Deep, deep sigh: Jaden Smith launched himself right into a storm of criticism earlier this week for a series of tweets in which he suggested that dropping out of school makes people more intelligent. Seriously.
I know, I know. But before you roast the boy or advocate Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith shut down his Twitter account, read for yourself what the boy actually said. We’ll talk on the other side.
I mean, I get what Jaden Smith, 15, was trying to convey, I guess: it’s important for anyone who wants to truly be enlightened to educate themselves, rather than wait on schools, with their inadequate budgets and overworked teachers and standardized tests and No Child Left Behind foolishness to teach them all the things they need to know. I’m not mad at the boy. In fact, it’s admirable that he’s exploring this line of thinking, particularly considering that our world is full of one-too-many teens (and grown-ups!) who, as a whole, are just reality show-consuming, video game-playing, TMZ- and Bossip-reading automatons who aren’t thinking very deeply about the world we live in. Indeed, it’s admirable that Jaden’s parents are raising a kid who’s exploring what it truly means to be educated.
Still, analyzing his perspective totally requires one to acknowledge that Jaden, the son of one of the most accomplished, celebrated, highest paid celebrities on the planet, has no clue what the real world is like or what the average person needs and does with a traditional school education. Be clear: we’re living in a society in which the average person—not the child of a rich superstar—needs schooling and the preordained certificates (high school diploma, college degree, masters, etc.) to support oneself. Yes, it’s necessary to truly educate ourselves, and the educational process should never, ever end. Our kids should be traveling and visiting museums and going to plays and making stuff and using their imaginations and volunteering and reading books for kicks instead of because a teacher said it would be a part of their grade. And that’s just for starters. But the simple fact is that to live in this society, you must have the papers necessary to be a member of the workforce and to hold down a job with enough income to support yourself and the people you love.
Of course, more of today’s children are being homeschooled and unschooled and getting a rich education with the help of parents who think and stretch outside the traditional boxes reserved for the masses. Still, not every parent has the time/resources/patience/intelligence/wherewithal/gonads to let their kids skip the classroom for an at-home education of their own design.
And when one considers just how our community, specifically, has been devastated by the drop-out rate, with legions of African American boys and girls skipping the classroom (whether by choice or by circumstance) for the street corners, thus setting themselves up for a lifetime of scratching and scraping just to get by, the last thing any of us need is a kid revered by Black teens mentioning the words “drop-out” and “school” and “good” in the same sentence. With a straight face.
But Jaden does get a MyBrownBaby soul clap for at least creating some dialogue and making us talk and think about this—about what it truly means to be educated rather than just accepting what the school, teacher or professors tell you is all you need to or are supposed to know. Maybe he could spare us that conversation via Twitter and have a very real, more meaningful, thought-out discussion about the subject with his fans—the ones who love him and and music and his movies and his style of dress and who really don’t need any clipped life advice in 140 characters or less.
Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.
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Great post. Its so important for the parents of kids who admire / follow Jaden to have the exact discussion with them that you are having here. Engaging them and helping them to understand the purpose and use of a “traditional” “paper-granting” education in the lives of those not in the top 1% is vital. Some kids will grow up to be Bill Gates and Jaden Smith. But just in case your child doesn’t manifest into that maverick-genius-needle in a haystack or someone who has intergenerational wealth, you need to help them respect the power of getting a few letters behind their name as some insurance that they can at least get an interview or a call back from a recruiter, which hopefully will lead to a fulfilling, life-supporting career. #ParentingNeverEnds
You dissected and analyzed his twitter rant of 140 characters or less perfectly.Thanks for conveying my own sentiments.
I think the reaction to his post proves his point. I remember many a test in my public school education easily passed because I simply remembered the title of a chapter in my reading or the bolded key points in my text book. We tend to grab at the headline and not the context. I submit that classrooms stuffed to capacity with kids of various learning styles being taught by overworked, underpaid teachers (or overqualified baby-sitters, depending on your history) taught some of us to be the first to spit back undigested talking points and not to share critical reflective thought. Ironically this conversation started on Twitter, where the whole premise is to say as much with as little words as possible.
While waiting for a parent-teacher conference with my middle school son, I imparted the following to him: All school is about is to get an education and experetise in a field that everyone has need of your expertise, but few have. The money will flow. But, at this time, he was even to young to get a New York State work permit. Even if he could get a work permit, with his current educational level there were millions that could work a McD’s; that is why the low wages.
If you understand the Pipeline to Prison form American Public Schools, you understand that he is right on the money with his comments. It is totally confusing how I hear black people complain about the inferior conditions of their child’s school but will do nothing to organically change The conditions before insisting that “stay in school” or “get an education” because it is the key to success.
We have to take responsibility for educating our kids and then insist the public school system back us up in what we are doing at home. We must fight the public school system’s irrelevant curriculum. Schools are setting our children up for failure and we are feeding them into a ravenous system who seems it waiting to receive our children into the prison industrial complex and serve as a source of cheap labor for major corporations…
Such an insightful comment that seems to work hand in hand with mine. Parental involvement is KEY. The family unit is KEY on all fronts. More than any school where your children are at the mercy of complete strangers for a minimum of 8 hours, parents can do well by involving themselves in their children’s lives. Here are some things they don’t teach in school. I graduated high school 4 years ago and so I think I can testify to this.
4. Debt avoidance
5. Writing (And I’m not talking about that 5 paragraph crap!)
6. Real Estate
8. Being realistic with college (And who should and should not attend based on life goals)
9. Marketing yourself
10. How to properly seek opportunities
If I was taught this stuff with the genuine purpose of preparing me for the world, I think I could have moved mountains by now. Remember, the schools pray and hope you don’t pay too much attention to your children or their curriculum. It helps them to meet their goals and further their agenda, at your expense.
Education is important, but the QUALITY of the education is equally as important. Many schools with big names acquired their tout because of the education they offered. Now, as you can see, these big name schools only have to have their students walk through the interview door and say aloud the school they graduated from, then they and the interviewer talk about those embarrassing moments that (insert professor name here) has been involved in.
WRONG! The truth is, we have a changing society. Even Harvard law grads are having a difficult time securing meaningful employment, and are stuck with ridiculous student loans they cannot afford to pay back. They have come from schools with big names, quality educations, and apparent perseverance (else they would not be Harvard grads, right?)
The new world values something else: Experience, connections, and savvy financial skills. This means to teach your children how to manage money and avoid debt. Teach them how to talk to people and make friends in the right places and form meaningful friendships, and teach them how to accrue experience (free and available everywhere and not involving school) early while they don’t need to be paid for it to boost their resumes. Have them volunteer for organizations, join groups that specialize in their interests, and teach them about entrepreneurship to either pursue, or fall back on should they decide the 9-5 work prison is not for them. Today, children need many outlets and an early start to navigate the real world. I think that is probably what Jaden Smith might have been trying to convey, and I don’t think that having money stops our generation or the upcoming generations from seeing something is truly wrong.
They are better off going to workshops and seminars, doing volunteer work, or taking on internships early than going to work at the local fast food restaurant for a little paycheck. They’ll never use it in the future, and so it, and what schools actually do with your kids, is really a waste of time and energy that could be better used elsewhere.