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 +

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The incredible Internet essay writing machine.

To some students, indeed, I hazard, many, the Internet is seen as an incredible essay writing machine. All they need to do, to "write" their essays, is to type the question, set by their teacher, or Professor, into the Internet - and hey presto, out pops links to a thousand different answers, instantly. Then, all the student need do, is copy and paste the judiciously chosen text, into their MS Word - and they will have "written" their essay, in a few clicks of a mouse.

Today, I was moved to reflect on this phenomenon by an apparent student from Cebu in the Philippines, who arrived on my blog with the search terms "Write on future hope". He had not even rephrased his teacher's request into something more likely to get the right kind of response - he had just entered his teacher's request into the Internet. This, in itself, suggests that he or she has a limited understanding of search engines, as well as of essay writing skills. The searcher, of course, arrived on my post about "future hope", in which I write of writers not aging in terms of their writing skills, but maturing instead. I now expect that somewhere in Cebu, a teacher is going to be digesting some interesting views, indeed, perhaps, surprising views, from his student that show a remarkable understanding about what it is to get old. How funny.

There is a serious side to this. The Internet may lead to a generation of students who do not write for themselves, who do not think for themselves, who do not make mental effort for themselves. The lazier members of the Internet generation, may become people completely unaccustomed to personal thought or mental effort. The result will be a future world in which most people cannot think, at all. It would be ironic, indeed, if the consequence of sharing knowledge, globally, via the Internet - which I think is a wonderful facility for THINKERS - should turn out to induce a generalized mental malaise.

This is not the first time I have seen searches which indicate that someone is looking to plagiarize an essay. I have seen this kind of search many times. Sometimes it is even as sad as asking me to write a single sentence for them as in a very popular search: "A sentence with the word "prodigy" in it". This kind of search occurs every month. Scrutinizing the search terms that lead people to my blog, I am led to the conclusion that there are an extraordinary number of student plagiarists out there. Frequently, for instance, I have what I assume are teachers arriving on my blog, whose search terms include large or distinctive quotations of my writing. They are clearly checking up on their students to see where they got a particular piece of writing from. So, it is not all the students' way: some students, out there, are clearly getting caught for their plagiarism. Unfortunately, however, the student searches outnumber the teachers seeking plagiarism perhaps 30 to 1, maybe more. So, most teachers either don't notice, or don't care to find out.

To my mind, I see the Internet creating two classes of people: those who use it to enable to think more about more topics - and those who use to stop thinking altogether. The first class of people will grow in power and influence, and the latter class will eventually be found out, with consequent harm to their lives, careers and hopes, if their societies think ill of such conduct. Thus, the Internet, far from being a great leveller, as people think of it, may actually end up being a great divider - not because of the Internet, itself, but because of the people who use it. The Internet allows people to become MORE of what they already are. The thinkers can think MORE, the slackers can slack MORE. Thus it is that the Internet becomes an exaggerator of who we are: we become more extreme versions of ourselves. Perhaps this is a good thing, in a way, for it will make it clearer who people are, fairly quickly. We can then save much time in the assessment of our fellow man. The thinkers become greater thinkers - and the slackers, become even more slack. To tell which is which - just use a search engine on their written work and it should soon become clear. The thinkers will have no exact matches for their work. The slackers will often be found to have plagiarized a writer, somewhere in the Internet universe.

All this leads me to advise that all teachers, everywhere, should run a check on characteristic phrases of their students' work - particularly for those students whose written contributions seem better than their classroom participation. It is altogether probable that many of the students who are able to perform so well in homework, but relatively poorly in class, are, in fact, Internet plagiarists. There is no excuse for not finding them out, in the modern world: all you have to do, is Google "their" work. I believe there is even an Internet service for checking up on students call Turn It check it out and unearth all the plagiarists in your classroom. To do so, is to do them a favour, since it might prevent them from falling out of the habit of thinking. That could save them from a very dull life indeed.

(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.

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 2:33 PM 


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