The Watch Tower Society has long stigmatized higher education and dissuaded young Jehovah’s Witnesses from a meaningful career as anything other than unpaid promoters of the organization.
As far back as 1969 Watchtower was telling young ones that they would “never fulfill any career that this system offers.” Why? Because by the time they graduate, the “system of things” would be “well on the way towards its finish, if not actually gone!” (Awake! 1969, May 22, page 15)
It goes without saying that, in the 45 years since 1969, countless meaningful careers have both started and ended – including some that Watchtower has directly benefited from as technology has advanced.
Despite such demonstrably reckless past advice, Watchtower’s crusade against higher education is being waged just as ferociously as ever – as shown in the latest June 15 2014 Watchtower study edition. (download here)
A three page article entitled “‘Smooth Out the Course of Your Feet’ to Make Progress” uses strong imagery to present higher education as a hindrance and stumbling block rather than something that can lead to individual betterment and achievement.
The article begins by reminding readers of the ancient Jews returning to Jerusalem from Babylonish captivity, and how they were required to clear a highway free of any obstacles to make their journey easier.
The related passage in Isaiah 62:10 is crudely hijacked, with young ones asked to view higher education as a kind of obstacle from which they should free themselves.
The article then uses extremely loaded language to present higher education as something evil and sinister.
“When a young Witness does well in school, a guidance counselor, a teacher, or a fellow student may pressure the Witness to pursue higher education as a step toward success in this system of things,” the article warns.
If you replace “pressure” with “encourage,” and “in this system of things” with “in life,” the entire quote above immediately sounds sensible and positive – but Watchtower chooses its words very carefully to achieve its agenda.
The same is true of the sentence that immediately follows.
“Or a young brother or sister who has athletic ability may find that recruiters try to entice him or her into a sports career.”
“Entice” has clear, negative connotations of trickery and deception – making it just the sort of word Watchtower can make us of in raising paranoia among parents and young people. A career in sports must be seen as threatening and dangerous.
And it isn’t long before we are introduced to the career option that Watchtower conveniently approves of.
“Rather than pursue worldly goals, why not firmly establish ‘your ways’ before Jehovah by sharing in the pioneer ministry?”
Hence an article that tries to convey concern for the needs of young people is revealed as a not-so-thinly veiled attempt at recruitment and exploitation.
There are actually two main motives for Watchtower’s stigmatization of higher education for young people. The first is, as shown above, their selfish need for volunteer evangelizers to promote the organization.
Secondly, and perhaps more pressingly, is the threat posed to Watchtower by learning and personal enlightenment. Once young people are exposed to the rudimentary critical thinking skills that are taught in colleges and universities, the fog of Watchtower indoctrination quickly clears. This has been alluded to by Tony Morris in his rants on the subject.
Thankfully, certain current and former Witnesses are able to see through the spin and rhetoric, and with such ones the latest article will not have the desired effect.
Our latest 2014 Global Survey has so far attracted 1,640 respondents. For the overwhelming majority of these, the stigmatization of higher education by Watchtower is the most contentious of all teachings and practices, with 1,316 voicing their disapproval.
The following table shows the top 10 most contentious teachings/practices in our survey.
Though it is encouraging that some current and former Witnesses are alert to this alarming side of Watchtower propaganda, we should still spare a thought for the countless teenagers whose achievements in life will be stifled by this and similar Watchtower articles.