Easy Now; Hard Later

Giving students iPads or allowing them to film homework assignments on YouTube prepares them for a high-tech economy about as much as playing with Hot Wheels would prepare them to thrive as auto mechanics.

Deep Work p. 31 n.

Students in today’s world don’t need to hold or use a gadget in a school setting to know how to use one. And he’s correct. Answering questions on a touch screen device doesn’t prepare someone for much of anything. It might save a teacher time in grading, but that hardly allows the teacher to have a better grasp on why the student missed the question or even if the student knew what he or she was doing if the answer was correct. Making school easier for a 16-year-old—or a 12-year-old—is not conducive to making life easier in the future. 

This really ties in well to his principle of Least Resistance:

In a business setting, without clear feed back on the impact of various behaviors to the bottom line, we will tend toward behaviors that are easiest in the moment.

Deep Work p. 58

When my kids were little, it was easier—and faster—to wash dishes myself instead of teaching them how. It was easier and faster to do almost everything myself rather than take the time to teach and supervise and model. Hard is difficult in the moment. Hard makes life easier in the future. 

Now the one pushback I might have against the preparation comment in the first quote is that playing with Hot Wheels just might prepare a child in terms of igniting a passion or piquing a curiosity. But if we think it will prepare them for the actual work ahead, life is rarely that simple. 

So in making junior high or high school easier for the child, we are making life more difficult for them in the future. We are setting them up to believe that all of life can be managed by swiping, clicking, or recording—with maybe a little editing needed to please an overworked teacher. 


The problem is that in an age when we are merely competing against everyone else with the same training, a little editing can go a long way in impressing an overworked teacher or boss. The boss is not unlike the parent: looking for the least resistance in the moment. 

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