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I think Mel Levine raises a few excellent points. Working without reward is disheartening, and I agree with Levine that it can completely destroy a person’s will to put effort into things. Levine’s discussion forces us to consider not only what the students need to improve upon but also that there are many ways to help them achieve that improvement, and that we must consider a variety of options. Two students that have the same problem might need different approaches to help them fix that problem, and their apparent “laziness” might be the result of their inability to respond to the approach being used.
As a tutor, I think that the story of Roberta is particularly interesting. In the one session I’ve taught so far, I noticed that my student seemed really reluctant to think about his own opinions and ideas, as if he was afraid to say the wrong thing. When I asked him what he thought was important or what was interesting, he skimmed the text until he found something there, and then simply repeated the author’s sentences instead of producing his own thoughts. Although I tried to encourage him to think about his own opinion, not the author’s, I was somewhat at a loss for how to do so. So after my tutoring session, I found the story about Roberta to be particularly helpful.
I found it very interesting – and sad – that Roberta didn’t like school. I think this suggests that there is little or no pleasure in simple reiteration. If reiteration had the same sense of accomplishment that creation does, a student with the memorization skills that Roberta had would have been very happy and satisfied at school. The possibility that it doesn’t give that same sense of accomplishment would explain why some students who have trouble creating their own ideas dislike writing papers, while I personally enjoy writing papers as an opportunity to explore new thoughts. Students with productive, meaningful output should, according to Levine, take pride in and enjoy their work.
While reading “The Myth of Laziness” by Mel Levine I began to remember insistences in my learning career where my style of thinking was not seen an practical. In the article Levine coins a few phrases which I believe helped me grasp his abstract concepts quite quickly. Phrases like output failure, bottom-up learner, and top-bottom learner all helped me to assess my own position within this new paradigm. Being the type of individual that constantly questions rules and regulations and tries to replace them with their own set of ideals I would consider myself a top-bottom learner. I believe this position would be true for most people who enjoy writing. Writing is the most creative exercise we are demanded to routinely do throughout our learning careers. Subjects like math and science where the rules cannot be questioned or remolded are the ones that I routinely struggle with. As Levine stated it is no coincidence that we usually choose to do what we are best at. This is because we receive the most output success from those areas of study. I chose to be a literature major because it is what I excel at and for this reason it is what I like to do. There is a direct and obvious correlation between capability and likability. In other words we tend to enjoy the things we are good at. Once this assertion is understood it is then hard to accept the belief that laziness is a myth. If I, being the top-bottom learner that I am, were to choose bio-chemistry and my bottom-up friend were to choose to major in literature I would agree that laziness is most certainly a myth; however, it is human nature to find the most effortless way to succeed. That is what makes us humans so intelligent. We design machinery to reduce the need to output our own energy. It is true that the word lazy has taken on an unnecessarily negative connotation, however, I would say that we are not lazy we are simply conservers of energy. While laziness might be a myth our need to conserve energy is not.
We live in a society where the first question someone asks us besides “what is your name?” is “what do you do?” Levine demonstrates this when he says, “I believe that adults and children alike feel that a large part of who they are comes from what they do, particularly what they have produced or are producing, and what they aspire to achieve in the future” (Levin 1). Our society, being a triumphantly Capitalistic one, has predisposed us to define ourselves by our sense of productivity. This desire, which I would argue is not an innate as Levine states, to produce is the direct result of our culture. The “innate” desire to produce and then the subsequent failure is what leads individuals down the path of laziness, or what I would like to call the conservation of energy. If laziness could be understood as the result of societal pressures as opposed to the cause of failure the individuals who suffer from it on a day to day basis may be understood as rebels to a system which demands production rather than enjoyment. It must not be assumed that enjoyment and productivity come hand in hand.
I like how Levine breaks down the necessities to being able to evoke thoughts from ‘bottom up’ thinkers in regard to writing. I think that for tutors and teachers alike, it is important to recognize that each individual student learns differently therefore there is no blanket statement or technique on how to properly teach everyone. That being said, I do not completely agree with the title of Levine’s work. She titles her work “The Myth of Laziness”, however I don’t know if “lazy” is the correct word. I doubt that teachers view students that do not add creativeness or object to their writings as “lazy”, but rather, that they are simply not thinking outside of the box. Regardless, I do appreciate Levine’s articulation of reasoning behind specific students that lack the ability to objectively think and I think that she raises a great point – students are often force-fed information.
I believe that writing is a vital part of a person’s life. It is important to be able to generate your own thoughts and opinions and properly articulate them by the means of words that form into cohesive sentences. I found it very interesting how Levine brought the idea of how much effort essentially goes into the act of writing. She called to mind the necessity of knowing, vocabulary, grammar, sentence structure as well as putting your OWN thoughts into this act while simultaneously committing to the physical act of writing, (typing or using a writing implement). All in all, I appreciate Levine’s writing and it definitely put the idea of people who find writing very challenging into perspective. I am going to make a conscious effort to assist students that sign up for tutoring in the best way that is fitting for each individual.
Laziness is usually thought about in terms of physically labor. How can one be intellectually lazy? I think that Mel Levin raises a lot of interesting points about the way that people think about laziness.
Levin suggests that personal interpretation and analysis are ways to help students who struggle with generating their own ideas. He writes “A student can reflect on what she is learning, in part by relating it to her own experiences and prior knowledge, a process that can yield answers to such questions as “What does this mean to me? How does all this agree with, add to, or contradict other things I know or have experienced in my life? How can I apply this in the future?” The nature of these questions says a lot about American culture, and the importance that we place on our own personal experiences. Recently during a tutoring session I worked with a student who was required to write a ‘reflection paper’ about her class reading material. It seems so easy to some of us (“Just write a paper about ourselves and how we feel? So much easier than research!”), but she could not understand the concept of this assignment, could not generate ideas, and would not even try brainstorming. It was not that she was lazy, or that she had a neurological problem, but that she did not believe that her personal experiences were interesting and worthy of belonging in a college level paper. For her, this two page assignment was harder than a ten page research paper. She had only been in the US for three weeks.
In America, creative thinking is prized. We are taught to ask questions, think critically, and form our own opinions. We sometimes look down upon people like Roberta because she is not creative. To us, knowledge is something that is living. We can interact with it and relate it back to our own experiences and observations. But to people of other cultures, knowledge is not as fluid. People from these cultures prefer memorization and regurgitation, which overtly prove one’s intelligence. I agree with Levin when he writes that “Roberta and the many others like her should discover that the goal is not merely to report knowledge but to transform it in some constructive way. It is through such transformations that individuals experience fun and satisfaction while making insightful contributions.” I like to think that being able to react to knowledge, and being able transform it, prepares us for everyday problems more than the ability to memorize and recite. It helps us realize that there are rarely ever concrete answers. There is always a different perspective, a new angle to explore, and a different way to sympathize with someone’s situation. I like that Levin’s article was not full of scientific data, because it was top-down instead of bottom-up. He does not talk about hard facts, but individual cases. Unlike Levin, I do believe that are some students who are truly lazy. But I agree that each student should be dealt with on an individual basis, and that is what we do as writing tutors.
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