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, December 12, 2010

The children of war.

Yesterday, I saw something which is rather sobering. I was at a conference, on Montessori education, having been invited as a variety of committee member at the NAGCM (National Assocation for Gifted Children Malaysia). The conference consisted, as most conferences do, of a series of talks, in this case given by academics and educators with an interest in early childhood education. One of the speakers had, in the course of her research, travelled to kindergartens in various parts of the world. What struck me, with such force, was something she showed us: some children's drawings.

Now, children draw all the time. One should not expect to be surprised, therefore, when they do. However, these drawings were rather different. They were from Iraqi children. They had been drawn by preschool children of various ages. They showed a good measure of observational skill, too. Now, I am going to describe them to you and I want you to imagine them.

One drawing showed a street scene. In that street were a lot of people - but there was something unusual about them. All of them were lying down on the ground. Their bodies were not stick figures, as is usual with children's drawings, but full figures, with the proper volume for limbs and body. From out of each figure, there poured a rivulet of blood. Each figure, was dressed in black - and quite, quite dead. That was the least disturbing picture that was shown to us.

Another showed a bright sunlit scene. In the middle of the picture was someone dressed in black, with what clearly was meant to be a padded bomb vest around its abdomen. The figure had been labelled "suicide bomber" - though whether by the teacher or the pupil, I couldn't tell. There was something radiating from the suicide bomber - a sense of fire. Clearly, the bomber was depicted in the act of exploding. Around them, however, the rest of scene seemed to come from somewhat later. There were many people in the street - however, every single one came in bits and pieces. There were no complete people in the scene. There were heads, arms and legs strewn about in random jumbles, with blood around them, or coming out of them. The suicide bomber was the only person in this image who was whole.

From a technical point of view, this drawing was interesting in that the limbs had been drawn, in an attempt to be lifelike. They were not stick figure style drawings.

There was another scene, too. This was a street scene in which there were several cars. All of them were on fire - violently burning away. Again, the street was filled with dead people, bleeding away - in this case, complete people who had, perhaps, been shot.

I need describe these scenes no more for you to understand what these drawings mean. For these Iraqi children, this is life. This is what they see and hear around them: people being shot, blown up and burnt, streets filled with dead and dismembered people.

It seems to me, that foreign wars are easily supported from afar, by the populations of the countries that launch them. Many a US citizen may have, initially, approved of the invasion of Iraq, for instance. However, those very same citizens, might have a different view of such wars, if only they could see the drawings of preschool children from those countries. They would then see what life seems to be, from the point of view of these innocent observers. Perhaps the drawings, themselves, would be enlightening enough for there to be no need for those same citizens to see the reality of war, on the ground.

I am left to wonder, rather sadly, on the effect growing up in such a violent, brutal world, as those Iraqi children are, will have on them, as future adults. Will they be brutal and desensitized, or will they be acutely aware that war is something to be avoided, at all costs? Will they value life more or less, having seen what they have seen?

The effects of the violence in Iraq will, I rather think, endure long after it has ended and peace has returned. The children growing up, with blood and bombs filling their imagination, are unlikely to be unaffected by it: they shall live out their days, transformed by war into people they never otherwise would have been. It seems to me that there is something dreadfully wrong about this. I don't want a world in which preschool children draw suicide bombings and dismembered limbs...but that is our world, today.

I suggest you think on those kindergarten children of Iraq and reflect on what kind of effect such thoughts might be having on their development. Is it right to do that to little children? Is it right to make such a world? Should we allow it to persist?

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, 10, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, 7 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 @ 5:32 PM 


Blogger nurul said...

It's so sad about these children. They do not choose to live in that war :(

10:45 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Indeed, it is sad. I don't think that they will ever live unhaunted by these childhood memories.

12:40 AM  

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