I’ve been thinking a lot about hybrids lately. How could I not? They’re everywhere. We corral our kids into our hybrid cars and drive them to hybrid schools before heading to our hybrid workplace where we might trade a few hybrid bonds, backing up our data in — where else? — the hybrid cloud.
The breathless embrace of all things hybrid is as enthusiastic as it is unquestioning. “Hybrid” runs the risk of joining “all natural” and “sustainable” and sundry other verbal pixie dust that clutters our inboxes, and our lives.
Words like these may have been rendered meaningless by overuse, but they are far from harmless. By imputing the gloss of goodness, they let us off the hook and distract from solving the real problems at hand.
Hybrid solutions sound innovative. Why choose between A and B when you can have C, the best of both? What sounds like a creative solution, though, is a lazy non-solution, an abdication. There’s nothing creative about splitting the difference, a crude sort of division that hides behind the hybrid halo, hoping we don’t notice that there is no there there.
Another word for hybrid is…meh.
Hybrids are seductive. They sound good. Hybrid models suggest an extension of the hyphenated identities many Americans embrace. They are not. If anything, hybrid models make life harder, not easier, for minorities. As several studies have shown, it is minority students who have suffered the most during the pandemic, with its mix of in-person and remote instruction.
Teaching to both online and in-person students simultaneously, schools fail to serve either well, and one study found that covid infection rates were higher at schools that had adopted a hybrid model than at ones that had resumed fully in-person learning. What is sold as “the best of both worlds” has proven to be the worst of all.
Even the original hybrid — hybrid cars — are not what they seem. Sure, they’re tempting — environmentally friendly and familiar at the same time, or so we’re told. Yet many hybrids’ green credentials are marginal, at best, and, in any event, will soon become obsolete, as we transition to fully electric vehicles. What is billed a “hybrid solution” is often a crutch in disguise.