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Monday, May 26, 2008

Subway & Scholastic Slip Up

It seems that Subway has made a rather foolish mistake. They (and the co-sponsor, Scholastic), have a writing contest going for school aged children which specifically excludes homeschooled children. It does include preschoolers and kindergarten children, who presumably and with rather rare exception are not old enough to be writing stories with a beginning, middle and end about their sandwiches.

The grand prize includes $5000 for athletic equipment for the winner's school. Now, I guess I can understand that they didn't want to give this to a homeschooling family. I suppose. But they forget that there are co-ops which meet at churches, synagogues, community centers and even schools that could have used that equipment. Not to mention a homeschool winner donating it to a park, or local school of their choice.

I am not really outraged about this, the way some people are. I save my outrage for other things. I believe in capitalism, Subway is a private company, as is Scholastic, and both are entitled to include or exclude whomever they wish in their contest. Aside from sniggering at the misspelling of United States (they wrote Untied) and their use of the word Bastket instead of basket, and a snide thought that they were concerned that a homeschooled six year old might find their spelling and grammar mistakes, or beat the pants off of the other contestants (the way the national spelling bee and some math competitions have gone) it's not really my concern. It is a shame that they specifically chose to exclude quite a large consumer base from their promotion, and I think that will come back to bite them. Subway might be excused for not realizing how large a group they were excluding, but Scholastic makes quite a bit of their money from homeschoolers, and should know that already. As an aside, there is a reading program sponsored in part by Pizza Hut, that awards free pizzas for a certain number of books read per month, and which limits the number of homeschooled children, presumably because they tend to read more than other children, which bothers me more than an outright ban does.

We have chosen to use other publishers and distributors for books rather than Scholastic for other reasons, and so, for at least two years now haven't bought anything from them anyway. However, we do occasionally visit Subway, and I am sending them a respectful letter telling them of my disappointment in this exclusion, and reminding them of the millions of homeschooled students (and their parents) who may choose not to patronize Subway, which is just as much their right as it is Subway's right not to include them in promotional contests. You may wish to write to Scholastic at either P&CConnects@scholastic.com or CConnects@scholastic.com and submit a polite comment to Subway at their Customer Service page to let them know what you think about this decision.

There was a rather petty, but slightly humorous contest entry a three year old supposedly made that can be found here which I have to admit I laughed at, even though it is a kind of silly gesture.

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Comments:
We unwittingly started this "boycott" when our BLOG entry was spread around the net.

Obviously the contest itself is not very important. What is important is that, wittingly or not, Subway marginalized homeschoolers.

If you believe (as we do) that this exclusion arose from concerns about the grand prize, it is based on a fundamentally flawed stereotype of homeschoolers.

As American Thinker (http://www.americanthinker.com/2008/05/subway_bans_homeschooled_kids.html) and other media outlets keenly noted, homeschoolers are under frequent attack and don't need anything to further reduce our status in society, even from a fast food chain. Neither of us believe this was a malevolent act, but it has the same effect nonetheless.

What too many fail to realize is that the boycott has accomplished three major goals: 1) Change Scholastic's policy for "next time". 2) Made blue suits all over corporate America think twice about failing to give homeschoolers their due. 3) Brought the issue of homeschooling into the national spotlight.

When one thinks of these effects, its pretty tough to conclude that the controversy wasn't a worthy act.
 
I think we should show the other cheek. Instead of boycott, lets all pick a day and eat at our local subway and let the individual owners know that we don't hold them responsible. I think there is a more effective way to communicate the fact that there are many of us and we should be included. Jesus said if someone forces you to go a mile, go two (Matt 5:41). Anyone can boycott. Even so, anyone can love a friend. But to love those that persecute you shows the true nature and power of God. Grace? Forgiveness? Anybody? What light do you carry in this world? Feel free to comment on my blog as well. JustinLately.blogspot.com
 
In a way, I can see the point of letting them know that the three million or more homeschooled children exist is positive. I don't think that most boycotts are worthwhile. These are private businesses, and they can conduct their business as they wish within the law.

I don't feel personally slighted as a homeschooling mother that their contest didn't include us. It was a remarkably small amount of money toward equipment, and the contest was rather vapid. My children do more complicated assignments at home, and do not have to shill for a commercial company to do so.

As for giving them my money to show them that we should be included? Business generally don't operate that way. They just line their pocket books. I did write them to remind them of the number of homeschooled children in the US whose parents decide where they might spend their hard earned money, because I think it is foolish for a company to ignore such a large consumer base. However, I wasn't going to go out of my way to spend my money there to let them know I was out there.
 
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