The Myth of Laziness

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"When we call someone lazy, we condemn a human being," writes Mel Levine, M.D. In The Myth of Laziness, the bestselling author of A Mind at a Time shows that children dismissed as unproductive or "lazy" usually suffer from what he calls "output failure" -- a neurodevelopmental dysfunction that can continue to cause difficulties into adulthood if left unchecked.
The desire to be productive is universal, says Dr. Levine, but that drive can often be frustrated by dysfunctions that...
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The Myth of Laziness

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"When we call someone lazy, we condemn a human being," writes Mel Levine, M.D. In The Myth of Laziness, the bestselling author of A Mind at a Time shows that children dismissed as unproductive or "lazy" usually suffer from what he calls "output failure" -- a neurodevelopmental dysfunction that can continue to cause difficulties into adulthood if left unchecked.
The desire to be productive is universal, says Dr. Levine, but that drive can often be frustrated by dysfunctions that obstruct output or productivity. Drawing on his clinical experience and using real-life examples of both children and adults he has worked with, Dr. Levine shows how to identify and remedy these dysfunctions. A child suffering from language production dysfunction, for example, may be incapable of clearly expressing or explaining his thoughts, thereby leading to low productivity in school. A child who has difficulty making choices may wait until it is too late to complete a project or may act impulsively, creating a pattern of bad judgments. Similarly, a child with memory weaknesses may be unable to draw on his accumulated knowledge for an assignment. In each of these cases, as Dr. Levine shows, writing skills are often the key to diagnosing specific causes of output failure.
Practical, wise, and compassionate, The Myth of Laziness offers parents and teachers day-to-day strategies and support to prevent output failure and, when necessary, to help children overcome dysfunction and become productive, successful adults.
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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.
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.

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.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780743213684
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publication date: 12/30/2003
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 194,412
  • Product dimensions: 8.14 (w) x 11.04 (h) x 0.73 (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

Prologue: 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.

Copyright © 2003 by Mel Levine

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Table of Contents




The Myth of Sisyphus

1 Getting a Mind to Work

2 Russell Strinberg:

A Case of Low Motor Turnout

3 Clint Walker:

Forgetting How to Remember

4 Ginny Caldwell:

Repeated Energy Crises

5 Scott Murray:

Controls Out of Control

6 Darnell Mason:

Words That Can't Describe

7 Roberta Chan:

Deflation Ideation

8 Sharon and Mark Taylor:

Falling Prey to Disarray

9 Output's Inputs

10 The Righting of Writing

11 Cultivating 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.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • 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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