I am applying for one of my children to get into a certain program. It is free as part of the public school system, so applying is really more a matter of getting him on the radar (somewhat of a moral conflict for me to begin with) and giving them enough info to verify that we are actually entitled to receive the services we are requesting. So far that is reasonable. But after the initial application, there were another 27 or so forms (there were not actually 27; I am exaggerating for dramatic purposes…)to fill out, and I had questions as to the reasons for some of them, so I called the organization. I was connected to a very helpful man (yes, a human!) who patiently answered all of my questions, but sadly, some of the answers went like this (and here I am not really exaggerating…):

Him: So then the next form asks about the racial and ethnic make-up of your family and your child.
Me: Um, I think that is illegal.
Him: Oh. Uh. Well, It’s probably for statistical purposes (By the way, why do people always try to tell you that information they are not entitled to have is for “statistical purposes”? What statistics are they compiling? And who are they, the US Census? [Who, for the record, I think also grossly oversteps…]). But you can probably skip that form if you want.
Me: Yeah. I’m going to skip that one.

Please note that there was already a section on the original application that asked for this information, and was marked as optional.

Him: Then we have the income form. This is pretty straightforward. You just fill out your family’s gross income, monthly and yearly, and of you get food stamps or Medicaid and if you have any other sources of income that are not from work.
Me: And why would you be entitled to this information? I mean since this program is paid for by tax dollars, and it isn’t income-based?
Him: Oh, that’s a good question. No-one has ever asked me that before. Huh. Well, I guess they just want to know who is in the program.
Me: Well that’s easy. The person in the program is my son. He’s a kid, so his income is zero. Can I just write that?
Him: Oh. I guess so…

Him: (Poor guy. I know he is wishing he had gotten a different person on the phone. Like maybe someone who just wanted to know how to spell something. I felt bad for him, but seriously, these forms were crazy. And it was about to get waaaaaaaaaaay crazier…)Then the last form is the immunization form. So just upload a copy of your son’s immunizations and you’ll be all set. (So first off, I don’t know how to upload. Honestly I’m not even totally clear on what that means. I believe it’s sort of like faxing, but when I say that people laugh at me. But I’m not sure why…)
Me: Ah. Well we don’t immunize. So how would you like us to handle that? (It’s important to note here that most organizations just have a standard form that they ask you to sign saying that you don’t immunize. Not this place.)
Him: Oh I can email you a form to take to your child’s doctor to have him fill out that says your child isn’t immunized and after he signs it you can send it in to us.
Me: Ok so I will just tell you right now that I am going to sign it and send it in.
Him: No, we need a doctor’s signature.
Me: (Incredulous) You need a doctor to sign that he DIDN’T do something?
Him: Yes. It has to be a doctor.
Me: So you want me to make an appointment with a doctor who didn’t know my son when he was a baby and a toddler (the person on the phone knows we moved here a few years ago, so the doctors we have in Seattle would not have been the ones to give our kids shots as babies anyway…)and take my son there so I can tell the doctor that my son is not immunized, and then he can take my word for it and then he can sign a form based on what I have told him and then this is the form that you will accept as the truth?
Him: Yes, exactly.
Me: Okay, I’m telling you right now that I will be the one signing this form.
Him: Silence.
Me: Just because I don’t want to be shady. I want to be very honest about what I’m doing. But it seems kind of stupid that if I tell a doctor something you will believe it, but if I tell it to you then you don’t believe it.
Him: Silence.
Me: Okay, so I’m going to sign it.
Him. Okay.

We had a similar issue when one of my daughters was entering a certain program, needed a “medical” form filled out, but the information was literally height, weight, eye color, any medical concerns that would prevent her from participating in the program- and immunization history. So I said I was just going to fill it out and sign it. It’s not that we don’t have medical insurance- thank goodness we do. But the idea of going to a doctor so they can certify things I can see with my own eyes or things I actually have more knowledge of than they do is patently absurd. The problem was that it clearly said “physician’s signature”. Yes I have principles, but no I’m not about to commit fraud. Much to my daughter’s’ chagrin, I just crossed out “physician” and signed it myself. They never noticed, don’t really care, and just need paper to put it a file.

I hate to embarrass my kids, so I am really trying to pick my battles now that they are older and are more involved and could become embroiled in these situations. On the other hand, I hate being a complacent robot, and hope I am raising kids who will be able to stand proud and not be afraid to question perceived authority.

One of the most important lessons I ever learned is this: anything that is on a form was put there by a human being and can be negotiated off by a human being. Just because it’s in black-and white doesn’t make it Holy Writ, and just because someone can point to “policy” doesn’t mean you have to roll over. It’s hard to question everything, but in the long run, it’s harder not to.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you…