Mel Levine

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Published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on February 2, 2000. All rights

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Who’s Smart, and How Are They Smart?

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Mel Levine

Business owners and consultants always say that people

are a business’s best asset. And what they really mean is smart

people.

Smart is a slippery word, though. Some people have street smarts,

others book smarts. The most brilliant people can be utterly lacking

in common sense. Some people excel in one specific area, while other

people have immense breadth of knowledge and experience. Just as no

two people look or act the same, no two people think or learn quite

the same way.

Take a person who can build incredible real-to-life models, for

example,

or put together brilliant business plans, but when it comes to writing

down just a few lines on paper, they omit words, and jumble ideas.

Mel Levine, a pediatrician who specializes in learning

difficulties

in children, sees a lot of that among his students. But after years

of research and working with students who have all kinds of strengths,

he came to this conclusion: there is no such thing as a perfect mind.

"There is no such thing as a normal learner," says Levine,

who works at the Center for Development and Learning in Carrboro,

North Carolina. "You can have a child who is straight As, but

you may have a hard time teaching them how to play tennis."

Everyone has a learning dysfunction — it’s just a question of

which ones they have, says Levine, who will talk about the methods

for evaluating and building upon a child’s strengths on Thursday,

February 10, at 7:30 p.m. at the Stuart Country Day School at 1200

Stuart Road. Call 609-921-2330.

Levine’s notions about learning differences has won the attention

of influential people, both in business and in education. Charles

R. Schwab, a stockbroker and financier who suffers from dyslexia,

found Levine’s research so compelling that he helped Levine found

the All Kinds of Minds Institute. The institute develops regional

centers, called "Schools Attuned," where classroom teachers

can learn Levine’s model for identifying different learning patterns

and working with children. The Princeton Schools Attuned is located

at 195 Nassau Street (609-497-1907). Last summer 1,800 teachers

completed

two weeks of training in his theories, observations techniques, and

teaching methods. Public television is gearing up for a feature story

on Levine later this year.

A graduate of Brown University, Class of 1961, Levine is a Rhodes

Scholar who attended medical school at Harvard University. He now

works at the Center for Development, and raises geese on his farm

in Rougmont, North Carolina.

Although Levine’s clients are mostly still in school, he is confident

that what he has learned about children’s learning patterns translates

to adults, who are learning in the workplace, as well. "A few

years ago I gave a workshop on children’s learning, and we talked

about problems with attention, weaknesses with language, and other

issues," he says. "We borrowed an auditorium from a chemical

company, and in exchange, the executives came to the talk. After the

talk, they said `Dr. Levine you’ve just spend the past two days

talking

about children, but you’ve also described a sizable amount of our

employees.’"

The learning patterns of kids can help illuminate the issues involved

in being a worker, says Levine. "Many of the issues that we’re

concerned about are relevant to business," he says. "We look

at children’s problem solving skills, communication skills, capacity

to form concepts, and whether they are high-output or low-output."

— Melinda Sherwood


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