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*****= An all-time favorite
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****The Myth of Laziness

America’s Top Learning Expert Shows How Kids--and Parents--Can Become More Productive

by Mel Levine, M. D.

Reviewed March 14, 2003.
Simon & Schuster, New York, 2003.  270 pages.
Available at Sembach Library (370.15 LEV).
A Sonderbooks’ Stand-out of 2003:  #2, Other Nonfiction

Written by the author of the excellent A Mind at a Time, this book is another insightful discussion of the way people learn.

I had to laugh at a sentence at the beginning of this book, since it sounded so politically correct.  Talking about kids who have trouble with their schoolwork, Dr. Levine says, “They are not lazy; they have output failure.”

I laughed at the way it’s put, but Dr. Levine goes on to make his case well.  He begins the book, “Laziness is not an innate trait.  We all are born with a drive to produce, and like saplings growing in an orchard, we have within us the resources to bear fruit, to be and to feel useful and effective.”

In many ways, this book is easier to grasp than A Mind at a Time.  In that book, Dr. Levine showed the many steps that go into cognitive processes and the multiple places where they could break down.  In this book, he looks at seven case studies (actually composite cases from his practice) of kids with output failure.  With specific examples, it’s easier to grasp the ideas presented (at least for my mind).  I could clearly see some obstacles to output and ways to get around those obstacles.

I highly recommend this book for teachers and home schooling parents.  In addition, any parent who has ever accused a child of laziness (and I have to plead guilty) should read this book.  Fascinating and insightful.

I want to add to this review that The Myth of Laziness set me thinking further about ones life work and how to choose it.  My review of What Should I Do With My Life? got more comments than any other review I’ve written.  In The Myth of Laziness, Dr. Levine mentions an adult who was able to go off Prozac after he quit selling cars and got an office job.  This resonated with me because last week I spoke in front of two small groups of Middle School kids about reading.

The kids weren’t particularly threatening, but I found myself stumbling over words and not putting my thoughts together coherently.  I could have written a much better speech than what I said to them.  When I came home I was covered with sweat.   It reminded me of my evenings teaching Math, when I used to have to choose shirts that didn’t show sweat, because it was invariably a problem.  Remembering that experience made me think that my mistake wasn’t so much to get a Master’s in Math as it was to go into teaching.  (Of course, there’s not much else you can do with a Master’s in Math.)

Dr. Levine looks at those kinds of things--Several of his case studies are kids who can speak perfectly well, but have trouble with writing.  Unfortunately, trouble with writing can have repercussions in many different areas of schoolwork.  My problem is the opposite--I write better than I speak.  I prefer to work alone.  If I have to talk to people, I like it to be a few at a time, as at the library.  So why not find a job that fits with the way I work best?

Dr. Levine also points out that it’s easier to be an adult than to be a kid.  In school, you’re expected to do well in many different areas.  As an adult, you can focus on your strengths.  I have to add that identifying those strengths and finding a job that uses them can also be a problem.

This book breaks down the processes that go into thinking, learning and producing.  The ideas presented here can help us know ourselves and our children more thoroughly.  They can also help a person choose a career where they won’t be accused of laziness. 

Reviews of other books by Mel Levine:
A Mind at a Time
Ready or Not, Here Life Comes

Copyright © 2005 Sondra Eklund.  All rights reserved.

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