Does Ainan Cawley exist?
This might seem like a strange question for the father of said child to ask…but it wasn’t me who asked it. An Internet surfer arrived on my blog a couple of weeks ago, using the search terms: “Does Ainan Cawley exist?”. Amusingly, for me at least, they only read one page. I think the existence of this blog, alone, was enough to answer their question.
Now, it would be interesting to be able to discuss where this person was from – but their visit record notes their country of origin as “unknown” and their continent as “unknown”. This sometimes happens, though it is more usual for complete details to be available. So, I can’t make any anthropological observations, of any kind, in this regard. Yet, I can say this: that someone would be led to wonder whether Ainan Cawley exists, does lead me to think they have a very limited understanding of the possibilities inherent in humans.
“Humanity” is a very broad category, in some ways. There are those completely incapable of speech, or coordinated movement, of intelligence more rudimentary than some other animals, that we would still call human. Then there are those whose capabilities so far exceed the norm, that some people, like my unknown surfer, are led to question whether they are merely legendary.
In most parts of the world, these days, the expectations and requirements of children at particular ages, are standardized. Education has become codified and “set in stone”. We come to know what to expect of children of different ages. Differences between children, in such a regime, can end up being hidden, because nothing new is demanded of children capable of delivering more: they are all required to do the same and so, in some ways, end up looking the same. In such a world, it is easy to overlook the huge differences that exist between children, in their innate abilities. Then again there is the question of rarity. A child like Ainan has occurred but once, to my knowledge, in Singapore, a city of five million people. Now, very few Singaporeans, for instance, have had the chance to meet Ainan…perhaps only hundreds, to the low thousands, have personally encountered him, in the course of his life. Were it not, therefore, for the media, having covered him, in his native country, it would be unsurprising, if some of the millions of Singaporeans who had not met him, might be led to wonder if his story was true, or some kind of modern fable. In fact, funnily enough, in the early days, I did see rather paranoid comments on forums from Singaporeans positing the idea that Ainan was some kind of PAP propaganda campaign. It never occurred to them that the PAP would never choose a NON-Chinese boy for such a representative role, thus it is quite impossible that such should be the actual circumstance. However, it is interesting that these commenters thought it more likely that Ainan was a PAP fabrication, than that they thought him real. Nowadays, however, I see no such comments, so it seems Singaporeans have come to accept his reality.
The essential problem with children like Ainan is that they are so rare, in the human population, that the typical person will NEVER meet such a child, in their entire lifetimes. They will only hear of them second hand, as rumours, or press stories. They will never have any real, verifiable, personal contact with them. Instead, their experience will be defined by the more common varieties of “giftedness” that they meet. Everyone, for instance, we will meet many moderately gifted children, in their lifetimes (rarity 1 in 44). So, it is understandable if people’s view of what a gifted child is and can do, is formed by what they observe that moderately gifted children are and can do. Yet, the difference between the category of child that Ainan fits into, and a moderately gifted child, is much greater than the difference between a moderately gifted child and an average one. People, however, having no experience of this distinction, have no insight into just how different children like Ainan are from the typical “gifted” child that they have met.
My blog traffic is very informative as to how people view prodigious children and geniuses in general. For instance quite a common search to arrive on my blog is the question: “Did Leonardo da Vinci exist?”. It may startle you that people can frame this question, despite the plethora of physical and written evidence of his work and life, that still exists today. Yet, people question his reality, because they cannot personally conceive of anyone so much more gifted than a typical human being. The same kind of thinking is applied, by some, to Ainan – because they personally know of no child like him.
The fact that people can doubt the existence of the more gifted members of society and history does suggest that gifted people have much work to do in creating awareness of their nature and capabilities. This skepticism as to the reality of gifted people is a problem – for those who doubt the existence and capacities of such people, can lead to frustrations for the gifted people, in gaining access to the resources they need to do what they can do, given the chance. Quite simply: if gatekeepers don’t believe in the existence of such children, why on Earth would they open the doors to them? The parents of such children can end up being ignored or dismissed, without any proper checking having been done, as to the truth of their statements, being done.
This is a very big problem in some countries as far as I can observe. In Japan, for instance, there is a phrase used to describe parents who think highly of their children and who describe them in terms reserved for the gifted. I have actually seen this phrase used to describe the parents of a prodigy, who had been met with doubt by the Japanese. Guess what this phrase translates as? Well, it essentially says: “Stupid parents”. There appears to be a resistance there, to believing that such children can be. They prefer to think that there is something wrong with the parents. It is not hard to imagine the difficulties the parents of a prodigious child would encounter when faced with such attitudes.
There is a remedy to this reflexive disbelief that some people have when they hear tales of people whose gifts surpass those they are personally acquainted with: public discussion. The more people speak of such people, the more familiar people become with their capacities, the more comfortable people will become with them. The appearance of such people in the media, will gradually educate the masses as to their existence, and abilities. In time, they will come to be accepted – as happened to Ainan in Singapore. The doubters on forums, vanished after a few appearances in the media. Yet, I must say, it took a couple of years to reach that point: there was a lot of paranoia on the way, on the part of some forum commenters.
In a way, therefore, the fact that some people doubt the existence of Leonardo da Vinci, and Ainan Cawley (and no doubt, others too, of a similar ilk), is a failure of communication. The more gifted have not done a good enough job of communicating to the wider public. In that sense, this blog is serving a useful purpose, in that the more I write, the more people become acquainted with what I have observed of Ainan. This is a help to all prodigious children, everywhere, in that they are less likely to encounter the sheer disbelief that they could ever be. Oh. That reminds me. More than once I have received searches for the terms: “Are child prodigies real?” and “Are child prodigies just a myth?”. It is clear that there are people out there, who not only disbelieve in the existence of particular prodigies or geniuses, but who disbelieve in the entire concept of child prodigies. For them, no such children could ever be.
Better understanding of prodigies, can only make their lives easier and make their access to educational and other opportunities less problematic. Thus, I shall continue to write what I see and understand, in the hope that it leads others to understand, too.
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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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