Moshe Kai Cavalin, 14, son of Chinese Shu Chen Chien and Brazilian Joseph Cavalin poses for a picture at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) on March 26,2012. Cavalin studies Math with a scholarship at the UCLA and expects to finish his college degree later in 2012. He entered the University when he was eight years old and plans to follow with a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in theoretical physics, pure maths or astrophysics. He has also mastered several martial arts and is a certified scuba diver. He started studying math when he was 2 years old. He has written a book, "We can do", where he explains how he is not a genius, just a boy who worked hard and didn't waste his time watching TV or playing video games. In his book, he wants to encourage parents to educate their children in a way they can take advantage of what they have, as his parents did. - AFP Photo

LOS ANGELES: Moshe Kai Cavalin insists he is not a “genius” - even though he earned an associate's degree when he was 11, and is soon to graduate from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), at 14.

The young teenager, who has a Chinese mother and Brazilian father, says he began studying at the age of two and simply does not waste time - so calling him a genius doesn't do justice to the effort.

“'Genius' is just a word, it's like an IQ, it's a number that's created by people that only classify with one point, and they ignore everything else that makes the individual,” he told AFP in the UCLA cafeteria.

“I don't like being called a genius and I don't want to be a number... What I do is try to get wisdom through knowledge and I think practicing wisdom is much better than being a genius,” he added.

That's why Moshe Kai wrote “We Can Do” - first released in Mandarin in Singapore, Malaysia and Taiwan, where it became a bestseller - and now in English - “to help parents encourage their children to reach for the stars.”

I reached a point that many people considered impossible for my age. (...) I reached as high as the Moon, but anybody who really tries can reach beyond the Milky Way,” he writes in the book.

Born in Los Angeles, Moshe Kai was already doing simple math at the age of four, when his parents launched him on an intensive learning program including math, music, martial arts and reading.

After he was turned down by a number of schools that feared he might distract other students, his mother Shu Chen Chien and father Joseph Cavalin decided to home-school him.

With television and videogames kept to a minimum, he came on in leaps and bounds, winning international martial arts contests, learning to scuba dive and enrolling in college at the age of eight.

“I just took advantage of what I have. Everybody has some potential to be special, however you have to take advantage of that potential,” said Moshe Kai, who remembers all his birthday gifts and says his favorite movie is “Wall-E”.

“And I think everybody can have the potential to be just like me. However they just don't take advantage. That's why people consider me special. I work hard, I plan ahead and I achieve my goals for a better life.”His mother rejects critics who suggest she is a so-called “Tiger Mom,”putting enormous pressure on her child to succeed.

“People say 'Why are you pushing him so hard?' But I'm not pushing him, he's happy,” said the 47-year-old, who lives with her son and 61-year-old husband in a family residency on the UCLA campus.

She notes that normally the Family Union accommodation is for students with their own children. “He's the only one with parents ... it's the other way around, it's very funny,” she said.

But for all his intellectual accomplishments, Moshe Kai does not seem like a mini-adult. He still has a certain shyness and innocent sense of humor, even if his answers are more sophisticated than those of most 14-year-olds.

“My book is not about how to become a genius or how to be intelligent. It's about how to have a better life... If you don't have parents like mine, it's going to be harder.”When he graduates from UCLA, probably this year, Moshe Kai says he hopes to specialize in pure mathematics astrophysics and theoretical physics. “But I'm only 14, you know - I have a lot of time to decide,” he said.

And the teenager - whose birthday is on Valentine's Day, February 14 - has no time for girls, yet.

“I'm too young to get involved in a relationship - after I get my PhD or after I get my Masters,” he said.

Opinion

Press and power
25 Sep 2021

Press and power

None used the press so brazenly as the Modi government.
Once upon a Taliban
Updated 25 Sep 2021

Once upon a Taliban

Something, somewhere is terribly wrong with how this story is unfolding.
Foundation of healthcare
24 Sep 2021

Foundation of healthcare

Primary healthcare is as much for healthy individuals as it for those suffering from ill health.

Editorial

25 Sep 2021

NAB controversy

THE completion of the four-year term of NAB chairman Javed Iqbal early next month has afforded Prime Minister Imran...
Cabinet ‘inclusivity’
Updated 25 Sep 2021

Cabinet ‘inclusivity’

Voices are being raised questioning when the much-hyped inclusivity the group had talked about will materialise.
25 Sep 2021

Quorum malady

LACK of quorum has become a chronic problem for the present National Assembly which is in the process of becoming a...
24 Sep 2021

Costs of growth

IS Pakistan’s growth party over? Not yet. But both the State Bank and government are now cutting down on the items...
Smear campaign
Updated 24 Sep 2021

Smear campaign

It is commendable that the government has taken the matter as seriously as it has, and delved deep into cyber investigations.
24 Sep 2021

Rising dengue cases

THE dengue monster is once again rearing its head in different cities of Punjab. More than 820 cases have surfaced ...