What is black and white and “red” all over?

Remember this joke as a kid?  It was a silly one.  The answer is a newspaper.  ‘Red’ is  ‘read’ said in the past tense.  A newspaper is black and white.  That is the “correct” answer.  In the past week I had two interactions where people wanted to know what the correct answer was.  In both cases there was no correct answer, but they kept pressing for one.  Is everything black and white?

A friend who recently started to become involved in international development wrote me an email and referred to the third world.  I replied to his email and told him that if he ever referred to countries as third world, I would “shoot” him.  I explained that the terms, first, second and third worlds, have not been used for years to describe the differences in levels of income and development among countries.  It is politically incorrect and insulting.  Many people use developing and developed worlds.

NPR’s ‘Goats and Soda’ did a nice post recently entitled ”If you shouldn’t call it the third world, then what should you call it?”. They went through a list of terms: developing/developed, global south, majority world, low and lower-middle-income countries, fat/lean.  For each term, as you think, there are those people who accept and use them and those who vehemently disagree.

NPR says it tries their “…best to use the right terms for the right stories” and “aim for specificity…” in their stories.  Fair enough.

My friend’s response:  What term do you use?  That is the point. Use the term most appropriate in the context that you are describing.  It is not black and white.  The world constantly shifts.

What do you use?

In the second interaction, I was again asked what is the correct answer.  I shared a poll taken by Jane Hart asking “what is blended learning?” with my colleagues.  The poll had three possibilities and a space for other.

750 people responded. They choose out of the three possibilities which they thought best defined blended learning:
  • 49% chose “A training programme containing a mix of face-to-face-and e-learning.”
  • 21%  chose “A training activity containing a range of formats and media.”
  • 23% chose “A strategic L&D approach to supporting a wide range of learning initiatives”
  • 7% wrote their own definitions.

My colleague replied to my email asking what is the correct answer.  That’s the point.  There is no correct answer.

It is about learning.  Learning takes many, many forms.  Learning is not black and white.  We know some approaches are terrible, but we also know that lots of approaches do work.  What helps someone learn might not help another.

Black or white.  They needed to know if it was black or white.  They wanted to know what is the correct answer.

Sometimes, you have to accept there is no correct answer but know that they are options to choose from depending on the circumstance.  And that’s ok.


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