The Myth of Laziness: America's Top Learning Expert Shows How Kids-and Parents-Can Become More Productive

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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 ...
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The Myth of Laziness

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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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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
In 30 years of working with kids, pediatrician and learning guru Mel Levine has encountered case after case of "output failure," the seeming unwillingness of talented children to be productive. These "lazy, stupid and unruly" youths resist authority and fall easily into the category of "slow learner." But, as Dr. Levine and every perceptive teacher knows, the brains of kids are wondrously various, and their intelligence can't be accurately reduced to narrow, testable models. This call for education flexibility will hearten parents of the supposedly unmotivated.
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. Agent, Lane Zachary. (Jan. 9) Forecast: Levine's last book, A Mind at a Time, just completed a 22-week run on PW's bestseller list. The success of that book should interest conscientious parents in this new one. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
From the Publisher
Teacher magazine Insightful...Levine's ideas, culled from his research and broad clinical experience, are as commonsensical and practical as they are wise.

Newsweek Mel Levine wants to revolutionize American education by children think.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780641572760
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Adult Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 1/13/2003
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 6.60 (w) x 9.28 (h) x 0.93 (d)

Meet 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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Read an Excerpt

The Myth of Laziness

By Mel Levine

Simon & Schuster

Copyright © 2003 Mel Levine
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-7432-1368-8


The Myth of Sisyphus

Sisyphus, who founded the city of Corinth ... witnessed the abduction of young Aegina, daughter of Asopus, at the hand of Zeus and revealed the name of the abductor to the girl's father.... When at last he died at a great age, the gods made haste to give him a task that would hold him prisoner. He had to roll an enormous rock up a mountain and, when it reached the top, the rock rolled down to the bottom and Sisyphus'task began at the beginning again. - Pierre Grimal, "Greece: Myth and Logic" in Larousse World Mythology

In Greek mythology, King Sisyphus of Corinth witnessed Zeus's abduction of Aegina and told her father, the river god Asopus, who was searching for his lost daughter. Although Sisyphus was merely a bystander, his disclosure angered the other gods, who unjustly condemned him to spend eternity using his hands and his head to roll a mammoth boulder up a mountain in the underworld, repeating the arduous task over and over again.

Countless desperate children and adults are the modern-day versions of Sisyphus as they toil with their hands and their heads but fail to reach the hoped-for summits of performance in school and in the workplace. And so often they, too, are unjustly accused, in their case, of laziness. They, like Sisyphus,are innocent victims who deserve our sympathy and understanding, for they possess minds that learn and think better than they work. They may radiate brilliance when it comes to logical thinking, humor, and the social skills. But what they produce or the effort they put forth falls short of expectations - the expectations of their parents, their teachers, their bosses. For them, work doesn't work. Like Sisyphus, they feel as if they are getting nowhere as they toil. Their low or nonexistent productivity is not their fault, not in the least intentional. Yet, like Sisyphus, they are often blamed and even punished for crimes they never committed.


Excerpted from The Myth of Laziness by Mel Levine Copyright © 2003 by Mel Levine. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents



The Myth of Sisyphus

1Getting a Mind to Work

2Russell Strinberg:

A Case of Low Motor Turnout

3Clint Walker:

Forgetting How to Remember

4Ginny Caldwell:

Repeated Energy Crises

5Scott Murray:

Controls Out of Control

6Darnell Mason:

Words That Can't Describe

7Roberta Chan:

Deflation Ideation

8Sharon and Mark Taylor:

Falling Prey to Disarray

9Output's Inputs

10The Righting of Writing

11Cultivating and Restoring Output


Output's Outcomes


A. The Writing Troubleshooter

B. The Story Developer

C. The Report Developer

D. An Output Inventory

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 5 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 23, 2011

    Helpful and Informative

    Beware! The charts in this book do not fit the page of the nook color. The info is helpful for parents and teachers in understanding and aiding children with educational and life issues. Probably best bought in paper form.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 12, 2005

    Excellent for parents to get guidance on how to raise their children

    Excellent and educational for parents and school teachers who teach our children and always have wrong impression about our children

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 7, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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