As a general rule, Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t attend college or pursue any type of higher education. Jehovah’s Witnesses 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:
“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!”
– Awake, May 22 1969
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:
“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.”
– Watchtower, October 15 2013
There is something very interesting about this wording, and it again brings me back to how the literature of Jehovah’s Witnesses often outright lies, or slyly misleads its members. This is part of how they subtly control every decision in their lives, while also making it seem as if all non-JWs are somehow beneath them.
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 own furniture.
As is typical, the magazine offers no quotes from experts, no studies to back up these statements. The magazine simply asserts this statement as a fact.
Where You Get Practical Skills
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.
Note, too, that teaching someone the practical skills needed for everyday life are not the responsibility of a college professor! If you attend college to learn accounting, there is no reason to think that the course will start in the parking lot, showing you how to check the oil in your car, or in the kitchen, showing you how to boil an egg. Going to college and learning the “practical skills” needed for life have nothing to do with each other.
The Realities of Employment
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, this article at Business News Daily reports that more and more employers are requiring a bachelor’s degree for even the most basic of jobs. 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… 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.
Other Practical Skills
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 points out:
“[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 college graduates do have, Jehovah’s Witnesses degrade them as being childlike and naive. This allows those Witnesses 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, tithing, and so on. However, I must ask why Jehovah’s Witnesses can’t simply offer that discouragement without insulting and even 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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