Willow and Jaden Smith's recent interview with the New York Times is like a caramel apple - it starts out as a delicious forbidden treat and ends with something better for you than planned.
In their too short NYT article, W&J (short hand for Willow and Jaden because I'm lazy and they are kindred spirits deserving of an acronym) waxed poetry and philosophies most adults haven't touched. They spoke about quantum physics, prana energy (we all went, huh?), their creative process, and the most hot of topics - their opinions about education.
The beauty in their answers in this interview is you either dig what they're saying, or you want to projectile vomit in anger. I'm on the dig it side, and I'm digging it hard. Porque? They are on the right side of using their privilege to their advantage.
Willow and Jaden are the product of the highest level of privilege (sans the social implications of having brown skin) one can have: social access to people in power, wealth, and even health because their parents look damn good at 43 (Jada) and 46 (Will) respectively. They could have taken this privilege and done a few things with it: partied and indulged to their hearts content (Lindsey Lohan ring a bell?), became sloth and paralyzed from it (sorry Rob Kardashian - we know being a Kardashian is hard), or get wise with it. And they chose wise.
Jaden and Willow are active social experiments in my eyes. They're both young and don't have many hang ups or baggage quite yet, and can still approach the world in a bold naive way that's dually frightening and inspiring.
For instance, their take on education:
"JADEN: Here’s the deal: School is not authentic because it ends. It’s not true, it’s not real. Our learning will never end. The school that we go to every single morning, we will continue to go to.
WILLOW: Forever, ‘til the day that we’re in our bed"
Obviously the idea of learning, which is often synonymous with education, is imperative to bettering our world, but they have a significant point about traditional education failing. School is currently used as a stop shop to groom people for fitting into societal boxes. Education typically teaches students what to think and not how to think, and common student identities become consumed with achieving letters, beating soul crushing competition, and regurgitating the information selected as most important by the school you happen to be enrolled in. This leaves very little time for self reflection and critical thinking, two things necessary for leading fulfilled and productive lives. The less money you have, the more your education resembles this conveyor belt of memorization and empty promises. W&J have the privilege to fill their minds and experiment with whatever they wish, and they chose to fill it with the starting buds of philosophy, purpose, and creativity. That's powerful and mind bending.
For the working poor, learning for learnings sake is seen as a privilege, but this class of folks need the deeper, self directed education W&J touch on the most. Although I can't emphasize the privilege W&J have enough, there are small things even us less privileged can do to invest in our own sense of identity and learning. Whether that's new hobbies, reading eye opening books on subjects we do not know, watching interesting documentaries that expand our minds - all those things teach us something valuable about the world and ourselves.
When you remove the typical motivation for a majority of people (myself included) for getting an education "i.e. getting a good job," what is education for in and of itself? To become a better person? To understand our past and unfurl our future? To talk about prana energy and babies having soft spots (Jaden, you're so interesting for that one)? When we untie the idea that education = job only, we begin to see the possibilities that Jaden and Willow see. Learning never stops, and should never stop if we want to indulge the present and celebrate the future.
They are young, they have many things to still experience outside of their bubble, but they're also onto something that I love. A freedom and solid sense of self that will propel them forward to create and leave a positive mark in the world. If only a fraction of us could learn something from that, we're all going to lead creatively dope lives.