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ERIC Number: EJ763289
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2005
Pages: 7
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: N/A
ISSN: ISSN-1539-9664
Mind over Matter: A Popular Pediatrician Stretches a Synapse or Two
Willingham, Daniel T.
Education Next, v5 n2 p65-70, 72 Spr 2005
Mel Levine writes about learning disabilities in a way that sometimes invites satire. The premise of his 2003 book, "The Myth of Laziness," for example, is that a child who appears lazy probably does not lack motivation, but rather suffers from "output failure." Levine, a professor of pediatrics at the University of North Carolina Medical School and director of UNC's Clinical Center for the Study of Development and Learning, is that rare author whose work affects not only millions of parents, but hundreds of school systems as well. While "The Myth of Laziness" had some success, his 2002 book, "A Mind at a Time," reached #1 on the "New York Times" best-seller list and brought coverage by the national media, including (every publisher's happiest hope) an appearance on "Oprah." There are two questions that parents and educators should ask about Levine's program. First, Is his theory of how the mind works correct? Theories of learning disabilities (including Levine's) are theories of what happens when learning abilities have gone wrong. If one mischaracterizes the abilities, the description of potential problems is inaccurate. The second question one should ask is, Does the evidence indicate that his proposed treatments help? The answer is that there is no evidence, positive or negative, as to whether or not the program helps kids. Given the inaccurate description of the mind on which it is based, however, it seems unlikely that it will prove particularly effective. In this article, the author describes how Levine's broad-strokes account of the mind agrees with that of most researchers: there is a memory system, an attention system, and so on and how he is often wrong on the detailed structure he claims to see within each of those systems. (Contains 1 figure.)
Hoover Institution. Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305-6010. Tel: 800-935-2882; Fax: 650-723-8626; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Opinion Papers
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: New York; North Carolina