What to do about Mel Levine.
What do we do when one of our professional heroes, the one whose website is entitled All Kinds of Minds (because he cares about all kinds of minds), is accused of doing harm to those he was entrusted to help?
What do we do when someone who has impacted us greatly as educators, a well-respected and admired developmental pediatrician, falls off the pedestal? When disturbing information is revealed about their past?
I have been struggling with these questions since the allegations were revealed last spring.
Mel Levine has profoundly influenced my practice as a special educator for at least 15 years. I used his assessments, read many of his books, recommended them to parents and other educators, attended conferences where he was the main speaker, required my graduate students to explore the simulation site he created with Pbs.org to help them understand learning differences in a unique way and have personally benefited from his resources while parenting my own children.
Mel Levine brought incredible wisdom and experience to understanding the challenges of struggling learners. His approach was a humane approach that viewed learning disabilities, not as disabilities, but as learning style differences. He identified neurodevelopmental constructs that led to better understanding of diverse learning styles and highlighted strategies that promoted successes. He always asked, "where is the breakdown?" when students struggled with the components of learning. He detailed the numerous skills necessary to write a paragraph, to comprehend a chapter, to attend, to remember, and to organize, among other skills. His task analysis for each skill provided valuable information to determine where the breakdown in compentency occurred to then remediate or compensate for the skill deficit.
Above all else, he emphasized and worked with student's strengths and fervently believed in the capacity of every child to want to succeed and to want to learn. He was the person that taught me that struggling students use a great deal of energy, daily, to avoid humiliation at all costs. He was the one who taught me that nothing a child does requires more energy than sitting still in school.
I find it impossible to overlook his valuable contributions and often bring him up in professional conversations, albeit with reservations, considering the accusations against him. In America, people are innocent about proven guilty.
So, what to do about Mel Levine.
Is anyone else struggling with this?