Monday, May 26, 2008

We Won't Be Taking the Subway Anymore...

And we sent them an e-mail to share our reasoning. If you homeschool, I would invite you to do the same. This article, from Home Education Magazine spotlights Subway’s P.R. gaffe:

"By now, the Subway sandwich shop marketing division must know how bad of a decision it was on the part of whichever wonk who decided to expressly exclude homeschoolers from their latest contest. Email lists may not be utterly aflame over the exclusion, but there is more than one ***-off homeschool mom spreading the word. I’ve been reading their emails.

Subway contest: Every Sandwich Tells A Story

Enter the Every Sandwich Tells a Story Contest for a change to win great prizes for your child’s school!

Here’s what you could win:

1 Grand Prize Winner:

– Athletic equipment for your child’s school ($5,000 value)
– Scholastic Gift Bastket (sic) for your home
– SUBWAY Card ($100 value)
– See your story published on and in Scholastic Parent and Child magazine.

6 Runners-Up:

– Scholastic Gift Basket
– SUBWAY Card ($50 value)

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. Contest is open only to legal residents of the Untied (sic) States who are currently over the age of 18 and have children who attend elementary, private or parochial schools that serve grades PreK-6. No home schools will be accepted.

To be technical about it, according to this, homeschoolers in the “Untied” States are the only ones ineligible. Homeschoolers in the “United” States should be able to enter. But, as we all can recognize, I digress, with my tongue firmly in my cheek.

The presumed rationale for the exclusion is that the grand prize is athletic equipment for a school and that “home schools” aren’t organized schools and that the equipment is intended for a community, not a family.

My own point of view is that the way the contest’s rules were worded is another indication of the increasing acceptance that children are creatures of school. This contest — a story writing contest — includes children who are “PreK.”

Do I really have to point out that three and four year old children generally do not compose “beginning, middle and end” stories?

Also, this indicates the trend that no longer are young children pre-schoolers, but they are pre-Kindergarten. Kindergarten itself used to be not only optional in the United States, but was considered a precursor to formal schooling. In German, the word Kindergarten comes from the words for ’children’ (Kinder) and ’garden’ (Garten). In meaning, Kindergarten is equivalent to “play school.” Note that in German the American use of Kindergarten is not der Kindergarten, but rather die Vorschule — preschool.

Obviously, in the United States, now both Kindergarten and what used to be called preschool are now ’school.’

For older ’school aged’ children, legislation tries to tie driving licenses to school attendance, sports for teens is all but wedded to schools, and daytime curfews during the ’school year’ are in effect when school is in session. (I’ve never figured out why there aren’t daytime curfews on weekends or during the summer.) In our collective mind, children who are ’school aged’ belong to a school. That’s just the way it is. Schools = children’s place of duty. Period. The Subway contest seems to reflect some of that line of thinking, which isn’t to malign Subway, but merely to reflect on our national mind-set.

The fallout

It’s too late to fix the wrongheaded concept that parents educating their children without the intercession of an institution are doing so as a school. That water is not only under the bridge, but it has gone out to sea, evaporated, and rained down multiple times.

Regardless of state laws that pigeonhole homeschooling under their respective private school laws, and regardless of whether parents officially/actively/or purposely ‘homeschool,’ all parents are their children’s primary educators even if what is ‘taught’ isn’t the least bit ‘educational.’ This is just family life. Lessons are learned, if only through example, regardless of their worth. Still, families in which children are expressly educated are not ’schools,’ so there is some logic to the exclusion by Subway.

Despite the logic, it was psychologically stupid to apply that logic so abruptly: No home schools will be accepted. Talk about shooting oneself in the foot. Those ‘million homeschoolers’ we always hear about equal how many potential customers?? Either the Subway marketing department is tone deaf, or somebody in the head shed doesn’t like homeschoolers.

Non-homeschoolers often complain that homeschoolers don’t live in the ‘real world,’ but the statement that ”no home schools will be accepted” indicates significant corporate ignorance about that ‘real world’ where real homeschooling families shop with real money.

J.C. Penney learned that in 2001.

Michelle Malkin, August 10, 2001: Publik skool biggotz
Until this week, Texas-based retailer J.C. Penney thought the “HOME SKOOLED” T-shirt was cool enough to peddle on its racks in the kiddie section. Only after a heated e-mail and phone campaign by home schooling parents did the department store chain send a notice to J.C. Penney stores nationwide Wednesday advising them to remove the T-shirts. “It wasn’t our intent to sell an item that is offensive,” a company spokesman told the Associated Press.

The fix
One of the more obvious work-arounds that the developers of the Subway contest could have included for homeschooling parents who entered on their children’s behalf, was for the equipment to be donated to a local park, or to a school of the winner’s choice. Problem solved – good will all around. Too bad that it didn’t play out that way.

I look forward to seeing how the Subway wonks handle their self-inflicted wound."

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