The Great Subway Contest Crisis of 2008

While most Americans were enjoying barbecues and the Hanley family was watching 70 mph winds blow a stream of water up the hill in front of our house, homeschoolers were busy organizing a boycott against Subway and possibly even Scholastic. My email box had more messages related to the boycott than spam, and the forums were hopping over a holiday weekend.

In a way, it is one of those feel good moments as a homeschooler. There are just enough homeschoolers that someone, somewhere will notice any slight dealt to the homeschool community. And we are networked well enough that major corporations bend in a single weekend. And a holiday one at that.

On the other hand, what was the boycott over?

$5000 in athletic equipment for my child’s school? This is clearly meant to benefit a school. And while Nebraska may consider me a private school, as many states do, I do not hold corporations to the legalese surrounding homeschool legislation. And they are not doing anything morally reprehensible with their dollars in supporting public and parochial schools. They just don’t want to give me that much playground equipment for my backyard. HSLDA chimes in with a letter dated for the 27th:

We understand that the competition is focused on traditional public and private schools because the grand prize of $5,000 of athletic equipment is designed to be used by a traditional school and not an individual family. A potential homeschool winner, however, could simply donate the grand prize to a public or private school of their choice or to a homeschool sports league. Open Letter to Subway

Sure we could donate the equipment. But I think Scholastic and Subway want a little more assurance that the equipment is going to benefit a school. One with an enrollment greater than my family’s size. Now, the whole thing could have been avoided with a simple readjustment to the rules. Something like:

The playground equipment will go the accredited school of the winner’s choice.

Then regardless of who wins, the real prize goes where it is intended to go.

It isn’t pretty out there, and it is rare that I really see this much division in the boards I frequent. I never knew someone’s choice to boycott or not boycott could be so personal. That my shoulder shrug at the whole thing would result in impassioned defenses of how boycotting does work, and an insistence that we have to remain vigilant even in the little things. Or that those who are not boycotting would see fit to not merely state why they think it is not necessary but go so far as to belittle those who have chosen to do so.

But really, do we make this big of a deal out of other companies who choose to support traditional schools?

Why aren’t we up in arms over Campbell’s Soup? Homeschoolers have been excluded from their label drives for as long as they have been going on without homeschool message boards mobilizing for war. How about General Mills’ Box Tops for Education Program? Or Target’s Take Charge of Education? Corporations have gotten away with donating money to schools for some time without raising the ire of homeschoolers. Simply because it comes in the form of a contest, we are suddenly boycotting? And worse, flaming each other?

Update: the petition has over 1500 signatures?

_______

Some more opinions on the boycott:

Electric Barbarella (05/26/17 link defunct), who is writing Subway asking them to please disregard the boycott.

Question the Culture (05/26/17 link defunct), who asks everyone to stop freaking out. (Wasn’t that your line with the whole California thing, too?) Anyway, a special thanks to her for giving me a title to my post.

And one pro-boycott from Sprittibee, because I like Heather. And there is an interesting discussion over there. And she tempered her title after reconsidering which I respect in anyone.

And one of the better articles I have read from American Thinker:

But why is this snub at homeschoolers even an issue? Homeschoolers face constant harassment from “officials” at the state and local school board level, as well as from teachers unions, and they are therefore more than a bit sensitive to perceived commercial discrimination. By banning homeschooled children from their essay contest, Subway has — accidentally or intentionally — placed themselves firmly in the “enemy’s camp.”

I think that is the real issue, even if I disagree with boycotting over this.

Updated to add:

A Woman on Purpose (05/26/17 link defunct) has a list of quite a few companies which do not allow homeschools, or require validation by some sort of governing body.

And Standing on Isaiah 54:13 (05/26/17 link defunct) is having difficulty with Pop Warner Football which her children have been involved in.  They have finally gotten around to changing the rules to more easily accommodate homeschoolers, but now they need some validation by a governing body.  Something that does not even exist in all states.


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49 Comments on "The Great Subway Contest Crisis of 2008"

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Sunniemom
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I read that this contest started in January and will end in June. And folks are expecting Subway to change the rules and the eligibility requirements? Not reasonable, IMO. I can’t believe that as freedom loving home educators, we are going to demand to be acknowledged and included every time a business or organization wants to sponsor something to benefit students. Of course, they’d be wise to start thinking about how they can extend a branch on occasion to home educators, because we are customers too, and the number of homeschoolers tends to grow every year. Parents are going to… Read more »
JJ Ross
Guest

Sunnimom’s point was made during the Great HSB blog award controversy as I recall, that participation in a supposedly open, publicized contest could rightfully be limited any way the rulemakers chose, even in “discriminatory” fashion, but if you didn’t want the prizes anyway, what were you whining about for not being included? — except I think Sprittibee (e.g.) was arguing the other side of that one.

Christy
Guest

I don’t think a lot of people realized what the grand prize was. I know it the emails I received and the blogs I saw, athletic equipment was never mentioned.

Once bitten, a homeschooler is not about to back down over their perceived rights being violated.

Don’t private companies have the right to discriminate against anyone they choose? Maybe I’m wrong.

I have a blurb in my blog as well, because the timing of it occurs at the same time, I’m having some Pop Warner football issues. Take a look and tell me what you think. I’ll link it to my name.

Dana
Guest
Private companies do have the right to set their contests any way they choose. Subway and HSBA, both. 🙂 Of course, private citizens have the right to patronize or not patronize these businesses as they see fit. I’m not ridiculing anyone for participating. I just don’t see it as that big of a deal that these companies wanted to do something for schools. I never would have posted if it weren’t for a bizarre turn of events on a forum I’m on. From the responses, I’d say about half of those involved in the discussion were for the boycott and… Read more »
Dana
Guest

Christy, I think you may be right. At least in the emails I read and the blog posts on the subject, what was always highlighted was the “no homeschools will be accepted” part. I’m sure at least a few people forwarded without checking Subway’s actual contest.

Melanie
Guest

I don’t get up in arms about the Campbell’s labels or the BTFEs because I can just sell those on Ebay (to parents who then turn them in to their schools) and make my own money that way. 😉

COD
Guest

//The playground equipment will go the accredited school of the winner’s choice.//

Oh come on, you don’t really believe that would have averted anything do you? Then we’d have thousands of whiny homeschoolers crying about the the “accredited” issue.

Dana Hanley
Guest

That’s funny, Melanie. I never thought about trying to sell those things…but then, we don’t eat Campbell’s soup anyway. Or buy much from General Mills.

Renae
Guest

Honestly, I was a bit shocked by the response. Really, discrimination? Are we that sensitive?

Most of the message boards I’m a part of are filled with discussion and none of it is pleasant. I go back and forth between wanting to put in my two cents and just hoping it will go away.

JJ Ross
Guest

I do see a good case to be made from either POV. More than two opposed POVs even.

But very little of what I’m reading makes a good case imo, because the folks writing up the posts and comments didn’t arrive at their POV by thinking it through first, weighing the relative importance of different factors and dealing with the reality that there ARE different factors and no clear right and wrong — just arguments. 🙂

Nance Confer
Guest

My email box had more messages related to the boycott than spam, . . .

***

So they’re not the same thing? 🙂

Nance

JJ Ross
Guest

Present company excepted, of course! 😉

Beth
Guest
Our homeschool support group has participated in both the Box Tops for Education and Campbell’s Soup labels programs for years. We are a fairly large group, so we did go through the rigamarole of filing for 501(c)3 status, as that was what they required. Although responses to the Subway contest seem to be unnecessarily emotional and heated ( as is often the case!), I think the issue for most people is the perceived attitude and assumption that Homeschools are not legitimate schools, and the need to continually fight for acceptance in the public relations realm. The whole contest ad was… Read more »
Dana Hanley
Guest

See, it is that discussion which bothers me. I do not understand why some are so sensitive to the fact that not all of us see it as important. Of course, I don’t understand the mocking, either, but then the mocking really wasn’t a factor in the forums I’m on.

Sunniemom
Guest
JJ- I feel like such a fence straddler because my position has been that Subway did not think these rules through (in some states homeschools are private schools) and that more companies should consider home educators as part of the community, but that Subway and Yo Mama’s Cheesecake can have any contest for any purpose and award any prize they choose, and should be able to do so without repercussions. And I use the word ‘any’ as ‘any without distinction’ not ‘any without exception’. Obviously some contests could be offensively discriminatory in nature, and I leave the possibilities to your… Read more »
Sunniemom
Guest

If the contest was limited to institutionalized public school children only, I don’t think the backlash would have been so bad. But to include private schools as well, and I would assume that would also include any children being educated under an umbrella or virtual public charter school program, and then to use the specific exclusionary language they did… yup, that got the hairs raised!

Sorry for posting again so soon, but I think this is a very valid point. Subway did not do their homework on this one, IMO.

Dana Hanley
Guest
issue for most people is the perceived attitude and assumption that Homeschools are not legitimate schools I agree. That is why I hope this post doesn’t come across as ridiculing anyone that is participating. I really enjoyed the post over at American Thinker because I think it touches more on what the real issue is…this perceived sense that we somehow have to prove ourselves. I think people are reacting more to the perception that Subway has something against homeschools rather than wants to do something for schools. And I see private, parochial schools as institutional schools. I don’t mean that… Read more »
Dana Hanley
Guest
any contest for any purpose and award any prize they choose, and should be able to do so without repercussions. I don’t think I quite agree. We have as much right not to eat at an establishment because we don’t like their contests as they have to discriminate in who they choose to include. Now, if people were asking for Congress to step in, I’d call them a bunch of loons, too. But they are exercising their freedom of association as much as Subway is. I just don’t think it is worth the fervor. Take Frito Lay, for example. I… Read more »
JJ Ross
Guest

LOL – let’s not forget that regardless of which kids and education are included or excluded and what the prizes were, this wasn’t really a contest at all but a mere advertising gimmick exploiting kids and education.

The main purpose was to benefit SUBWAY. Not “to benefit the schools.”

Sunniemom
Guest

Dana- by repercussion I don’t mean that each one of us should feel obligated to patronize a business that has practices we object to- by repercussions I mean the mass emails and hyperbole and cries of “Off with their heads!”

It isn’t as if they were sponsoring a morally or ethically objectionable contest. A company should not anticipate being ‘punished’ for giving toys to kids, KWIM?