A precocious child

While having dim sum lunch at a Chinese restaurant yesterday afternoon, a child at the next table caught my attention. I seemed to see an adult in the frame of a child of about eight. It was not just that he wore glasses. The way he was dressed, the way his hair was parted and his manners all exuded a maturity beyond a child of his age.

As the lunch went on I was able to learn more. These days it simply isn't possible for you not to overhear the conversations of the other diners at a Chinese restaurant. The tables are placed so close to each other, and since the place is so noisy people have to shout to be heard (not only by your mates but also by the other guests unfortunately). So I learned that there were two families in that table. Uncharacteristic of a Chinese restaurant, the conversation evolved around modern Chinese and world history. Amazingly, almost every time his father spoke, the child cut in with additional information or his own views, questions or challenge. From the level of sophistication in terms of his knowledge, language use and organisational ability, it was obvious that he was a child prodigy.

I was hugely impressed, but I could also imagine how difficult it must be for such a brilliant child to survive in a world composed mostly of people not with the same IQ. While his frequent interruptions in family conversations are taken as the most natural thing in the world or even encouraged, I am not so sure that his peers and teachers in a normal classroom will be quite so tolerant. They must be wanting to strangle him if he keeps interrupting or questioning or challenging the classroom teaching because he cannot help it.

Child prodigies are rare gifts, but they need to be specially nurtured. A world where mediocrity is the norm may not be where their endowments are welcome.

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