In a series of tweets, Jaden Smith, juvenile offspring of Will & Jada and struggle-face actor, shared his thoughts on the value of institutionalized education:
“School Is The Tool To Brainwash The Youth.”
“If Newborn Babies Could Speak They Would Be The Most Intelligent Beings On Planet Earth.”
“If Everybody In The World Dropped Out Of School We Would Have A Much More Intelligent Society.”
That’s nice, Jaden. Tell that to the kid in a foreign country who does not have the privilege of reading, writing, and sharing over-indulgent thoughts. Granted, he is a kid. And to be honest, an inquisitive and thinking one. He kind of reminds me of my nephew, who on a fairly recent visit to the zoo, speculated that the giant tortoise was probably the same age that Michael Jackson was at the time of his death (50 years). I could tell by the look on his face that he really thought hard and long about that. And for him, at the age of nine, it was totally a deep thought. So I totally respected that. Not to mention, giant tortoises do live pretty damn long, so technically it could have been exactly 50 years old. But inside, I’m totally like, Semaj, how the hell did you make a connection between a turtle and the deceased King of Pop? But that’s kids for you. And like any good aunt worth the title, you smile, pat him on the head and say, “That’s nice…”
And although I’m a bit annoyed at how serious folks, including the media and some of his supporters, are taking the still developing mind of the young philosopher-in-training/actor to heart, I can sort of understand. The Smiths, particularly daddy Smith, have been on some totally far-out thinking as of late. And when I say far out, I’m talking about so far out into the cosmos, you will need an intergalactic star fleet to reach that point.
Yes, I’m talking about the Church of Scientology. Some say it is a religion. Some others say it’s a cult. And then there are folks like myself, who are not quite sure what to make of it. I imagine that the majority feels the same way. Even the LA Times struggled to define what Scientology’s set of comprehensive beliefs are in its six-part series on the practice. Instead, it commented on how Scientology’s theology is told through fragments called levels and involved highly secretive writings and audio clips of the late science fiction writer, L. Ron Hubbard, prophesying about intergalactic battles, spirit ciphering entities called implants, and the fight for immortal souls–and some sort of alien being called Xemu. According to the Times piece:
“Piece by piece, his teachings are revealed to church members through a progression of sometimes secret courses that take years to complete and cost tens of thousands of dollars. Out of a membership estimated by the church to be 6.5 million, only a tiny fraction have climbed to the upper reaches.”
If you ask me, it sounds like a really good science fiction film, which suffered from a long streak of bad sequels. And just like a really bad sci-fi film, the Church has also found itself in the center of some pretty weird controversy and conspiracies, including talk of rehabilitation project force prison camps; mind control and brain washing; harassment of those suspected of being anti-Scientology; child abuse, and even murder. In the early ’80s, several high-ranking Scientology members, including the founder’s wife, were sent to prison in the largest espionage incident in American history for “infiltrating, burglarizing and wiretapping more than 100 private and government agencies in attempts to block their investigations of the Church.” Last year, the country of Belgium sought legal proceedings to get the church reclassified as a criminal organization. And just this past month, former King of Queens star Leah Remini revealed the difficulty she had with leaving the Church behind, particularly because Scientology doesn’t allow for communication between current and ex-members of the Church.
However, many other folks, including a horde of celebrities, appear to be happily engage in this grown up cosplay (they should as Hubbard “Project Celebrity” actively recruits famous faces for its ranks as well as to help disseminate information), including such notables as Tom Cruise, Kirstie Alley and Doug E. Fresh. Although the Smiths have not confirmed their involvement with the Church, Will Smith did say in an interview that it was Cruise who introduced him to the practices and that he sees the practices of Scientology 98 percent comparable to most religions doctrines, including the bible. Likewise, the Smiths have maintained some very public connections to the Church, specifically donating over $120k to three Scientology rehabilitation centers in 2007 and funding the New Village Leadership Academy, a private elementary school in California, which incorporated Scientology-produced Applied Scholastics (or Study Tech) curriculum in its classroom. The curriculum, which is largely based around so-called secular teaching methods created by Hubbard himself, has come under fire most recently from educators in Phoenix, Ariz., who according to this article in Salon, claimed they were forced to engage in so-called secular education programs, which were “pretty ubiquitous” with Scientology propaganda.
And recently, the website Vulture ran a piece, aptly titled, “After Earth Is Will Smith’s Love Letter to Scientology,” which basically explains how the Smiths’ father-son vanity project was also profoundly similar to some of the teachings of Scientology. From the Vulture piece:
“After Earth is essentially a map of Scientological development. It’s a man-vs.-nature story because Scientology suggests that all of life is just that. Before Kitai is set on his journey of personal discovery, he trains to be a Ranger (like his father) in the fashion of Scientology students. Smith’s New Village Leadership Academy is said to employ the techniques of “Study Tech,” a Hubbard concept that focuses on climbing the ladder. Kitai’s biggest woe is that he can’t reach the next level of military school. That’s par for the course in Scientology, where learning is described as a gradient, “a gradual approach to something, taken step by step, so that, finally, quite complicated and difficult activities or concepts can be achieved with relative ease.” It’s one of the parts of Scientology that many have focused on — the idea of having to pay for classes in order to advance upwards through the religion’s levels. Some critics have compared After Earth’s structure as being like that of a video game, Kitai going from level to level. That’s really Study Tech.”
Granted, all religions, particularly when you stop to think and investigate their doctrines and origins, have some sketchiness to them. But we have to admit that the Smith clan have been saying some weird stuff as of late. Remember when Will was trying to convince us that two plus two didn’t equal four, but whatever number we wanted it to be? Um, that’s not what math says. This is not Schrodinger’s cat, where we can’t tell either way what’s happening inside of a closed box; we can actually count things. For example, if you put four apples in front of me on a table, I can literally see and count off four apples. Even if the great and powerful Xemu whispers in my ear that there are more apples and tells me to then eat an apple a day. Starting from Sunday, by Thursday, I will have no apples. Unless of course Xemu manages to pop by in his spacecraft and hand deliver more apples. If that’s the case, forget apples. Bring me something useful like a Star Trek phaser or some intergalactic money, Xemu.