Maybe it’s an evolution thing. (Of course, everything is an evolution thing.) But what I mean is: all life forms are taking gambles in each moment as to how they’ll expend their energy or conserve it. On the continuum of evolutionary strategies surrounding the value of, say, a college writing class to one’s future and reproductive success, some will put forward a high-energy gambit, others a low one, and still others will fall somewhere in the middle. How much energy is put into an essay is the measure of one’s evolutionary strategy as deployed at a very particular stage of one’s life, and in a very particular context (environment).
Some have guessed they can skate and still get the grade they want, while others might obsess about their essays in ways that are actually counterproductive to their own life development. (They decline a date on a Saturday night to hole-up with a paper that turns out to be shit even after an excess of fretful editing, etc.)
My point is that every human being on the planet is an enormous lottery winner in the evolutionary game, and is now putting forth his or her own gamble toward the future. An individual’s temperamental set-points for laziness and attention-to-detail are there for a reason: they’ve been highly adaptive in the past, either for themselves or for ancestors they inherited them from. As Dawkins famously notes, each individual is the product of a long line of ancestors going back billions of years, and not a single one of them died before producing at least one viable offspring. It’s a stunning string of successes that lead to each one of us. And the college students sitting in our classes have reached reproductive age without yet getting their Darwin Awards (elimination from the gene pool).
What thus looks like a bad sort of laziness brought to this or that college class may in fact be the right sort and level of laziness for the contingent situations our very particular students find themselves in. Each of them are navigating contending demands on their time. Laziness in a class, for instance, may function as a signal to them, by the end of the semester, that they don’t really want to be in college after all, or be an English major, etc.
And where they in fact put their energy, and display no laziness at all, may indeed prove quite successful for them.
I’m not making excuses for college students, just noting how tricky it is to determine what others, in their contingent life experiences, ought to be doing with their time (as if we know). A professor friend of mine who once taught with me at AVC used to say, “Everyone has their journey.”
For perspective, here’s a clip of John Walton fretting over what to do with his time, and wondering what his dad would have told him.