A Response to Mel Levine’s Myth of Laziness
In “Myth of Laziness” Dr. Levine urges that what is commonly called “laziness” is actually “output failure”, something he describes as rooted in brain wiring and prospective of a variety of mental conditions and disruptions.
His assertion of laziness as “myth” hinges on a great deal of specificity of difficulties children experience in the process of learning how to communicate through writing. His article is essentially about how intelligence can be something completely different from production, particularly that of written language and thought. His view is actually rather refreshing and quite resonant of recent cognitive science and neuralinguistic research- many cases in which language development and intelligence were measured in divergent cases of children with autism and mental retardation in others.
I have found that these observations hold true on an individual writing student level, even that of myself at times. Some semesters I will encounter a higher multitude of students struggling to connect the various essays and authors’ views, while other semesters I will just so happen to have a line of students, just as eager, just as nervous, who have the conceptual, analytical aspect of their papers conquered but who hesitate greatly and consistently when transferring their thoughts from verbal discussion with me – to the paper or text document.
These are cases when it may be helpful to consider the broad-spectrum possible learning difficulties and obstacles different students have. These include, as Dr. Levine deems as a “mixed bag of developmental dysfunctions and strengths,” problems with organization, muscle control, memory, stamina and even confidence in their ideas or abilities as thinkers and writers.
I try my very best to provide what I can, which most certainly includes validation and encouragement of their voices and thoughts. I can tell sometimes that my persistence to have them muster more “output” courage, and sometimes analytic stamina, is exhausting or surprising to students, but after the first two sessions they begin to feel their momentum picking up and it is readily obvious that they enjoy the greater comfort they have afforded their abilities but learning certain anxiety reducing mechanisms (better confidence, breathing, meditation, rereading, asking questions of themselves and others, et al).
Though I would like to say, outside the writing center, it is not so bad to not be always productive and writing. Sometimes great writing needs to step back and read, nourish, and observe. After all, being a student in the general sense means doing all of these things harmoniously and with vigor when one can! This is something I am sure to chime to my students, and some even go as far as smiling and agreeing before returning to giving that word, sentence, or quote connection another try.