Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Mel Levine Dilemma

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 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?


lindargeorge said...

'All Kinds of Minds' was one of the first books I read when I was getting certified to be a para-educator many years ago. I just read the NYT article and I must admit that it is very frightening. I think that we must take what we know to be good practice from wherever we can. As teachers, we get our ideas from Twitter, blogs, email lists, colleagues, students, parents, etc.
I think that you are right to feel anger and to feel let down.

However, I think that you can put those feelings aside and take what you know to be the best way to achieve what you wish.

And for ME to be giving YOU any advice seems ludicrous because I think you are an amazing woman!

Anonymous said...

Sam - What disturbs me is the number of professional colleagues of Levine who are not examining the facts and are not thinking of his victims.

I would like to draw to your attention an eerily similar case- same victims, same patterns of abuse and involving a prominent doctor.

Dr. William Ayres, a California child psychiatrist and past president of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Pscyhiatry was arrested last year for molesting young boys sent to him for therapy. The boys got the same "proctology" exams, and worse, from Ayres. As you note, Levine did the same.

The victims are GROWN MEN who came forward. Surely you must know that over 90 % of adult men will never ever come forward about being sexually abused because of shame ?

I wonder if you and your colleagues who don't even seem to be considering that Levine's 43 victims (none of whom know each other) could be telling the truth ? Why in God's name would they be putting themselves through it ?

And if you did a Google search, you would find that Dr. Levine's and Dr. Ayres' cases are not isolated incidents. There are dozens and dozens of cases just like these in Canada and the US.

You and other colleagues should be looking into the problem instead of refusing to even consider the allegations of the victims, and what they went through to come forward.
For your next step, you need to step out of denial and go read up on the other news stories about Levine. There have been stories in the media about him since 2006.

Anonymous said...

You might want to get another viewpoint concerning Dr. Levine. This blog was started by a victim of child psychiatrist Dr. William Ayres. In this blog, he discusses Dr. Laurence Diller's blog about Dr. Levine and Dr. Ayres.

Karen Janowski said...

Thank you anonymous, for posting your comments. I read the article by Larry Diller -
It is the sad reality of accepting that there are no heroes and of accepting that someone who profoundly advanced the field of behavioral/developmental pediatrics as Levine did, committed horrific abuses against children.

Anonymous said...

Before we all condemn Mel Levine, let's remember that there is a little thing called due process. While all seem to think that this is a slam dunk, there is enough irregularities to question many of the issues that the purported victims are bringing up. Do I think ist is possible, yes I do, do I think it may be untrue, yes I do. Remember, he is a primary care physician, hot a psychiatrist. I physical exam is normal. You have found him guilty without due process, give the opportunity to a trail or a medical board investigation, before you convict him.
By the way, I am in the medical profession and boys at that age may have erections with retraction of the foreskin to examine for hypospadias. Minimal stimulation of the scrotum may cause the same reaction reaction.

Anonymous said...

My response to the last poster is: utter hogwash. We are talking repeated examinations of the genitalia only. There was no need for this. None.

At any rate: Dr. Levine has been forced to resign from the foundation he created because of the molestation allegations. It's lost all sorts of contracts and his seminar business is drying up in the US. He's going to Israel a lot to work now, where they didn't know until recently about the boys.

Anonymous said...

North Carolina Medical Board bars Levine from practicing medicine ever again. Sorry, folks but Levine did not put up a fight.

It's over for him, and he knows it; the Medical Board knows it, and let us hope his victims get their day in court.

Anonymous said...

Mel Levine's contributions to the field of education is undeniable. Tragic as these allegations are, they do not diminish the knowledge he has passed on or the importance of his work. They are still effective, whether or not he has made terrible choices.

How you feel about him may change, but you should still feel free to teach in whatever way best serves your students. If it is using his methods, so be it!