he should have been adequately provided for, educationally. He wasn't. Instead we have the Youth Olympic Games.

The expensive presence of the Youth Olympic Games in Singapore proves one thing: there ARE resources available in Singapore...plenty of them. They are just not available to help promising kids realize their promise. At least, not intellectual kids...only for overseas young athletes to show theirs.

It should be noted that the Youth Olympic Games is three times over budget. This is quite telling. When the YOG organizers ran out of money, were they told: "There are no resources available." No. They weren't. They were given three times as much money as they had stated in their initial budget. You see, the world's eyes are on the YOG and Singapore...so Singapore will spend ANY amount of money necessary to make themselves look good in the world's eyes. Rather myopically, however, what they didn't realize, when they decided to be so stingy in support of Ainan, is that the world's eyes were on them, in his case, too - and what they eventually saw, did not make Singapore look wise, generous or far-sighted. It showed that Singapore lacked vision, or the ability to see the potential for long term benefit to Singapore, that Ainan represented. I use the past tense, because he has left, now, owing to their failure to support him.

It is very cheap to enable a gifted child to reach their fullest potential. It doesn't cost much. The educational infrastructure is already in place. All it takes is the willingness to make it available to the child. Singapore didn't have that willingness. It would have cost them, in truth, very little to do so. It has cost them much more, not to do so...and that cost can only grow over time, as Ainan contributes to other countries, in his life and not the one he was born in.

Singapore does have the "resources", to support every special child. One reason is that there simply aren't that many of them. The cost of doing so is certainly no greater than the amount of money magically materialized for the Youth Olympic Games. Perhaps this is another indicator that Singapore really doesn't want a homegrown intellectual class - because it is not willing to invest in growing one. It would rather have a glitzy international show, to spotlight Singapore. It would rather "invest" in its Formula One Night Racing and its Youth Olympic Games. What a shallow nation it is. It would rather support showmen than future thinkers. Thus, of course, it will get what it wants, ulimately: a nation that plays host to international gloss, but which has no INTELLECTUAL gloss of its own.

(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 @ 12:42 PM 

9 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, this is indeed quite sad. The same minister who worked hard for the bid for YOG has once debated against the need to increase a 'token' sum of money for the needy. But he seemed quite prepared to inflate the budget for the organizing of YOG.

He defended the increase of budget as 'worthwhile' because it will put Singapore in everybody's spotlight. It seems everything is done on a scale of economic returns here.

3:04 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Ah yes. Vivian Balakrishnan. Oddly enough, he was our MP in Singapore. We wrote to him in the early days of seeking appropriate educational support for Ainan. He didn't do a thing. I suppose he was too busy dreaming of the days he would be able to entertain the world with the YOG.

It seems he has the wrong attitude towards his own people.

3:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Vivian said this in a BBC interview with regards to the budget of YOG, "I think this ($387 million dollars) is not a trifling amount. But it is an amount that will give us value for money in terms of positioning ourselves, in terms of marketing ourselves, in terms of making sure we are on everyone’s radar screen the next time they make an investment decision, the next time they decide to site an international or regional headquarters or the next time they decide to expand their business.”.

I was shocked. He had just underscored the purpose of Singapore's hosting of the first YOG. It is all about ROI.

Mr Cawley, as a Singaporean, I regret your experiences here. I have chanced upon your blog and love its candidness and critical view of things happening here in Singapore and elsewhere. Keep writing.

(What you meantioned about Singapore struck a chord in my heart.)

8:12 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

I am happy to hear that you appreciate my writing...thanks for letting me know.

I feel candidness is important, because many people in this world never say what they really should...so I actually say it. If these things are not said, they have no chance to improve the world, perhaps by jolting people into action, of some kind - or at least awareness.

We were sorry too at what happened in Singapore. We tried very hard...but in the end, it was self-destructive to go on...it was better to leave. (As it has since proven...)

Re. Singapore's motive for YOG. How sad. They only think of money. At the very least, they could have seen it in terms of giving opportunities to the young, to flourish...but no.

Thanks for your comment. Feel free to do so again in future.

9:27 PM  
Blogger Desmond said...

Can be very aptly summed up as the Powers-that-be wanting their cake and eat it.

Hypocrisy, double standards and general incompetence be damned.

7:49 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Yes, Desmond, how true: succinctly put. Thank you.

8:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you still have any stake in Singapore? I thought you had relocated to Malaysia to nurture your gifted children. Why do you keep harping on Singapore's lack of vision and obsession with show?

4:20 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Re. Singapore stake.

My wife's family are Singaporean so I still maintain an interest in what is happening in the city state.

Yes, we have relocated and it is better for us here.

I don't comment often on Singapore...I have just been moved to write a few times, recently. I will write, in future, too, if I think I should. After all, I know Singapore well.

Thanks for your comment.

8:55 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Re. Singapore stake.

My wife's family are Singaporean so I still maintain an interest in what is happening in the city state.

Yes, we have relocated and it is better for us here.

I don't comment often on Singapore...I have just been moved to write a few times, recently. I will write, in future, too, if I think I should. After all, I know Singapore well.

Thanks for your comment.

8:55 PM  

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