If you have met many Jehovah’s Witnesses, you may have noticed that very few have a college education. Some have attended Technical School, but very few Jehovah’s Witnesses have degrees from colleges and universities. In fact, Jehovah’s Witnesses have one of the lowest education rates of any religion, with only 12% holding a college degree. Why is this so?
While some do obtain college degrees against mass opposition, in reality, Jehovah’s Witnesses can’t go to college if they want to remain a Jehovah’s Witness in good standing. Attending college will make the individual “bad association”, and any family privileges will be taken away.
This article will look at what Jehovah’s Witnesses have to say about education and why they forbid their members from pursuing a college degree. We will also discuss the consequences if a member disobeys and pursues higher education.
What do Jehovah’s Witnesses say about college?
While the leadership does not outright say it, their publications, videos, and talks clearly show the use of “undue influence”, where they use excessive persuasion to manipulate a person’s viewpoint to act in accordance with the will of the leadership, avoiding higher education. Essentially, these statements are nothing more than propaganda and come in the form of articles, videos, talks, and images.
Jehovah’s Witnesses do not condone obtaining a college education and treat the endeavor as morally wrong and selfish. Jehovah’s Witnesses are instead encouraged to obtain a minimal level of education, only enough to look after their very basic needs.
They attempt to avoid clearly stating their position on the topic. The article “How Do Jehovah’s Witnesses View Education?” on jw.org obfuscates their stance. It attempts to make them seem reasonable with statements such as: “We apply this principle by carefully examining the range of options available for supplementary (postsecondary) education and the cost and value of each.“
Any former member of Jehovah’s Witnesses can confirm that this is not the view they actually hold. This is evident when examining other statements they have made on the topic.
JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES ANTI COLLEGE ARTICLES
The article “Slave For Jehovah”, in the October 2015 issue of Watchtower magazine, clearly shows the actual position of Jehovah’s Witnesses. It says in part: “Rather than acquiring secular degrees and titles after their names, true Christians focus on obtaining “letters of recommendation” by engaging as fully as possible in the field ministry.” This is a straw man argument against college and higher education. It reduces all the benefits and reasons to attend college to “secular degrees and “titles”, a gross oversimplification. Then it states that “real Christians” choose not to attend, implying that anyone who disobeys this direction is not a Christian at all.
In 2005 the October 1st, 2005 Watchtower article entitled “Parents—What Future Do You Want for Your Children?”, cautions parents against the imagined moral risks of allowing their children to get a college education. It asks the question, “Is the risk involved worth whatever benefit the young ones may receive? And most important, what are the young ones learning about things that should come first in their life?” These questions are not explicitly answered but asked in such a way to make the answer clear, parents should not allow their children to receive a college education.
Higher education and dating have even been likened to the abuse of drugs.
The “false Cause” fallacy was exploited in a statement made on page 2 of the 2011 Kingdom Ministry book, where the Jehovah’s Witnesses make it appear like the pressure to pursue higher education and dating is as “dirty” as abusing alcohol and drugs.
|“Your children will no doubt experience new challenges and pressures … Are they prepared for the pressure they will receive to pursue higher education, date, and use alcohol or drugs?” |
Kingdom Ministry 2011 Jul p.2
JEHOVAHS WITNESSES ANTI COLLEGE VIDEOS
If a picture says a thousand words, a video can say a million. Jehovah’s Witnesses have taken full advantage of using videos to employ “undue influence” techniques on their followers. Jehovah’s Witnesses are constantly bombarded with these videos at meetings, conventions, field service, and broadcasts. Below is a short video compilation of some statements regarding higher education made by one of the Governing Body members, Tony Morris.
Interestingly, some Jehovah’s Witnesses attend technical colleges and trade schools. While an exception is not made in printed literature, these schools do not seem to carry the same stigma that colleges and universities do. Why is that?
With that in mind, in the above video at the 5min 40sec mark, Tony Morris makes this statement: “What secular skills will we be promoting? Skills that will be useful to God’s organization (the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania), now and after Armageddon. For example, we need construction skills around the world right now! and think about this, we will not need doctors or lawyers after Armageddon, but we will need carpenters and plumbers, etc.”
It goes without saying that there is nothing wrong with trades such as plumbing and carpenting, but the problem here is that the organization will only accept education that they can exploit for the benefit of the organization.
The book “Young People Ask Volume 1” states that the goal of school should be to simply “graduate with an education that you can use”, and nothing more.
Why don’t Jehovah’s Witness go to college?
Jehovah’s Witnesses are among the least educated religious groups in the world. A study of over 30 modern religions and denominations found that the Jehovah’s Witnesses rank 27th, with a mere 12% of members having college degrees. That is less than half of the rate of the total adults in the United States. That shockingly low rate makes it clear that most Jehovah’s Witnesses do not go to college after all, but why?
Most Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t go to college because they are taught that higher education is useless and that Armageddon is imminent. Pursuing a college education is also taught to be morally wrong, selfish, and materialistic. It will open the individual up to bad association with worldly people (non-Jehovah’s Witnesses).
Jehovah’s Witnesses also avoid higher education because it’s too time-consuming, and they will not have enough time to participate in congregational activities and duties. Let’s look at some of the reasons Jehovahs Witnesses do not go to college:
- “Armageddon is Imminent”.
- Higher education is too time-consuming.
- College is “Selfish and Materialistic”.
- College opens you up to “Bad association.
JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES AVOID HIGHER EDUCATION BECAUSE “ARMAGEDDON IS IMMINENT”
Publicly, Jehovah’s Witness leaders have implied that college is a bad idea because the end of the world is imminent. An article in an Awake magazine makes the following statement:
|“If you are a young person, you also need to face the fact that you will never grow old in this present system of things. Why not? Because all the evidence in fulfillment of Bible prophecy indicates that this corrupt system is due to end in a few years…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! magazine from January 8th, 1969
Today we are more than “a few years” away from 1969, and the world has still not ended. However, similar statements continue to be made. The “June 15th, 2012 issue of Watchtower” had this to say on the topic: “No doubt, school counselors sincerely believe that it is in your best interests to pursue higher education and to plan for a secular career. Yet, their confidence lies in a social and financial system that has no lasting future.“
These two quotes are 43 years apart, yet the message is the same. Armageddon is very near, so do not waste time going to college. In their own words: “A university degree may or may not improve your employment prospects. But one fact is indisputable: “The time left is reduced”! – Awake! 1989 May 8 p.13, What Career Should I Choose?
JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES AVOID HIGHER EDUCATION BECAUSE IT IS TOO TIME-CONSUMING
Jehovah’s Witness attorney Philip Brumley said in a video interview that “Learning things that have little to do with what one can do to earn a living, really serves no purpose.” and that “Rather than devoting or allowing this world to consume four, six, eight or ten years of studies, why not focus on two years of study to get some technical training that would facilitate or help someone to become a good regular pioneer.”
|“She admits: “Studying for my courses took so much time and effort that I was too busy to linger in prayer to Jehovah the way I used to, too exhausted to enjoy Bible discussions with others, and too tired to prepare well for the meetings. Thankfully, once I realized that being immersed in higher education was damaging my relationship with Jehovah, I knew I had to stop. And I did.” |
Watchtower 2019 Jun p.7
Clearly, Jehovah’s Witnesses are taught and believe that high education is too time-consuming and is a waste of time. But without higher education, we would have no doctors who save lives, engineers who make our world safer, or lawyers who fight for the dignity and rights of people.
So why do Jehovah’s believe those endeavors serve no purpose? The answer is simple, and they do not even try to hide it; the organization want’s its members to dedicate their spare time to serving the organization in door-to-door preaching, construction work, and other volunteering positions like pioneering (full time preaching), with no pay.
Jehovah’s Witnesses avoid higher education because it’s “Selfish and Materialistic”
|“What effect did higher education have on this sister’s thinking? She answers: “I am ashamed to admit that the education I pursued taught me to be critical of others, especially my brothers and sisters, to expect too much of them, and to isolate myself from them. It took me a long time to unlearn these lessons. That time in my life showed me just how dangerous it is to ignore the warnings given by our heavenly Father through his organization. Jehovah knew me better than I knew myself. If only I had listened!”“ |
Watchtower 2019 Jun p.7
An article in the June 2019 Watchtower 2019 said that education “…generates pride and arrogance, and the result is that people become “lovers of themselves.”
Another statement printed in the June 15th, 2011 Watchtower magazine says: “Higher education: Jesus warned against ‘seeking your own glory.” while citing a scripture at John 7:18, that has no bearing on gaining an education at all. In fact, the bible is full of scriptures that encourage working hard in your career and education. Proverbs 3:13 says: “Blessed are those who find wisdom, those who gain understanding.” and Proverbs 18:15 says, “The mind of the prudent acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.”
Jehovah’s Witnesses avoid higher education because it opens them up to “Bad association”.
Don’t be fooled by the friendly demeanor of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. According to their very own publications, if you are not one of them, then you are “bad association,” and “Worldly people (non-Jehovah’s Witnesses) are not governed by God’s principles, and a “nice” exterior can conceal wicked intents.”
Jehovah’s Witnesses are told that “We need not let our guard down by hobnobbing with worldlings at office parties, in outings or in sports groups.”. This same attitude is applied when it comes to going to college, where they are surrounded by so-called “worldly people”.
|“University and college campuses are notorious for bad behavior—drug and alcohol abuse, immorality, cheating, hazing, and the list goes on.“|
Watchtower 2005 Oct 1 p.28
Clearly, while cloaked with self-righteousness, Jehovah’s Witnesses have a very warped view of everyone outside of their group. While there are examples of individuals who practice bad behavior in universities and colleges, the same can be said for their very own organization. Concealing child sexual abuse, money laundering under the guise of charity status, seizing of Kingdom Hall properties, practicing deception, and even outright lying in court.
Jehovah’s Witnesses avoid higher education because it encourages critical thinking and asking questions
There is another reason why Jehovah’s Witnesses are opposed to education, and it is not plainly spelled out in their literature.
Colleges teach their students critical thinking, science, and history. These are all things that can be used to break someone from the cult mentality. For example, learning that Watchtower magazine is lying about the date of Jerusalems destruction can lead students to be more critical about their beliefs and look for other lies, ultimately leading them to leave the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses altogether. To avoid losing members, the Watchtower organization recommends their members remain uneducated.
What consequences does a member of Jehovah’s Witnesses face if they pursue college?
Understanding the consequences a Jehovah’s Witnesses faces if they go to college requires some background information. Members are forbidden from having friends outside of the cult. Typically, everyone in a member’s social circle is also Jehovah’s Witnesses. This is why shunning is such an effective tool for controlling members.
There are various levels of shunning within the organization. The most extreme level is disfellowshipping. All members completely shun the person being punished, not so much as saying “hello” to them. While going to college alone typically isn’t enough to be disfellowshipped, the Elders will be watching closely for any other behaviors they can use to disfellowship.
The person who goes to college will be labeled as “bad association”, which is a cult phrase meaning that someone should receive low-level shunning. Individual Jehovah’s Witnesses will be encouraged to spend as little time as possible with this person. This can result in friends unexpectedly canceling all plans with the person labeled as bad association.
A higher level of shunning is marking. When someone is marked, a talk is given explaining a bad behavior, and the congregation is warned to avoid contact with anyone exhibiting this behavior. In this example, a talk could be given about the imagined dangers of college. It would be explained that someone was marked for attending college. The goal is to shame the individual into changing their behavior, in this case, it would mean dropping out of college.
A person’s entire family can also be punished if a person attends college. The Elder’s handbook Shepard The Flock of God lists pursuing higher education as something that “may require a review of an appointed brother’s qualifications”. This means that someone serving as an Elder, Ministerial Servant, or Pioneer could have their responsibilities revoked simply because their child went to college.
It is clear that, as a cult, Jehovah’s Witnesses will do anything possible to prevent their members from attending college.