reprinted from the Sep/Oct 1996 Free Minds Journal
The Miseducation of Jehovah's Witnesses
John F. Kennedy said: "A child miseducated is a child lost." If that is true, hundreds of thousands of children born into Jehovah's Witness families are lost. Not only are Witnesses the least educated of major religious groups, they are also the poorest of the poor. A recent study revealed that Jehovah's Witnesses rank dead last in aggregate social status. This finding is as understandable as it is deplorable, given the Watchtower Society's long-standing hostility toward education. Their aversion to education means that Witnesses have suffered significant economic disadvantages.
The Watchtower Society teaches that Jehovah will soon destroy all non-Witnesses and that Witnesses will be the only ones left on the planet. They believe that the earth will be transformed into a paradise populated only by Jehovah's Witnesses. This theology is the basis for their belief that it is not a good use of time to pursue a college education or pursue a career. Since their start in 1884, Jehovah's Witnesses have believed that God's destruction of the world in a fiery Armageddon was just a few short years off. Therefore, throughout their history, very few have sought an advanced education.
The printed policy of the Watchtower until 1992 is shocking. The 1969 Watchtower said this: "Many schools now have student counselors who encourage one to pursue higher education after high school, to pursue a career with a future in this system of things. Do not be influenced by them. Do not let them brainwash you with the Devils propaganda to get ahead, to make something of yourself in this world. This world has very little time left . . . make pioneer service, the full-time ministry, with the possibility of Bethel or missionary service your goal." (March 15, 1969, p. 171)
The Kingdom Ministry (06/69, p. 3) said this: "In view of the short time left, a decision to pursue a career in this system of things is not only unwise but extremely dangerous . . . Many young brothers and sisters were offered scholarship or employment that promised fine pay. However, they turned them down and put spiritual interests first."
In 1993, researchers published the result of a massive survey of trends within major religious groups. Barry A. Kosmin and Seymour P. Lachman conducted a National Survey of Religious Identification. The survey had a sample size of 113,000 people. Of the thirty religious groups included in the survey, Jehovah's Witnesses had the lowest percentage of their members graduate from college. (Kosmin BA, Lachman SP. "One Nation Under God," p. 258)
Educational Rank - Religion - Percentage of members that are college grads:
1. Unitarian Universalist: 49.5%
2. Hindu: 47%
3. Jewish: 46.7%
7. Agnostic: 36.3%
18. Catholic: 20%
20. Lutheran: 18%
21. Seventh Day Adventist: 17.9%
27. Baptist: 10.4%
28. Pentecostal: 6.9%
30. Jehovah's Witnesses: 4.7%
In the last few years, the Watchtower Society has started to relax their rules and now some Jehovah's Witnesses are allowed to go to college. However the underlying attitudes persist, and very few Witnesses seek a college education. Why do so few Witnesses still not go to college, despite the softening of the Society's official position on college education?
The Society continues to warn of the dangers of college and remind followers that college education will not be necessary in the paradise, which they predict will come soon. Note these recent quotes from the Watchtower: "In the present system of things under Satan's control, there are many things that may seem to promise fine benefits but can actually be damaging to our relationship with God. Such things as climbing the corporate ladder, pursuing higher education to advance one's position, courting unbelievers, or engaging in questionable business schemes can easily lead to a loss of faith and an eventual fall from Jehovah's favor. We must carefully count the cost when confronted with such temptations. A few years ago, a young Christian man in a large city in the Far East had the opportunity to go abroad to further his study. Though he already had a good secular education and a well-paying job, he felt that this was not enough; he wanted to better his lot in life. Fellow Christians tried to reason with him in line with the Scriptural points we have just considered, but he was adamant and went ahead with the plan. Though he tried to hold on to his faith at first, gradually he lost his appreciation for Bible truth, and doubt began to set in. In just a year or so, he lost his faith completely and claimed to be an agnostic." (Watchtower, Aug. 15, 1992, p. 28-29)
Instead of encouraging young people to plan for the future, the Watchtower Society encourages people to seek part-time menial labor so that they are more free to spend time pioneering. Typical of the advice that the Watchtower gives is this: "Many pioneers support themselves financially by means of part-time jobs. To sustain himself in the ministry at Corinth, Paul worked as a tentmaker along with his fellow believers Aquila and Priscilla. Today, spiritual brothers are often happy to offer pioneers part-time secular work. Other pioneers obtain such work through employment agencies that offer temporary jobs. Faith in God is essential, and so is earnest prayer for his guidance in making employment decisions." (Watchtower, Sep. 15, 1993, p. 29)
Young Jehovah's Witnesses are given this model to follow: "Whenever I read about pioneer experiences in the Society's publications, I found that my desire to become a full-time servant of Jehovah was aroused. . . . I was working full-time, and this provided the extra income needed to maintain us. I realized, however, that unless I also obtained a part-time job, full-time service would not be possible . . . Success in pioneering is mainly a matter of faith that Jehovah will care and provide for us. So he suggested that I resign from my full-time job." (1993 Yearbook, p. 235) The anecdote goes on to say that she did get a part-time job, and that she is now very happy pioneering.
Closely associated with the Watchtower's disdain for education and the institutional discouragement of establishing a career is their view of money. The Watchtower states: "Many people want a substantial bank account, feeling that this will give them security. Yet, recent history shows this not to be so. In the Great Depression thousands of banks closed all over the world, with severe loss to depositors. And an economist recently stated: "The banking system . . . has shown a continued deterioration since the end of World War II." Also, the value of money has been eaten away by inflation, just as a block of ice melts away in the sun. Truly, the history of money is summed up in one word: insecurity. For no matter what actions authorities may take to patch up today's economic systems, the fact is that soon they will all totally collapse, and this time forever. The day is fast approaching when, as has happened before, "into the streets they will throw their very silver, and an abhorrent thing their own gold will become." (Watchtower, Apr 1, 1977, p. 204-205)
It should not be surprising that The National Survey of Religious Identification found that the annual income of Jehovah's Witnesses ranks 24th out of 30 religious groups surveyed. (Kosmin BA, Lachman SP. "One Nation Under God," p. 260) According to the same survey, Jehovah's Witnesses ranked last in aggregate social status. (Kosmin BA, Lachman SP. "One Nation Under God," p. 262) Aggregate social status was based on four sets of data: home ownership, annual household income, college graduation, and percent working full-time.
Aggregate Social Status (Rank)
1. Unitarian Universalist
2. Disciples of Christ
28. Seventh Day Adventist
30. Jehovah's Witnesses
The negative attitude of the Watchtower toward education extends to High School education as well. Among Jehovah's Witnesses it is socially acceptable to drop out of high school. The Watchtower culture places more value on pioneering than on finishing high school. The National Survey of Religious Identification found that only 67.6% of white Jehovah's Witnesses graduate from high school, compared to 80.9% for non-Witnesses. (Kosmin BA, Lachman SP. "One Nation Under God," p. 272)
The Watchtower has admitted that it was common for Jehovah's Witnesses to drop out of High School. In the same article that they softened their rules related to seeking a college education, they said: "It has been reported that in some countries many well-intentioned youngsters have left school after completing the minimum required schooling in order to become pioneers. They had no trade or secular qualifications. If they were not helped by their parents, they had to find part-time work. Some have had to accept jobs that required them to work very long hours to make ends meet." (Watchtower, Nov. 1, 1992, p. 18)
Even those students who do stay in high school, do not get the same well-rounded education as those not controlled by the Watchtower Society. The Watchtower Society prepared a booklet for Witnesses to give teachers to explain what they could and could not do in school. The list of prohibited and cautioned activities is quite lengthy, and in aggregate serves to severely restrict the quality of education. The booklet says: "You may have noticed that most Witness youths do not participate in extracurricular activities sponsored by the schools . . . 'Bad associations spoil useful habits.' And, as noted before, we try to comply with Christ's statement to his followers: 'You are no part of the world.' These principles shape the view of Witness families toward the school's extracurricular activities, including the following." (WTB&TS, School and Jehovah's Witnesses, p. 22) Then the booklet goes on to list all the activities that Witness children may not be allowed to participate in: Sports, cheerleading, homecoming, school dances, dating, school clubs, school plays, blood donations, raffles, patriotic music, religious art, combat instruction, birthday parties, Christmas activities, and national holidays.
In summary then, the anti-education policies of the Watchtower Society have produced the largest religious group in the United States populated by poverty-stricken, under-educated people. The education level of Jehovah's Witnesses is exceptionally low, and the high school drop-out rate is very high. This leads to poor career prospects, low social status, and poor self-esteem. This is just one of the many ways that the Watchtower Society causes injury.
Lord Brougham said: "Education makes a people easy to lead, but difficult to drive; easy to govern, but impossible to enslave."
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