Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The death of a prodigy

After I have finished the last year of my primary school, there was a long holiday. Dad suggested I should do something useful to upgrade myself. I ended up in a small little institution named Inti college, somewhere in downtown KL. I joined a program named “English and Computer camp”, and it lasted for about 2 or three months.

Overall, the memory of that experience is somewhat vague now, but a few things are surprisingly imprinted in my mind. I remember a bunch of kids, two years to my senior, were constantly discussing about pornography. I also remember a kid of my age being very famous in the institution. His essays were posted on the notice board for everyone to read. I actually took the effort to copy down his essays into my notebook for a serious study later on. I was shocked at his mastering of English language, because his essays were full of deep vocabs, and sophisticated sentences. During a few rare occasions when I actually saw him, he was in discussion with his professor in the canteen or corridors somewhere. He just looked like a regular fellow.

I knew he was a prodigy at that time. And I knew he was Zhang Shi Ming. He died a few days ago.

He appeared in the press quite frequently at that time. His and his dad were meeting VIPs, politicians, Anwar Imbrahim, etc. I suppose one of the major reasons for them to do that was to get every publicity possible, in order to raise fund for him to go to MIT. I remember, at one point, his dad complained subtly that the Chinese community did not do enough to help pay for his son’s tertiary education.

My dad analyzed to me “Do they ever make a promise to come back to Malaysia? If no, is there an obligation for the Chinese community to assist one prodigy who might be an American?”

Until this day, I absolutely believe that my dad’s analysis is justified. Even if he had promised to come back to Malaysia, it’s really debatable whether we should fund one prodigy, or put our dollars in our homeyard – there are countless primary Chinese schools here that are seriously under funded and understaffed. Let’s get our priorities correct here.

Reportedly, he got sick and he came back to Malaysia in 2002. Since then, there was no more news of him. The rumor was that he was in a depression and he had to receive mental treatment. From then on, his family posed a very defensive attitude towards the public, and was silent about his situation. His ex-professors were also not kept informed of his status.

Few days ago, his family was reportedly throwing punches at the news reporter at the graveyard. Sure they were heart-broken, but the fact that they even declined to confirm his death, and the entire evasive and defensive attitude, was an insult to many people who had helped him at some point. I have never given him a dollar, but many did. And many people were truly concerned about his well-being. Don’t these people at lease deserve a confirmation of his death?

This is Malaysia. We are not united states, where CNN and Fox and ABC would have trucks hosting satellites and cameras, waiting infront of their houses 24x7. Their hatred towards the media or public, was baseless. They might think that the media’s coverage in the past has given his son too much pressure, which leads to his depression, and finally death, and they are mad about that. If such an assumption is true, they are being unfair to the media - they have exploited the media to their advantage in the first place.

Michael J.Fox is outspoken about his own illness –parkinsons. His frank, open treatment of his own condition, is not only good for himself, and it’s absolutely important for the greater good of the society. A prodigy’s death is tragic, but we must talk about him, analyze him, and find a way for all prodigies to have a life.


Blogger 非舞者 said...

It shouldn't be hard at all for a genius to get scholarships from the American universities. Whatever grudge the father might bear, it is baseless.

If I have the means, I would rather help out those good but poor students. A genius already has enough help from its creator. It should be able to sought itself out without problems.

Anyway, the father is a poor old man now.

1/10/2007 10:21 PM  
Anonymous Ken said...

I paid particular attention to the news on his death recently. I believe most of us did because he was at the same age with us, and to a certain degree we envied him for his academic achievement at such a young age.

I could not stop wondering if one day I become the father of a genius, what would I possibly do. Should I reveal it so that he/she could receieve attention and recognition that he/she deserved? Or he/she would rather grow up like a normal child, have fun in school with friends of same age, and fall in love with someone? What is more important in life?

After such a tragic end of Zhang, it is worth for us to think about this.

1/11/2007 11:51 AM  
Blogger steve tan said...

I guess his father wanted to accompany him in the States. Obviously MIT's scholarship is just to cover the kid himself.

And yes, he was in the same age as us, and his story was part of our memory, and that makes his death especially haunting.

Definitely I would keep a low profile, if my kid turns out to be a prodigy. Let him/her go through the entire high school like normal, when he enters university, he can fastrack the whole thing in the soonest period possible. Say, he can take 10 courses per semester and obtain his PhD in 2 years.

High school was a bit boring for him but I will ask him to write another operating system to replace linux. So he will release all his bursting intelligent or enegery into something useful, and possibly lucrative.

1/11/2007 9:08 PM  
Blogger 非舞者 said...

Haha. Seriously, geniuses might find programming trivial/mundane. Just ask Loh Yen Lee.

There's no telling whether a genius would feel happier if allowed to live "normally". Besides, who doesn't want a fast track in life?

There's something in life that they might not get, ironically, as easily as we do. It's that something that we have to find out.

1/12/2007 8:29 PM  
Blogger 非舞者 said...

P/S: It might just be sex.

1/12/2007 8:30 PM  
Anonymous Jessica said...

Perhas they do not need to resort to exchange of human fluids to reach climax.

2/16/2007 1:04 PM  

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