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, February 12, 2012

Sydney Spies and the Curse of Beauty.

Sydney Spies is, in most eyes, a beautiful girl. She is also, alas, seemingly quite unpopular at her High School. The reason? She wants to be seen in a certain way – and the authorities, and it seems, her fellow students, don’t want her to be seen in that way.

Sydney Spies is suffering from what I call the Curse of Beauty. This is the counterpart to the hostility that very intelligent people often receive from their more ordinary fellows. Truly beautiful people are rather loathed by their same sex colleagues (except the gay ones I expect). An instinctive enmity exists between people of ordinary looks, and people of exceptional looks, of the same sex. This is, in my view, what Sydney Spies is experiencing. Basically, the ugly people around her, can’t stand her. (Let’s be blunt.)

Sydney Spies attempted to have a picture of her in a yellow skirt and black off the shoulder top placed in the Durango High School yearbook as her Senior Year photo. This was refused by Durango High School, whose authorities were of the opinion, in the words of Brian Jaramillo, that it would be unprofessional. He said: “We are an award winning yearbook. We don’t want to diminish the quality with something that can be seen as unprofessional.”

My reaction to this is quite simple: the Durango High School is run by conformist, narrow-minded morons. The rejected photo is not too strong for inclusion, in my view. It just shows something that is not allowed in Durango High School: a personality. Sydney Spies is showing her innate personality in the construction and composition of the photograph. She is showing herself as she would like to be seen. However, at Durango High School, it seems that everyone must conform to an ideal of what is “professional” - that is strait-jacketed within a narrow set of rather dull rules and limitations about what is an acceptable photograph.

A school yearbook should show the people of the school as they really are. It should show them in all their diverse character. It should not be a robotic showpiece in which everyone is presented in the same set of limited ways to create an overall “look” that is deemed “award-winning”. It should be true to the personalities in the school. Quite clearly, the Durango High School yearbook is not true to the personalities of the students. It is actually a constructed lie, that seeks to present the Durango High School students in a certain way that is deemed “acceptable”. It is a photographic fraud, thereby. I would suggest that the only truthful photograph in the Durango High School yearbook may be the very ones they rejected of Sydney Spies. In fact, they rejected three of her submitted photographs – all for pretty much the same reason one intuits – she is just too attractive. (Though they said the last one missed their deadline). Instead, they used her school ID photograph!

There is one positive side to this controversy, from Sydney Spies’ point of view. She wished to be seen in a certain way. She wished to present her personality through a particular kind of image. Well, now she has, to the whole world – for one of those rejected yearbook photos has been run by news agencies around the world. So, the wish for Durango High School to censor their student, Sydney Spies, has had the unintended effect of making her much more famous than a yearbook would have done. That strikes me as suitably funny.

There is a not so funny side to this though. Sydney spies has experienced considerable bullying from her fellow students at Durango High School since all this fuss began. This is characteristic of the Curse of Beauty, as I describe it. I am certain...100% certain that ALL the bullies are ugly in comparison to her. This controversy around her yearbook photograph is just giving an excuse to the ugly ones to take out their resentment for her beauty, on her. A beautiful person would understand her position and viewpoint and would, in my view, be very unlikely to bully her. I am sure that the resentment she has experienced at Durango High School has come from those who are challenged in the looks department. This is parallel to the kind of resentment gifted kids often receive, from their less intelligent colleagues. It is always the dumb ones who hate the smart. Just so, it is always the plain, or even ugly ones, who hate the beautiful.

I wish Sydney Spies well and hope that she becomes the successful model she aspires to be. No-one should ever be in the position of being bullied because of their innate gifts as Sydney Spies is being – not if that gift is beauty, intelligence or any other gift. All who are gifted, in whatever way, should be welcomed for their gifts – for those gifts make the world a better place. Durango High School has forgotten that. It has proven itself, in this “scandal”, to be an ugly place – ugly at heart and, no doubt, ugly by sight, too.

Best of luck Sydney Spies. I hope you get to be seen as you wish to be.

Posted by Valentine Cawley

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 2:43 PM 


Blogger Alia said...

i think the photo is inappropriate for yearbook.

3:34 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Some people would agree with you, Alia. I am suggesting, however, that a yearbook should be about showing the individuality of the students. In such a way of looking at a yearbook, the photo should be admitted, since it is not pornographic. However, I see your viewpoint.

7:27 AM  
Blogger PomoBear said...

Actually, I am going to have to disagree with you on this issue.

You see, Sydney Spies's photo was allowed to go on her senior ad, but was banned from being her senior portrait. (Each high school senior is allowed to have a "senior ad" in the yearbook a page upon which they can express themselves through whatever pictures they like.) So it is not as if the school was keeping her out of the yearbook because of their jealousy.

Spies however was not allowed to enter the picture as her yearbook senior portrait. The senior portraits traditionally are a collection of formal pictures of the entire class, and obviously the picture in question was not formal and therefore not appropriate for a senior portrait.

I think the school was justified in keeping the photo out of the portraits. I know the picture may look benign, but think of it this way, if Spies wore this outfit to a prestigious formal event, such as the Nobel peace prize or something, she would definitely be kicked out not because the security guards are jealous but because it is simply inappropriate.

What I wondered when I saw this in the news, was what was she trying to express? What does she want to express through putting her (gross) sultry pictures, next to her classmate's formal ones? Definitely something inappropriate.

I think the curse of beauty is evident here, but not in the way you define it. The curse I see is that these girls are pressured by society into thinking that that the only way they can express themselves is through their good looks. That the only way they can get attention is through showcasing their looks instead of their talents. Personal beauty is a shaky foundation for one's self confidence, because when the looks are gone your confidence is as well. And that is what leads to disorders like anorexia.
I am speaking from experience, I am a high schooler myself and I see this happening all the time to my peers.

I also am a high schooler without homework which would explain the length of my comment :P

Please don't construe this as hate speech, I like your blog, this is just my opinion on the matter.

2:46 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...


Firstly, thanks for your comment. I don't construe it as "hate speech" at all...just as your viewpoint.

I agree that it is precarious to build self-confidence on beauty...not because it is beauty, and fleeting, but because a person's esteem can not safely be built on any single attribute. A person is richer than one dimension - and that single dimension may be lost at any time, or diminished with age. Even intelligence declines with again, a person needs a more complex view of themselves and why they are worthy, than any single attribute.

I don't know enough about Sydney Spies to know whether she has anything else to offer other than her appearance. If she has not, then I can understand why she feels compelled to make the most of it. She is likely to feel under the pressure of time (because her primary attribute is fleeting) and so needs to push herself forward as a beautiful individual, whilst she still is one. Thus, it is not difficult to see why she might reason that photos like this are the best way forward for her - she is showing her "trump card".

I think, for her, a certain kind of expression of beauty is what she regards as her core meaning. That is what she wants to show. That is how she wants to be seen.

Personally, I think a yearbook shouldn't be about formality, in a particular style. I think that is constraining. I think it should be about individuality and its expression. That would be a whole lot more meaningful and interesting - and true to the nature of the school.

As for the Nobel Prize - I think it possible that if she were ever a prizewinner (unlikely, I know), that she would be allowed to wear such clothing if she felt it to be how she wanted to be seen. The organizers and the audience would just view her as eccentric. Perhaps Durango High School should consider her eccentric, in her own way, too.

You write well, for a high schooler. Keep writing!

5:11 PM  

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