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Book Review: Learning about learning (Learning outside the lines by Jonathan Mooney and David Cole)

Title: Learning Outside the Lines

Authors: Jonathan Mooney and David Cole

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The first time I read this book was years ago after someone (though I can't remember who that genius was) recommended for me. At the time, I was in college and trying to navigate my way through wile being a non-traditional student with a learning disability. My experience reading it now, years later, no longer a student, has been different. Very different.

What's it about?

This is not a book of fiction, but the sharing of gathered experiences and the resulting knowledge of two people so many in the educational system had written off. These amazing guys, Mr. Jonathan Mooney and David Cole, continued fight their way through and found themselves in an Ivy League schools. This book is an examination of their uniquely tweaked learning styles and tips and trick that have helped them as they make their way through college with learning disabilities and ADHD.

Take way quotes:

- "The cold reality is that much of the valuable information relevant to our intellectual, personal and academic development is locked within the covers of books in the code of written language." (pg. 144) This line is kind of personal for me. As a person with a language based learning disability, decoding written words was so hard for me as a child and, for some reason, text books are often particularly hard for me. This line just rang so much truth in me. It was just one of those moments in which I felt seen by the authors as, so much of our academic success is wrapped up in being able to decode and extract information from written words.

- "Fiction has not write answers, and reading fiction is not about getting things right." (p.154)

Really, I just want to take this line, grab a megaphone and scream it in the halls of my high school before climbing up the nearest mountain for all of those English teachers who have ever told me or anyone else that our interpretations of literature are wrong. Especially those who have no issue telling people they are wrong, but can't actually explain why.

- "Reading is about enjoying yourself and learning about the human experience." (pg. 155)

I mean, what more is there to say? It's full of beauty and truth!

- "In short, you can teach form but ideas are priceless." (p. 160)

At the risk of sounding bitter (and I might be a little bitter) I think this fact has been forgotten by so, so many teachers and people in charge of educating our youth have forgotten. We can teach information all day long, but we can't teach creating unique ideas.

What did I think about it?

I think that my favorite thing about this book is that it gives people like me a voice in a positive way. Most often, those with learning disabilities are seen as unsuccessful in academic settings. This time, the struggles aren't ignored or sugar coated, but it doesn't go down a path of failure, but rather offers a patchwork map to finding success. However, as reading it this time, I couldn't help but to strongly appreciate the validation I felt from this book as my family struggles with experiences my daughter has had in the current educational system.

However, as I am no longer a student, I found it less relevant then I felt it was the first time I read it. Truthfully, I honestly found myself using some of their brilliant tips and tricks for skimming texts and gaining information while doing it towards the end...especially through the section about tests as I have a nasty case of test anxiety and the sheer thought of taking a test again gave me some feelings. Some undesired feelings.

Over all, I loved reading and hearing the stories of two successful guys who found a way to give the system the finger as they proved so many wrong and created alternative ways to get through the dark and scary maze. I found myself thinking over and over again, that this book would have been a game changer if I was in school. But, irony in the idea of reading a book to learn how to learn in a non traditional way (including avoiding reading text books in their entirely) was not lost on me. I loved the idea of addressing the biggest study methods piece by piece, step by step in a humorous way while constantly addressing the elephant in the corner, that what works for them isn't necessarily what will work for you. That, really, what they are providing for you is a blue print made of tips and tricks gathered through an exhausting and seemingly endless string of success and fails in both moderate and epic proportions.

I honestly wished that I had appreciated this brilliant ensemble of ideas, information and suggestions when I was a student. In the end, I found myself making up for it with a motivation to recommend this book to those who learn in non traditional ways and struggle to find someone willing to remove the blame and shame with companionship, understanding and the act of doing the leg work for us to prove that nontraditional works, too. However, I'd be lying if I didn't say that, at some points, the information was a little overwhelming.

What do I rate this book?

I give this book a


out of

5 cups of coffee

But...that's just what I thought? Have you been looking for someone with similar struggles to help guide you through? Did you think Mr. Mooney and Mr. Cole nailed it? Let us know in the comments.

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