Censorship in the Classroom? The Need for Critical Thinking!

Warren Smith
Image Source : Warren Smith YouTube Channel

“Critical thinking should be the first thing taught to kids.” –Elon Musk

Warren Smith, a high school teacher and YouTuber, delves into a wide range of topics on his Secret Scholars Society YouTube channel. Some of the key areas he explores include critical thinking, logical fallacies, cognitive biases, and effective communication. His engaging content aims to enhance viewers’ analytical skills and promote thoughtful discourse. Smith clearly wants to teach kids how to think, not what to think, and to base their opinions on facts, not feelings or rhetoric.

Back in February, his YouTube channel gained prominence for a video that focused on critical thinking. In the viral video, Smith calmly guided an unnamed student to think critically about accusations of Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling being transphobic. Smith’s thoughtful response turned it into a critical thinking exercise. The five-minute conversation has been praised for what some call a “master class” in Socratic critical thinking. Smith emphasized the importance of questioning assumptions and viewing the world from a logical perspective.

In the video, the student criticizes the famous author as being “bigoted” based on her opinion about transgender women — men — competing in female-only sports. Reacting to that accusation, the soft-spoken teacher gently challenged the unseen student to participate in a “thought experiment,” beginning with defining what “bigoted” means.

Using the Socratic method, Warren Smith taught the student how to examine his beliefs, forced him to articulate what he believed, discuss why he believed it, and consider whether the evidence actually supported those beliefs. By the end of the questioning, we get to see the student change his mind in real time after realizing he was just going by what other people said, admitting “I feel like an idiot now.”

The video caught the attention of Elon Musk. Elon Musk retweeted Smith’s video, bringing it to a wider audience. His endorsement likely contributed to the video’s viral success and sparked discussions about critical thinking and logical analysis. If you’re curious, you can watch the video here. Unfortunately, Smith faced backlash due to his video, and he was subsequently fired from his teaching position on May 13th.

Despite his compassionate and understanding approach, the school administration apparently deemed his video as “wrong think.” Smith said he realizes now, looking back, that the school would have probably fired him back in February but Musk retweeting the video on X made it more difficult to fire him at the time. It’s ridiculous that schools would stoop so low as to penalize teachers who encourage critical thinking instead of telling students what to think!

An X account called The Rabbit Hole weighed in on the story, saying “Schools firing teachers who promote critical thinking is one of many reasons why so many students graduate unable to form cohesive arguments and acting like mindless NPCs.” Elon Musk then responded, saying, “Critical thinking inhibits indoctrination and schools have become indoctrination centers.”

However, Smith’s commitment to fostering thinking skills continues to resonate with many viewers. Indeed, developing critical thinking skills in high school has numerous benefits for students. It enhances their academic performance, preparing them for higher education and future careers. It also equips them to think for themselves with the ability to logically navigate complex societal issues without being swayed by emotion.

Applying critical thinking in your daily life can significantly enhance decision-making and problem-solving. You can apply critical thinking to everyday situations, from choosing products to evaluating news articles. Here are some practical ways to incorporate it:

  1. Question Assumptions: Be aware of assumptions you make. Ask yourself why you believe something to be true. Consider alternative viewpoints.
  2. Evaluate Evidence: When faced with information, assess its reliability. Look for credible sources and consider biases or vested interests.
  3. Analyze Arguments: Break down arguments into premises and conclusions. Identify logical fallacies or weak points.
  4. Consider Context: Understand the context in which a situation occurs. External factors can influence outcomes.
  5. Seek Multiple Perspectives: Engage with diverse viewpoints. This helps you see the bigger picture and avoid confirmation bias.
  6. Practice Socratic Questioning: Use open-ended questions to explore ideas deeply. For example:
    • “What evidence supports this claim?”
    • “What assumptions underlie this argument?”
  7. Reflect on Decisions: After making choices, reflect on the process. What led you to that decision? Could you have approached it differently?

When a free people are using critical thinking, they’re less inclined to passively go along with dangerous Group Think. Critical thinking also fosters creativity, independence, and a lifelong love for learning. When students learn critical thinking, they can:

  • Understand and evaluate different perspectives.
  • Identify biases and propaganda.
  • Make informed decisions based on evidence.
  • Effectively communicate their thoughts and ideas.
  • Solve problems creatively.

So, critical thinking isn’t just an abstract concept—it’s a practical skill that empowers students throughout their lives! It’s also a skill that improves with practice. If you’re interested in sharpening your mental toolkit and exploring critical thinking further, we recommend checking out Warren Smith’s YouTube channel!

Oh, and you know what’s so refreshing about Warren Smith’s teaching style? He teaches us how to think without pushing an agenda on us! That’s the way it should be. Teachers shouldn’t be sharing their personal lives or politics in the classroom!

Since being fired by the high school he taught at, Warren Smith himself has gone viral. Meanwhile, he still teaches part-time at Emerson College near Boston, Massachusetts. In addition to teaching, Warren Smith is an independent videographer. He has a BFA in Film Production and an MFA in Filmmaking. Check out his movie website!

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