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 +

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Ainan's latest favourite subject.

One of Ainan’s most evident characteristics is his capacity to surprise. He is always managing to find new ways to surprise me, even now that he is 12 years old and I have had 12 years of surprises. He still manages to find new ones.

One of his latest surprises was his reaction to this semester’s selection of courses on his American Degree Programme. Which course do you think is his favourite? I am not going to tell you which courses he is taking, because I want you to imagine out of all possible courses, which one Ainan might consider his favourite. Have a good think about it.

Well, his favourite course this semester is World Civilization. That is basically an ancient history course which he is taking to balance his more scientific interests (other courses this semester include a Chemistry course and a Calculus course, among others). I was surprised to learn that he liked this course so much and so I asked him why. “Because it is new.”, he said simply.

So, Ainan is discovering a liking for more humanistic pursuits than the scientific ones that have preoccupied him all these years. I am pleased at this discovery for it promises that he will end up much more balanced in his education. So far he has studied courses in the areas of Chemistry, Physics, Maths, Biology, Computer Programming, Economics, Computer Animation, English and, now, World Civilization. This is already quite a broad selection of subject areas, but it shall widen much more in the years to come. I hope to see him become broadly knowledgeable, as well as well equipped in his primary interests. That, I believe, would make for a much more effective person.

His World Civilization course is interesting in the way it invites Ainan to think about history and civilization. He is working with a group of his fellow students on designing a civilization, including its own mythologies. He will have to present this invented civilization to his fellow students in class. To my mind, this is a very good challenge to set the students, for it invokes creativity, imagination and the ability to have insights and understandings about the nature of civilizations and what makes them work. It is certainly a much more interesting way to teach students than a standard lecture format. What is most notable about it is the cooperation with other students that it involves. This is, I feel, a good skill for Ainan to develop, since he must learn to work with others, to a common goal. This is a situation which is not natural to many gifted children, accustomed as they are, to thinking alone and working in solitude.

I am happy to hear the occasional remark from Ainan about less familiar (to me) events in history and civilizations I know very little about. It is heartening that, it seems, he will end up with a more comprehensive view of the world than I managed to acquire in my own education. Certainly, if he continues to study broadly as well as deeply, that is a likely outcome. Of course, it is much to his advantage that he is studying an American degree rather than a British style one. In a British degree specialization is encouraged at the expense of breadth. Such an education leads to incomplete understandings of the world. That is not the likely fate of Ainan.

I will write more in future of his reaction to his course selections. It is revelatory to discover what he likes and what he doesn’t. I have learnt that this is not as predictable as one might have thought. Then again, I shouldn’t really have been surprised by that, should I?

Posted by Valentine Cawley

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 11:22 PM 


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