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, October 26, 2010

Singapore's strange media silence.

You could be forgiven for thinking that Ainan was not Singaporean. You might form that impression by reading the Singaporean newspapers. You see, what was remarkable about them, over the past couple of weeks, was the absence of any mention of Ainan in them. Only one newspaper, the Zaobao, made mention of Ainan's scientific discovery of Velociperception, at the age of 8 - but even that was a very strange article for it claimed that Ainan's mother was a Malaysian (in other words, "Ainan is no loss to Singapore, because he doesn't even come from here".)

Now, I find this all very odd. Firstly, Ainan's mother, Syahidah is a Singaporean by birth. However her MOTHER was Malaysian by birth. Thus Syahidah is half Malaysian by blood and half Singaporean Malay by blood - and Singaporean by citizenship. Ainan was born in Singapore and was thus born into Singaporean citizenship. It is odd, indeed, therefore, that Singapore's national media should almost entirely ignore a Singaporean born boy who made a scientific discovery at age 8. Any other nation on Earth, would be so proud of such a development that they would scream it to the world at the top of their media lungs. Not so Singapore. Singapore, it very much seems, cannot be proud of the achievement of a half-Malay boy. No, you see, in the unwritten script of the national Singaporean story, Malays achieve nothing worthwhile and all the kudos goes to the dominant Chinese. It doesn't fit their national script to have a half-Malay boy achieve anything, let alone become the youngest person in history, to discover anything scientific, as he is.

There is something else interesting about the Zaobao story. Firstly, they called Ainan's mother, Malaysian, to rewrite his script as no loss to Singapore, because he wasn't from Singapore in the first place. This is, of course a lie. Secondly, I recall that they referred to Ainan as "Yinan". This is very interesting, for this is a CHINESE name. They are reframing Ainan's Malay success story, as a Chinese success story.

Now, I don't know whether these are innocent mistakes on the part of Zaobao - whether they, in fact, picked up this misinformation elsewhere and simply repeated it. I know this, however: the Zaobao article has been PULLED from the internet, since then and Google is no longer able to find it. Old links that point to the article now go to a blank page on Zaobao. This is very interesting. It seems to show that Zaobao's coverage, though minute, was not approved of, by other members of the PAP power structure - and even that little coverage was pulled once they realized it had gone out. The idea, of course, is that Singaporeans should not ever know about Ainan's growing achievements. I believe that Singapore will follow a rule regarding Ainan: the more he achieves, the less they will write of him. In the long term, this will mean that the people on Earth least informed about Ainan, a born Singaporean, will be the Singaporean people themselves.

None of this really matters to us, personally. If Singapore wants to keep the truth from its people, there is little we can do about that, except perhaps write a comment on a blog that only a small number of people will ever see. Eventually, however, the people of Singapore will work out what Singapore is doing. They will see, for instance, Ainan's growing presence on the internet and the many articles, IN OTHER COUNTRIES, referencing his achievements, and they will realize, that their local media have been unaccountably silent. They will understand, then, what is happening. Will this improve the impression Singaporeans have of their media? I don't think so. It will just show them what kind of media they have. It will show them that, more often than not, the most interesting stories, are the ones they never get to hear.

Imagine a future in which Ainan wins a major scientific prize, one day. It doesn't have to be the Nobel. There are other science prizes, too. What would happen then? Well, I think it would be very instructive for any Singaporeans who keep an eye on the internet for news of Ainan. If Ainan should one day win a major scientific prize, or make a major scientific discovery (in a way he already has...), the whole world will be alive with news of it, except for one, very quiet little island. In such an eventuality, the only country that would not know about Ainan's achievement, would be Singapore itself.

What a strange, little country Singapore is. Is there anywhere else in the world, outside of Soviet Russia, China, Burma and North Korea, capable of such a thing? Clearly, Singapore is keeping very interesting company, in the way it conducts itself. I wonder if the powers-that-be ever reflect on their own nature? What do they think of themselves and what they are doing?

Now, this post is written with two background facts in mind. Firstly, the only article to make it, briefly, to the internet, from Singapore, was the Zaobao article. No other article had an online presence. Furthermore, none of our relatives in Singapore heard of any news articles about Ainan. Therefore, I am assuming that there were no other articles of which I am unaware. If you know otherwise, please comment below.

Given that our relatives didn't hear anything, about Ainan, in the papers, it is most likely that there are no other articles - certainly not in the English or Malay press. That, in itself, is enough to support the analysis of this article.

It is funny to contemplate that, in the long term, the people least informed about the life and achievements of Singaporean born Ainan Celeste Cawley, look set to be the Singaporean people themselves. Now, how strange is that? By contrast, all other Chinese speaking countries in the world, and all other Chinese speaking newspapers in the world, gave significant coverage to Ainan's discovery. The question is: why didn't Singapore's media do the same?

Answers, please, below.

(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 @ 3:48 PM 


Blogger tearsunderstars said...

Hi Mr Cawley,

I have a hunch that since Malaysia has met Ainan's educational needs instead of Singapore (who are inclined to think that they are better than Malaysia), they find it most convenient to hide the facts all together. After all, Ainan, the Singaporean boy, enjoys the Malaysian education more, and discovers Velociperception while studying in Malaysia. This is a hard fact, which Singapore will have nothing left to write about if they hope to cover only the facts/at least try to distort which will make Singapore seem better.

Another fact that might be implicitly shown to the people, if Singapore had to cover anything, is the blatant racism Singapore had but tried to deny. Perhaps that is why all other Chinese press in the world except Singapore's would cover him.

It is vague who "they" are, because I don't know whether the press even gets to know the truth or not. I'd like to let you know though, I do read the news once in a while, but not often, primarily due to seemingly unending demands of the education system which exhausts me to even read the news often, so I don't know everything that goes on. If there are big news, I will certainly hear of them, however I only got to know of you and Ainan through your blog.

In hope of writing this I hope to be banished from Singapore! I read from your blog that the way things are done here are so much uglier than how they have portrayed themselves. I was living in ignorance, besides trying to resist the system in futility. And if that happens, I don't have to endure the stifling system here anymore.

As for "Yinan", I believe it was an attempt to translate his name to Chinese, with the possibility that the translator might have a slightly different pronounciation in mind (Ae-nan?). It is very possible to have a Chinese name pronounced as Ainan as well. In fact, there are several Chinese words that sound exactly like "ai" and "nan", however with different intonation and meaning, though I've never heard of any Chinese with such a name.

On a side note, "ai" (one of the characters) means love, "nan" means difficult, so if he had that combination of Chinese characters, his name means he loves a challenge? Of course, there are combinations of different characters with different meanings which will still give pronounciation of Ainan, but I think "ai" as in love, and "nan" as in difficult would suit him considering his prodigiousness.


3:10 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thank you Tearsunderstars, for your understanding of Ainan's name...very interesting.

I don't know how the news comes about in Singapore either...but it is telling that the whole Chinese world except for Singapore made a big deal of the news. I wonder why?

I think we each have to make our own decisions about the kind of society we can live in. Some people might not choose Singapore because of a certain restrictiveness.

I wish you well on your studies and deciding on the life to come.

3:19 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Funny that Ainan could be heard to be "loves a challenge"!

3:21 PM  
Blogger tearsunderstars said...

"I don't know how the news comes about in Singapore either...but it is telling that the whole Chinese world except for Singapore made a big deal of the news. I wonder why?"

I am guessing, based on my experience, that, to Singapore, nothing seems fascinating anymore. I don't know why, but as I grew, I felt that my curiousity/fascination with anything died down. I cannot explain it, but it is probably due to the environment, that to the others, there's nothing worth being curious about anything other than their practical purpose/direct benefit to yourself, so I was too inclined to think so. In other words (I'm going to be very blunt, but I don't mean it!), "Velociperception? So what? What good does it do for me?"

Another probable reason is that, if (lots of) money isn't involved, then it is not newsworthy (at least, for what they think is good news).

"I think we each have to make our own decisions about the kind of society we can live in. "

As I grew up, I felt that it was not in my power to decide on anything about my life. I have a very prudish mother who always makes a fuss about studies, the wonderful education system (she is a schoolteacher, obsessed with discipline) and that everything else, such as what I feel, what I think are not important. I only grew up trying to please her by getting good results in examinations, and entering a University course that deems good employment opportunities, but I could not say that I was unhappy (because it wouldn't change anything anyway). She was too, very controlling (like the Singapore Government). It felt like my opinion is of no worth, and my purpose of being was to just to please the others.

Your blog sheds light on what I faced before. I also realised that I have lost a lot in terms of intangible things such as what I described above, the ability to be fascinated, discovering phenomena in ways other people don't notice (like in Ainan, it was velociperception, I remembered very vaguely that I had experiences like that, but I believed no one would make a big deal), creativity (I remember I was disengaged by class, and loved to draw a lot. I was Primary 2 then. My Chinese teacher tore and crumpled the paper I was drawing on in front of the class).

Right now, a remnant of the attitude that I should not make big decisions, such as migration, by myself continues to reside. After all, I was taught to accept my surrounding circumstances and suffer in silence rather than do anything. And it also means leaving behind the things that were attached to me here, which might be difficult.

Forgive me for going off-topic and too much into detail about my personal life and going off-topic, because I wanted to explain my unhappiness, but indecision.

I'm learning to be more independent and considering employment in other countries once I graduate. I hope I can recover what I've lost after I leave, though it is unlikely to happen. Even if I can't, I hope my (future) children will thrive better than I did. Thank you very much for your well wishes. I'll always think about what you say.

By the way, congratulations to Ainan on discovering velociperception. I wonder if he sees pink at any speed? It's one of my favourite colours. Maybe there's no need for paint, I just have to walk faster/slower. Just kidding.


9:53 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

So many teachers, Tearsunderstars, are against creativity...especially in Singapore. Your tale of quashed artistic efforts, is one I hear, with variations, all over the world...but especially in Singapore.

I think, if you really want to create, you will have to leave Singapore. It is a place where creative minds are not appreciated and where they invitably die a slow death.

You should foster your own independence of mind and make your own decsions about what will make you happiest in life. Don't be guided overly much by what those around you want, because often they are not really thinking about you...or may not actually be thinking at all. They often speak with the mind of their culture and will voice only standardized options. It is better to think of your own way of life and take your own path.

Good luck.

1:02 AM  

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