Thursday, May 29, 2008

Stickin' it to homeschoolers, Subway style

The home school blogosphere was all abuzz the last few days because of a perceived slight against us by Subway of all places. A recent contest stipulated the following:

“Contest is open only to legal residents of the Untied 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.”

The contest was for $5000 in playground equipment. Not something that most homeschoolers could use, but that wasn't the point.

Subway quickly recanted and apologized with this news release to the Homeschool Legal Defense Assocation.


We at SUBWAY restaurants place a high value on education, regardless of the setting, and have initiated a number of programs and promotions aimed at educating our youth in the areas of health and fitness.

We sincerely apologize to anyone who feels excluded by our current essay contest. Our intention was to provide an opportunity for traditional schools, many of which we know have trouble affording athletic equipment, to win equipment. Our intent was certainly not to exclude homeschooled children from the opportunity to win prizes and benefit from better access to fitness equipment.

To address the inadvertent limitation of our current contest and provide an opportunity for even more kids to improve their fitness, we will soon create an additional contest in which homeschooled students will be encouraged to participate. When the kids win, everyone wins!

—Subway restaurants

So that crisis is averted. But some bigger issues remain. The bigger issue is the idea that if your kids aren't in the public schools, they aren't being "socialized" and aren't part of the broader community. In order to be a good American, you have to be part of the community. To be part of the community you must submit to government indoctrination, i.e. mandated education in your child’s most formative years. If your child is not in public schools, you are not part of the community, irrespective of the fact that your kid plays with other kids, goes to the same library, that you pay property taxes that go to prop up the educational bureaucracy and get no benefit for them. Public schools make it as difficult as possible in many cases for students to benefit from any of the resources that public schools monopolize through confiscatory taxes. Try sending your home schooled kid for just a math class. You either submit in whole to their program, or stay away. When you submit to government control of your child’s education, you relinquish virtually all rights to have a say in or be informed about what and how your child is being taught.

I am not all that upset about the specific exclusion of homeschoolers from the contest per se. I am not sure what we would do if our kids won, maybe buy a sweet jungle gym or some sports related x-box games. I am glad that Subway quickly recognized their error and apologized, hopefully to do something soon that will appeal to kids of all educational streams: public, private or homeschooled. (HT: Michael R. Jones)

Along the same lines, there is a new article on Monergism by Blair Brown from 2006 titled: The New Religious Establishment: A Reforming Dissent. I am not sure who Blair Brown is, but the article is excellent, a little more intellectual than normal webpage fare, but not at the level of a PhD dissertation. He asks and then seeks to answer this question: Has America, under the guise of furthering civilization through compulsory public education, established a religion that adheres to the letter of the Constitution while alienating its spirit? Clearly the answer is a resounding yes.

Mr. Brown lays out the case that the infamous separation of church and state has less to do with keeping religion out of government than it does with keeping the temporal and spiritual aspects of life in the appropriate sphere, i.e. the government has power over the temporal to combat crime, defend the borders, etc while the spiritual sphere is left ideally left outside of the government's control. In other words the government should pursue and punish criminals but not tells us what to think.

His point has much to do with the notion that compulsory public education has an inherently religious nature, although one that is less obvious and perhaps unexpected, and through compulsory public education we are in effect establishing a state sanctioned and majority controlled religious position that stands in contrast to the First Amendment’s prohibition on religious establishment by the government.

“This problem strikes at the heart of our American ideals. The First Amendment bars any establishment of religion; we have heeded the form of this prohibition, while neglecting its substance. The First Amendment checks government. It excludes it from commanding conscience—any state forcing ideas and beliefs descends into unjust absolutism. Our freedoms of religion, speech, press, and association strip government of the power to exact intellectual obedience and enjoin ideas and beliefs—we circumscribe government’s power in order to free our citizens’ consciences. Does the state serve liberty by compelling children into a state-controlled educational establishment that teaches ideas offensive to the conscience of a minority? Some point to the provision made for private or homeschooling—they disregard that some families eke out an existence and can ill afford such luxuries. They also ignore that the state injures this minority in its indifference towards their conscience. These families must combat ideas they consider contrary to conscience using their slender resources; they must fight a system larger and more powerful than themselves. Families who can afford these alternatives retain conscience at a price, one that others do not bear. Is this liberty? Is this justice?”

While I don’t agree in lockstep with all of his opinions, he does raise some excellent points and generate a great deal of thought on yet another facet of compulsory public education that not many people give much thought to. It is certainly a worthwhile read and a worthy addition to the copious literature and reasoning against compulsory public schooling, and in favor of school choice, all from a decidedly and intentionally Reformed position.

Mr. Brown’s closing summary of the options facing us is perhaps his most powerful statement:

“America confronts three uncomfortable choices. First, we can continue to ignore this threat to liberty, and pretend that compulsory public education and freedom of conscience are compatible. Second, we can surrender liberty of conscience in favor of compulsory public education by affirming the current policies, and in so doing repudiate our experiment in liberal republicanism. Third, we can strip the state of the power to compel attendance at state sponsored schools. America can compel and fund education through the state, but confer the choice of the school on parents. These options can include state-sponsored public, private, or home schools. School choice is unpopular, but no other reasonable alternative exists. We must sever the state’s current control over conscience, if the American experiment is to succeed. Some argue that this will destroy compulsory public education, but the alternative furthers public schooling at the expense of liberty. A choice confronts us: which is more important, the freedom of the conscience and the American experiment in liberty, or compulsory public education?”

Ought we not in our society favor liberty whenever possible?


Michael R. Jones said...

Did you check out the link on my blog to Erik Erickson's column on this over at Human Events? I posted it Tuesday.) Not only did the Subway chain disqualify homeschoolers, which I agree is their right to do, but they also published a rules sheet and promotional materials with spelling and grammatical errors.

From Erickson's article:

Given the rate at which homeschooled children win the national spelling bee, perhaps Subway should have let a third grade home schooled student proof read its rules. In addition to spelling “united” as “untied,” the prizes included a “gift bastket” in lieu of a “gift basket.”

Arthur Sido said...

I did follow your link, and yet failed to give you credit. I will give you the hat tip.

They certainly do have the right to exclude whomever they choose, but can you imagine if instead of homeschoolers they had excluded students at Catholic parochial schools?