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Review of "Learning Outside the Lines "

By Jonathan Mooney and David Cole
Simon & Schuster, 2000
Review by Prem Dana Takada, B.B.Sc. (Hons) MA Clin Psych. on Oct 27th 2001
Learning Outside the Lines I was attracted to the title of this book in the hope of further understanding and learning novel solutions for the challenges associated with living with a Learning Disability and ADHD. What I actually received was not so much a novel approach as a combination of inspirational ideas and a series of boring but incredibly useful facts on the "how to" of studying.

In Part 1 of the Book- "Deviant Minds" Jonathon Mooney and David Cole relate their story. We get a close-up of the pain and trauma of having learning problems in a tightly run educational system that values the 3 R's over uniqueness in learning styles/personhood. We are introduced to "Leo the late bloomer", a lion from a children's book who "couldn't do anything right. He couldn't read and he couldn't write". The anger and shame are graphically depicted amidst the constant implication of stupidity. Part 1 is inspirational since Leo does bloom-and gets into Brown University and both David and Jonathon demonstrate that they are far from average. In this first section they also advocate exploring your past and doing a personal review of your educational history- both the victories and the wounds.

In Part 2 "Schooled" we are moved onto the "how to" section. This involves a myriad of tips that in and of itself requires quite a bit of study and focus to absorb. This makes up the bulk of the book and emphasizes demystifying the educational process and individualizing your education. A lot of tremendously useful ideas here - i.e. it's a good idea to skim (they caught me on that one); when reviewing your writing, color-code for relevance; and a lot of information about personalizing your note taking system so that it enhances it's meaning and organization for you. Throughout this section the authors continue to challenge the standard teaching morality that values form i.e. grammar/sentence construction over content and ideas. As in the first section, there is a lot of psychological content here i.e. what to say to the critical voices in your head telling you that you can't write and tips on dispelling the myth of perfectionism. It is clearly written in largely a conversational style utilizing a boxed highlights format.

In Part 3 their thesis is reiterated - "the act of self reflection is an act of defiance. We are not taught to look inward for guidance, but outward to our academic success for approval and acceptance". Overall, an excellent text for college students who have ADHD or a Learning Disability. Actually a great book for anyone who has been negatively effected by the legacy of his or her education. Learning Outside of the Lines is really about living with passion instead of shame, daring to live a "life less ordinary".

© 2001 Prem Dana Takada

Prem Dana Takada, B.B.Sc. (Hons) M.A. Clin Psych, originally trained as a Clinical Psychologist in Melbourne, Australia where she also acquired registration as a Family Therapist. After leaving Australia, Prem Dana worked as a Principal Clinical Psychologist in West London where she continued to work with individuals, couples, families, and as a group therapist and received further training as a Hypnotherapist in Oxford. She has traveled widely having also lived and worked in India, and has been in Japan for the last five years where she currently runs the Psychotherapy and Healing Practice and is President of Mental Health Providers Japan--a professional organization established for Western Therapists.