The Myth of Laziness

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9780743213677: The Myth of Laziness

Dr. Mel Levine shows that neurodevelopmental dysfunctions are often the true cause of perceived laziness in children and offers solutions.

How many times have you heard a teacher say that your child has tremendous potential “if only he'd just apply himself” or “if only she'd work just a little harder”? How often have you said the same thing to your son or daughter? Or perhaps you have a coworker who can't seem to finish anything; his reports are never in on time, or her projects are always behind schedule. No matter what excuses you hear, you suspect that laziness is the real reason for your colleague's low productivity.

Almost no one is actually lazy, says Dr. Mel Levine, author of the #1 national bestseller A Mind at a Time. Low productivity—whether in school or on the job—is almost always caused by a genuine problem, a neuro-developmental dysfunction. Despite this, untold numbers of people have been stigmatized by unfair accusations of laziness, many of them adults who still carry emotional scars from their school days.

In The Myth of Laziness Dr. Levine shows how we can spot the neurodevelopmental dysfunctions that may cause “output failure,” as he calls it, whether in school or in the workplace. Dr. Levine identifies seven forms of dysfunction that obstruct output. Drawing on his years of clinical experience he describes eight people—children, adolescents, and adults—he has worked with who exhibited one or another of these problems. He shows how identifying the problem can make all the difference, leading to a course of corrective action rather than to accusations of laziness and moral failure. For example, a child who is unable to plan or to think ahead, who cannot consider different methods of accomplishing something or has difficulty making choices may wait until it is too late to complete an assignment or may act impulsively, creating a pattern of bad judgments and careless errors. Dr. Levine explains how such a child can be helped to learn how to plan ahead and weigh various alternatives. This sort of problem, if untreated, can persist into adulthood, where it can wreak far more havoc than in the classroom.

The Myth of Laziness explains the significance of writing as a key barometer of productivity during the school years. Because writing brings together so many neurodevelopmental functions—such as memory, motor control, organization, and verbalization of ideas—it can provide crucial clues to pinpoint the sources of output failure.

With its practical advice and its compassionate tone, The Myth of Laziness shows parents how to nurture their children's strengths and improve their classroom productivity. Most important, it shows how correcting these problems in childhood will help children live a fulfilling and productive adult life.

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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

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.

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