As a general rule, Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t attend college or pursue any type of higher education. JWs have been telling their members for decades that the world is soon to end so that they would never need to pursue, or would ever finish, a secular career. Please see this website for quotes, such as this one taken from the May 22, 1969, Awake magazine:
“Therefore, as a young person, you will never fulfill any career that this system offers. If you are in high school and thinking about a college education, it means at least four, perhaps even six or eight more years to graduate into a specialized career. But where will this system of things be by that time? It will be well on the way toward its finish, if not actually gone!“
A letter to all elders dated March 6, 2012, also stated that any man who was promoting higher education because of the “higher status” and “material advantages” it offers may not qualify for a position of authority or other privileges in the congregation.
Stating outright that you don’t need college because the world is going to end is suspect enough, but Jehovah’s Witnesses often take this one step further by outright insulting those with advanced degrees. Note what was stated in the October 15, 2013, Watchtower magazine:
“Higher education, with its emphasis on academic study, often produces graduates who have few or no practical skills, leaving them unprepared to deal with the realities of life.“
There is something very interesting about this wording, and it again brings me back to how their literature often outright lies and slyly misleads its members. This is part of how they subtly control every decision in their lives while making it seem as if all non-JWs are somehow beneath them. Consider:
Facts Versus Suppositions
Note that the magazine doesn’t say that if you go to college, you might not learn practical skills and might not be prepared to deal with certain issues you’ll face after school. That would leave you with some leeway, suggesting that it would be good to consider also learning the “practical skills” of how to balance a checkbook and cook your own food while pursuing higher education.
No, this magazine outright says that higher education “produces” graduates who don’t have those skills and who aren’t prepared to deal with life, and it does this “often.” According to Jehovah’s Witnesses, college graduates “often” stumble through life after school unable to form relationships, find an apartment, boil an egg, or assemble their new Ikea furniture.
As is typical, the magazine offers no quotes from experts or studies to back up these statements. There is no CNN poll of college graduates who admitted to being unprepared for life despite their degree, much less any who say that they now regret wasting time in college because of their lack of life skills. The magazine simply asserts this statement as a fact.
Higher Education Versus None
I agree that getting a college degree alone doesn’t always prepare you for the “realities of life,” however, neither does a high school diploma. Whether or not a person is prepared for life’s “realities” will depend to a large extent on his or her own intelligence, maturity, upbringing, association, family, and a wealth of other factors that have nothing to do with formal schooling.
Consider too, what is one of the most basic “realities of life” that everyone must face, if not how to support themselves financially? Who do you think is better prepared to face the “reality” of getting a job, someone with higher education or someone without?
According to Career One Stop, in 2011, a high school graduate (U.S.) earned about $451 per week, versus someone with a bachelor’s degree, who earned over $1000 per week. The unemployment rate for high school graduates was at 14.1%, but for those with a degree, it was at 4.9%. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics showed similar numbers for 2013.
Along with greater earning potential and lower unemployment rates, higher education also offers more career opportunities overall. In addition to careers that obviously require a particular degree such as accounting, psychology, engineering, and the like, note this article at Business News Daily; it reports that more and more employers are requiring a bachelor’s degree even for positions like executive assistant and IT help desk operator. The article states:
“…research shows that employers appear to be using a bachelor’s degree as a rough, rule-of-thumb screening system to recruit better workers,” and, “Part of the reason more employers are requiring college degrees is that the work they’re trying to accomplish is becoming more difficult.“
In other words, employers are seeing that those with higher education have the “practical skills” needed to perform the work required of them in today’s changing industries.
It’s also worth noting that in many ways, attending secondary school can actually give you many “practical skills” that you would otherwise lack. The site scholarships.com makes some very good points about the benefits of higher education, saying:
“[Attending college] increases your ability to think abstractly and critically, to express thoughts clearly in speech and in writing, and to make wise decisions. These skills are useful both on and off the job. … A college education can help increase your understanding of the community and the world as you explore interests, discover new areas of knowledge, and consider lifelong goals.“
Consider how this is no doubt true. Who would you think is better able to read and understand mortgage loan paperwork, a high school graduate or someone who took some basic business or legal courses in college? Who would be better able to balance a checkbook, a high school graduate or someone who took even one or two college courses in math or accounting? Who do you think fares better in a relationship, a high school graduate still living at home, or someone who has stepped foot out into the world and found out that he or she was shockingly not the center of the universe?
The Attitudes Taught
This presumptuous statement is not only misleading, but it also teaches a very self-righteous attitude that is common among Jehovah’s Witnesses. Rather than respecting the hard work that goes into getting an education, and the level of knowledge and skills graduates do have, Jehovah’s Witnesses degrade them as being childlike and naive. This allows them to look down on these poor pathetic people and dismiss them, and anything they may have to say.
Discouraging members from pursuing higher education is certainly the right of any religion, just as they’re allowed to make rules about sexual behavior, required financial contributions, and so on. However, I must ask why Jehovah’s Witnesses can’t simply offer that discouragement without insulting and outright lying about those who aren’t bound by their rules. Why can’t they simply say, “Don’t go to college,” without saying, “College graduates don’t have a clue about life”? After all, insulting other people is one thing, but lying is openly condemned in the bible. For a group that claims to follow the bible, they certainly failed to grasp one of its most basic commands with this article. Maybe someone can explain that to them. Someone who went to college.
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