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The Myth of Laziness Paperback – January 2, 2004

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; Reprint edition (January 2, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743213688
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743213684
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #85,453 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

A professor of pediatrics at the University of North Carolina Medical School, Mel Levine received acclaim for his previous book, A Mind at a Time, which argued that children’s different learning capabilities demand diverse teaching strategies. In The Myth of Laziness, Levine isolates another group of kids--so-called "lazy" children who aren’t working up to their potential in school--and explores the causes of their low performance. Levine scoffs at the perception that any child is lazy, stating that "everybody yearns to be productive." These children, according to Levine, are simply experiencing "output failure" due to different neuro-developmental weaknesses.

Levine produces case studies of seven children and adults who have been labeled lazy and identifies internal sources that are undermining their production. Many of their output issues revolve around difficulties with writing, as is the case with Russell, who is hindered by his low motor skills, or Clint, whose long-term memory lapses prevent him from expressing himself well. Other weaknesses, such as poor oral language ability, mental energy dysfunction, poor idea generation, and organizational problems, plague the individuals in these case studies. Levine talks briefly about external factors that contribute to low output, such as socioeconomic background, family life, and negative role models. In the profile for Scott Murray, Levine even has the humility to admit that he was unable to reach this young man. External influences--namely, Scott’s privileged upbringing--were too pervasive in causing his output failure.

The last few chapters are devoted to suggestions for what parents and teachers can do to foster productive output in their children and students and how to detect a problem that is internal rather than environmental. Tips on how to cultivate writing skills, set up an organized home office, and assist with homework are aimed at parents while teachers are encouraged to consider individuality among their students’ learning styles. Finally, the appendices offer two worksheets to help students plan stories and reports. Two additional worksheets help pinpoint whether output problems are the cause of poor schoolwork. This is a valuable book that will give parents some guidance in solving their children’s productivity issues and preparing their children successfully for adulthood. --Cristina Vaamonde --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Pediatrician Levine, a developmental-behavioral expert, offers theories on why it's so hard for some teenagers-even bright ones-to succeed in school. "Often these individuals absorb and process information well; they learn but they don't produce," he says, adding, "people say glibly that they are not `living up to their potential.' " Levine prefers the term "output failure" over "laziness." In a series of case studies, he discusses the biological, neurological and psychological factors that may be responsible for "output failure." He focuses on kids challenged by oral and written communication; he believes parents and educators must pay attention to different learning styles rather than simply label a child as lazy. Even fidgeting, according to Levine, may be a plus: "Isn't it odd that kids get criticized for being fidgety when they should be commended for implementing a strategy that significantly elevates their attention?" Despite the thought-provoking theories and discussions of problems such as impairment in the generation of ideas and memory difficulties, only the final chapter, "Cultivating and Restoring Output," offers a broad range of strategies that can be used to remedy such troubles. Still, the advice-e.g., create a home office for kids, document time spent and level of output, adjust expectations-is on target and should help struggling parents.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Mel Levine, M.D., is professor of pediatrics at the University of North Carolina Medical School and director of its Clinical Center for the Study of Development and Learning. He is the founder and cochairman of All Kinds of Minds, a nonprofit institute for the understanding of differences in learning, and the author of two previous national best-selling books, A Mind at a Time and The Myth of Laziness. He and his wife, Bambi, live on Sanctuary Farm in North Carolina.

Customer Reviews

I recommended this book to every parent.
Faisal Al Hawaj
Dr. Mel Levine, founder of "All Kinds of Minds Institute" and the Director of "The Center for Development and Learning," debunks "The Myth of Laziness."
E. Bukowsky
Read this book and you will get away from the way some in society want to categorize the child with learning problems.
Richard C. Monks

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

67 of 68 people found the following review helpful By David Casey on January 15, 2003
Format: Hardcover
First of all let me say that this is a very good book and the only reason I gave it 4 stars is because at least half of information in this book has already been covered in Dr. Levine's previous book "A Mind at a Time". If you have not read it this book is a great choice. If you have you might find "The Myth of Laziness" redundant at times.
The central message of the book is exactly the same as in "A Mind at A Time" namely that academic non-performance is a result of many distinct factors and cannot be adequately addressed as long as people trivialize it as "laziness" or "dumbness".
Levine identifies several specific cognitive deficiencies that can result in non-performance: attention, memory, language, spatial ordering, sequential ordering, motor, higher thinking, and social thinking. Armed with correct diagnosis of the underlying causes the teacher can tailor an effective individual approach to help a student who would otherwise be doomed to languish in remedial education classes with all the stigma of retardation that's attached to it.
If you are just curious about the research in this field you would probably be better off with "A Mind At A Time". If you are a practicing education professional you might benefit from reading both books.
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49 of 51 people found the following review helpful By Graham H. Seibert TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 11, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This book is organized as a series of case studies building up to three chapters of recommendations.
Levine's insight into children is stunning. It is why people come from all over the country to see him in North Carolina. I am sure he wishes as ardently as anybody that his genius were transferrable. While this book gives one an appreciation of his methods, it also highlights how subjective the judgments really are. Any parent who has been through the rounds of physical therapists, speech therapists, child psychologists, ritalin, Prozac, tutors, school counsellors, etc. etc. will know that not all experts have the same powers of perception, and they certainly don't all agree.
I of course love the advice with which I agree. Turn off the TV! Have the kids read. Practice writing. He gives some very concrete and useful advice on how to do this... forms you can copy and suggest that your child's teachers hand out with assignments.
As another reviewer suggests, examining the unique balance of skills and weaknesses in each child, and tailoring life and learning plans to meet their special needs, takes a tremendous amount of resources. Public school classroom teachers charged with 35 young minds, or a modestly paid and trained counsellor responsible for a whole school cannot possibly be expected to handle every child's issues.
There are always alternatives -- many, confusing and conflicting -- for parents with the money and time to investigate them. The sad reality is that society just can't devote enough resources to give all kids the attention that would benefit them. How to apply Levine's insights and techniques to as many kids as possible within what voters are willing to spend is an interesting question.
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132 of 148 people found the following review helpful By John Zxerce on January 7, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Mel Levine's first book `A Mind at a Time' succeeded in taking a common sense approach to the important subject of learning types. This book does the same thing, but focuses on one specific functional challenge - that of a lack of productivity.

1. Levine continues to assert that different learning styles require different teaching strategies. As a result, he does not believe that any child is inherently lazy. While this is likely true for young children, it does not seem to be necessarily the case for adolescents or adults. (Levine would disagree) That is, laziness can be learned and even chosen later in life. In fact, I often find myself choosing the way of the sloth - to my own frustration and embarrassment.
2. Levine identifies a number of causes of low performance. Some of these are internal like organizational problems, poor ability to verbally express, or poor writing skills. However, these types of things don't seem to be `causes' as much as they do `results' or `symptoms'. He does go on to briefly discuss external factors like socioeconomic background, family life, and negative role models. Now these seem to be more root-causes - however, he doesn't spend much time on these, which I found to be disappointing.
3. The thing that I do like about Levine is that he develops suggestions for what parents can do to encourage productive output in children. Additionally, he provides objective means for identifying if the problem is internal or environmental. I happen to believe the vast majority of people fall into the latter category - at least as the initial influence. However, it seems laziness becomes a choice as well. So, there's a bit of controversy here - which makes the book interesting and relevant.
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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Tehhund on November 27, 2005
Format: Paperback
I am a college student, and my mother is a high school administrator. During a break I found this in one of her stacks of books and read it on a whim. The result took me by surprise: The majority of this book resonated deeply with me, and has had a profound affect on my schooling ever since. I am a consistent underachiever, and I realized that I am like many of the kids Dr. Levine is working with (this is a revelation one of the parents in the book had as well). Understanding that I'm not "just lazy" allowed me to look objectively at what I have going for me and have already achieved, while reminding me that my significant problems in studying are exactly that-problems-and therefore I can work around them or try to improve myself in those areas.

It's important to note that this is not a self-help book, and I wouldn't count on too many people having an experience like mine. However, I found this book to be excellent way to understand why seemingly capable students (me, for instance) have difficulties, and how to fix those difficulties. I don't believe that Dr. Levine lays all of the blame on educators as if they don't try to reach difficult students; his thesis is that people (parents; teachers; and, even though he doesn't say it, the students themselves) sometimes don't know how to approach a student who is having difficulty, and therefore cannot help this "lazy" student.
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