Elders and Governing Body

The Literature of Jehovah’s Witnesses Is So Dumbed-Down, I’ve Mistaken It For a Child’s Magazine

Show of hands, who here remembers the children’s magazine, Highlights? Of course you remember it; for me, it was the only thing that made incessant trips to the doctor’s office with my mother somewhat bearable. Their fun mazes, two-page stories, and hidden object games were a pure treat with each and every visit.

One of the most memorable parts of the Highlights magazine was their recurring cartoon, “Goofus and Gallant.” These cartoons contrasted the idiotic, selfish, apparently brain-damaged Goofus with the polite, considerate, well-coiffed Gallant, in order to teach simple yet valuable life lessons about sharing, manners, and the importance of … I don’t know, good oral hygiene?


I hadn’t thought about Goofus and Gallant for many years until I saw the 2016 Awake magazine, volume 1 (the magazines are now being numbered versus named for each month), and an article about the difference your attitude can make. The article included this illustration:

Capture goofus

Let me first of all pick apart the information presented before I get into how it’s been presented. Alex may be making a good point; if his boss constantly nags and finds fault, it’s only natural to be discouraged. Alex also sounds like he may not even be qualified for the job, if he made some “key errors.” Brian sounds like he’s just full of garbage, as you don’t just learn a “fundamental lesson” by having errors pointed out. Did the boss explain the errors or even what he or she expected in the first place? Did the boss provide all the materials needed to have them complete the project properly? If not, of course a worker will be frustrated and irritated, not encouraged to simply try harder next time.

As far as Andrea and Brittney, Andrea is presented as being selfish but there does come a point when you need to stop doing for people who are simply taking advantage of you. If a relationship or friendship is one-sided, you’re going to feel lonely even when around that other person. Brittney has a good attitude, but “doing good” in of itself doesn’t always help with loneliness. If your needs are not cared for to some extent, you will feel lonely no matter how much you do for others. Both these illustrations and the advice seem trite and simplistic.

Speaking of simplistic, let’s get back to how they’re presented. The points are stated in such an elementary manner that they’re downright childlike, with no actual advice that can be translated into the real world. Consider instead the following from a website called Mind Tools:

What, though, if your critic is your boss? This is a knottier problem. First, schedule a meeting, and hear him out. Are you sure his criticism isn’t valid? If he does on balance make sense, then cede the point, and adjust your approach appropriately.

If you remain convinced that his criticisms fall wide of the mark, and he persists in making them, try graciously, through one-on-one meetings, to bring him round to your view. Failing that, you might request a meeting with someone higher up the ladder. In doing so, though, recognize that you risk undermining your position further. Again, make your case as calmly and rationally as possible.

Providing you and your boss both keep in mind the goals of the team, rather than your personal or professional differences, you should be able agree a positive way forward.

Rational discourse really is the best antidote to unfair criticism. More often than not, it wins out in the corporate world, providing the people involved are open and willing to finding the best course.

Which do you think offers real, practical advice for managing one’s attitude? Mind Tools gives step-by-step pointers on how to approach one’s boss in the work world and bring about some type of resolution when it comes to criticism, whereas the Awake magazine sounds like it’s simply chastising a child having a temper tantrum. Note, too, the wording; Mind Tools uses words and phrases like “cede the point,” “wide of the mark,” “undermining,” “rational discourse,” and “antidote.” I honestly can’t even pick out any words from the Awake magazine that would require more than a seventh-grade education to understand, and what’s worse, they’re presented in cartoon-like fashion, not in a way that you might see in a psychology manual or other such real educational textbook.

I realize that most Jehovah’s Witnesses are not highly educated, but this also doesn’t mean they’re just plain stupid and need to be talked down to. I personally have always worked and supported myself, have been a freelance writer with a wide variety of clients for a number of years, and have opened and ran two small businesses by myself. When I was editing Bo Juel’s book, we didn’t want it to come under another publisher’s umbrella but also didn’t want to go through a self-publishing service, so I started a publishing company; this is actually the second time I’ve done this. As the publisher, I deal with wholesale cataloging and pricing, distribution, order fulfillment, and everything else associated with an actual publishing business.

Obviously this doesn’t equate me with a brain surgeon or even the amazing Angus Stewart of the Australian Royal Commission, but it also means I shouldn’t be spoken to like a child. I’ve had employees working under me, dealt with accountants and their financial reports and tax statements, and have also had reams of meetings with lawyers. I might point out, not only am I capable of these types of interactions, but none of these people have ever spoken to me like I need simple subjects dumbed down to the point of a childlike mentality.

n51ec24ec7f028I don’t know why Jehovah’s Witnesses talk to their own members as if they’re children; maybe it’s a way of keeping them conditioned so they avoid a real education and only respond to such simplistic, childish counsel that is the equivalent of baby food. It doesn’t take much to disprove the religion of Jehovah’s Witnesses, for example, they often claim that Jerusalem was first destroyed in 607 B.C. when most secular historians put the date at 587 B.C. To follow this argument, however, a person would need to be comfortable reading about history and supportive dates and data. To understand the argument for evolution, you would need to learn a bit about basic science and biology. To understand how often Jehovah’s Witnesses have been wrong about their predictions when it comes to the end of the world, you would need to be able to piece together their failed predictions without simply accepting chants of “new light.” All of these things would then put you on a path of actually seeing the religion for what it is, simply made up by men who have no understanding of history, science, human nature, or obviously even the bible itself.

Of course, Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t want that, so instead, they dumb down their most popular means of education to the point where it resembles a child’s magazine. By conditioning their followers to accept whatever simple explanation they offer and whatever simplistic advice they can give, they create crowds of people whose brains have become soft and flabby, like other muscles in the body that haven’t been worked in ages. Rather than challenging their members to think and discern and learn about deeper subjects when it comes to the world around them, they encourage them to accept shallow, superficial information that feels satisfying at first but which has no real value in the long run … much like the religion itself.


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2 replies »

  1. Great article, Alex! Love the Angus Stewart reference! I remember at watchtower magazine at least 30 years ago – and it actually said that less intelligence is better for you (to stay in the org). I remember even then being very angry at the comment b/c it was so insulting. I filed that away in my brain until enough crap like that finally sent me out of the cult. You can see what they are doing – no growth in US, Europe or Canada – only in economically poor countries – so the mags are for them. However, they are creating an even dumber race of current JWs who can’t even defend their cult anymore – just send people to jwdotorg – it’s so pathetic and sad…

    And I do remember the Highlights mag – G & G were one of my favorite features – how dare WT steal the idea, LOL!

  2. I once heard a description of JW literature as: “Where’s Waldo” but with words. Raised on that drivel, I left when I was 18. I lost all friends and JW family but never looked back. Four decades later I still know it was the right and only thing I could have done!

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