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A visitor's essay

The value -- or lack of
value -- of higher education

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Webmaster's note:

This essay is critical of the Watchtower Society's policy towards higher education among its membership. This policy is seen in other conservative Protestant faith groups as well.

We welcome essay submissions with alternative views.

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The value -- or lack of value -- of higher education:

The 2005-OCT-01st issue of the Watchtower magazine, the official magazine and Sunday teaching channel of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, argued that parents have a serious challenge in order to provide the best education for their children, and especially in the higher education realm.

The Watchtower article attempted to enlighten its readers to keep a balanced view of religious and secular education -- especially higher education.

It stressed, in no uncertain terms, that higher education had no place in the lives of those who truly want to serve their God.

Higher education was defined by the Watchtower as any college or university degree comprising of four or more years, leading to four year bachelor’s degrees, careers in the medicine, legal, engineering, and all the way to post graduate and doctoral work (Watchtower, 2005).

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What reputable organizations and educators state regarding higher education:

The Indiana Commission of Higher Education (ICPAC, 2005) states in its opening web site that "today's students will need more than a high school diploma to get ahead". Furthermore, the same institution stated that the more education a person had, the more job security was expected.

In the 1990’s a college graduate’s earned over $ 12,000 more than a high school graduate. By 2002, wage differences between college and high school graduates had risen even more. College graduates on the average, make twice as much as high school counterparts (ICPAC, 2005).

While a $10 an hour or $ 20,000 per year job for a high school graduate was easily expected, the cost of living expenses for the same high school graduate averaged over $ 39,000 per year (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2004 and ICPAC, 2005) and it has continued rising since then.

The median income for people of ages 25 and older in 2002, ranged from $ 24,000 to $ 34,000 for high school graduates, compared with $ 40,000 to $ 56,000 for college bachelor’s degrees. The article stated that people with some college education fit somewhere in the middle of these figures.

It is a published fact that people with higher education have more job options and less unemployment rates. In fact more than 25 jobs and or occupations in the State of Indiana alone required a 4 year higher degree (Bachelor’s degree) in order to fill those vacancies.

Anyone with more education usually remains unemployed shorter periods of time. Job security becomes a valuable asset when one has bills to pay such as house mortgage, insurance, car payments, or a family to support. Thus, the more educated a person is the better he or she will face such challenges (ICPAC, 2002).

Furthermore, education is said to mean more than just a journey to make money and or job security. Higher education helps you to make the most of one’s life in terms of self discovery and a sense of accomplishment.

Higher education is not about money altogether, as the Watchtower article wanted to convince its readers. Adults and young ones want to educate themselves to improve their lives and their minds.

Bowden & Merritt, in 1995 found that adults -- particularly older adults -- have unique and clear goals for their lives. Older adults have a higher degree of motivation and appreciation for education simply because of their life experiences. Bowden and Merritt stated, that they were driven by a higher need of achievement and promotional rewards (Bowden & Merritt, 1995). Not just money.

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The real motive behind the opposition to higher education and additional statements by the Watchtower article:

The importance of dedicating one’s life and energies completely to the work of the Watchtower organization was the paramount issue as published in their article (Watchtower, 2005). But is it wrong to obtain a higher education? Why pursue a higher education?

The high cost of pursuing a higher education was clearly exposed and clearly described by the Watchtower article of October 1st, 2005. Even when higher education was free, the Watchtower stated, it was not so free of hidden costs, due to the conditions attached to such "free education."

The Watchtower magazine quoted statistics regarding children and young adults who attend university campuses. It quoted 44 percent of students in universities engaged in "binging" or drinking out of control and that sexual immorality among students was noted as being common place at universities of the world.

Additionally, the article stated to the public besides the bad influence that university environments offer, other issues make the matter of higher education more complex, and undesirable, such as school work pressure and normal exams.

This may be true. Nevertheless, the same type of behavior takes place in one form or another at the world headquarters of the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Brooklyn, N.Y. back in the 1970’s, including hazing, binge drinking and homosexuality among old and young ones and even high ranking members of the "Bethel workers". Such behavior is known any time groups of young ones get together, not just at colleges and universities (author, 2005).

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The Truth about Higher Education:

While the Watchtower article tried to convince its readers and members that education was and or is the realm of the rich ones, anyone with a sincere desire to learn and advance one’s mind is capable of getting a higher education degree and not just for the money.

There are countless stories of highly accomplished educators, engineers, lawyers, and doctors who obtained a higher education despite their being "poor." The author humbly acknowledges that all of his education all the way to a doctoral degree was self sponsored even though the author came from a very poor family who never gave one cent towards any of his secular education.

If the Watchtower organization thinks that higher education is expensive, as someone said "try ignorance."

For instance, were it not for the fact that we have college educated and higher degree medical doctors, and engineers; we would not survive, most of the time, a simple or a complex operation or even know what type of vaccine to give our children to save their lives.

Furthermore, the fact that we have vaccines that keep us alive and protect us against disease and other viruses is an indication that someone with a higher education went through a great deal of effort and studied hard, for our benefit, and conquered some of the perils of modern day disease threats.

Why is it then that today we enjoy a greater degree or higher longevity than even 50 years ago?

Higher education and medicine has allowed some of us to lengthen our average life span.

"Should Christian parents choose such a goal (higher education) for their children"? A resounding YES, is the answer to the ill and erroneously used statistics by the Watchtower in this article which appears to be an assault against higher education.

Some of the arguments used in the October 1st, 2005 article of the Watchtower magazine seemed innocent and appear to make some sense to the novice. However, an alert person read a one-sided version of statistics which were skewed to fit the Watchtower’s point of view: do not let your children become educated so they can serve us instead.

The Watchtower article stated that only ¼ of those who attended college earned a degree within 6 years.

The fact of the matter is that many students drop out of college due to economic or other pressures. Nonetheless, many of them resume their higher education careers when their economic or other pressures have subsided and more favorable circumstances allow them to return to school for their higher education.

Lewis (2002), Provost for the University of Michigan, found that 72 percent of college graduates expected to obtain a higher degree some day at a later time. Thus, dropping out of college should not be construed as dropping out of the hope of obtaining a higher degree education some day later by higher degree seeking students (NCES "Life after College," 1977).

In 1992-93 college graduates as a group were well established in the labor force. 89 percent were employed even though not all had finished their formal education. A percentage of them were waiting to obtain an advanced degree or certificate. Finally, of the 30 percent graduate students who finally enrolled in higher learning, only 9% had left their educational careers without a higher degree (NCES, 1977).

Lewis also found that graduate education was set to grow over the coming decade due to factors such as return of students who had postponed graduate study, the need for professional education, the increasing need of master’s degree as the basic need for any type of education ("the capstone of basic education").

If higher education is detrimental and not profitable for those who pursue it, as the Watchtower implied in their article, then why do the facts speak against such statements?

Koredoski, (2001) in her thesis found that in the year 2002 there were an estimated two million students involved in pursuit of higher degree DL learning programs in order to finish or obtain a higher education degree. That was a 312 % increase since 1998.

Furthermore, by the year 2001 there were an estimated 15 millions students enrolled in higher education programs; most were adults and baby boomers (Neely et al., 1998).

The reason is not a minimal one. College graduates earn about 1 million dollars more during their lifetimes than high school graduates. "Over a working lifetime, the typical college graduate earns about 75 percent more than a high school grad does....On average, that difference totals $1 million more -- easily enough to repay those student loans and then some. The payoff from graduate school is even bigger: People with advanced degrees earn two to three times as much over their lifetimes as those without a college degree and increase their average total earnings by as much as $2 million." (Wang, 2005).

The real issue here is not economic advancement for many, but the desire and unending drive for wealth of thought and the desire to advance and better oneself.

Waits and Lewis (2003) described enrollment of over 3 millions students in distance learning courses offered by postsecondary or higher learning institutions. Furthermore, in 2000-2001 there were approximately 2,810 online programs offered by 2 and 4 year degree granting institutions. All of the above programs allowed their completion of a program entirely via distance learning. 1,240 or 44 percent of all such programs were at the graduate or first-professional degree level (Waits & Lewis, 2003).

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The issue is not of money alone.

Once again, Guruz, (2003) confidently said that higher education was not just a "creator of knowledge" or a simple trainer of youth, or even a means to transmit one’s culture. Rather, higher education was identified as major agent of economic growth. It was described as the center of the "knowledge economy".

If the value of higher education was a questionable issue why would reputable educators and reputable organizations claim argue against that? Rarely would the US invest over $ 30 billion US dollars on something that would not give them a return for their money (Guruz, 2003). The American people are not naïve.

Higher education is not about money either. Adults and young ones want to educate themselves to improve their lives and their minds.

As was said earlier, Bowden & Merritt, in 1995 found that adults, not so much young adults, but older adults have unique and clear goals for their lives. Adults as compared to younger ones, have a higher degree of motivation and appreciation for education simply because of their life experiences. Adults, Bowden and Merritt stated, were driven by a higher need of achievement and promotional rewards (Bowden & Merritt, 1995). Not just money.

Nevertheless, the Watchtower magazine in their October 1st, 2005 issue insert on page 29, quoted the Time magazine for January, 24, 2005 as saying that "time sucking" college diplomas have become worth less than ever and the magazine further quoted the Futurist issue of July/ August, 2004 saying that "Projections from the US. Department of Labor estimated that t lest 1/3 of college graduates would not find employment that matches their degree." (Watchtower, 2005). Is this really true?

The Watchtower quoted the American Educator's Spring 2004 issue as follows: "Students do not need to go to college to get a good job, but they do need to master high school-level skills".

A closer look and research of the original article revealed the following facts:

The introductory paragraph of the above article in the American Educator, stated that "Encouraging students to attend college despite their poor academic preparation is a practice" based on the premise that all good jobs require college degrees (Rosenbaum, 2004).

The Watchtower failed to quote from the same author and same article, that the skills needed for good jobs in other words those jobs that would pay enough to support your family with the potential for advancement, required high level knowledge skills, such as four years of English and mathematics through Algebra II" (American Diploma Project, 2004).

Does every high school student finish mathematics through Algebra II and does well in English for four consecutive years of high school?

Rosenbaum in the American Educator article stated that over 40 percent of high-school seniors do not have even ninth-grade math skills, and that 60 percent of those high school seniors lacked ninth-grade reading skills (Murnane and Levy, 1996).

How then, is the 40 to 60 percent of those students who fail or lack ninth-grade level math and reading skills supposed to improve on them?

The same author of the above article said later on "So the vast majority of students who don’t do well in high school would be better off, in terms of future income, finding a good job than going to college".

Is college out of the question for the high school less achieving person? That appeared to be the gist of the above article. "Indeed, vocational teachers report that they are able to help students get jobs, even students from disadvantaged backgrounds or with disabilities".

Additionally Rosenbaum (2004) stated "Moreover, school-based job placement helps more blacks and females than white males "(Rosenbaum 2001). So it helps students who normally have the greatest difficulties in the labor market".

The gist of this article seems to be aimed at students who have difficulties achieving in high school or have some type of impairment or disadvantaged background including low grade achievement in high school.

Thus, it appeared that the author of the American Education article (Rosenbaum, 2004) quoted by the Watchtower magazine was aiming at low high school achievers and or students who for one reason or another were not able to get into college due to low grades.

It is hard to imagine that Rosenbaum writing for the American Educator, a professional journal of the American Federation of Teachers, whose recent "Recent articles have focused on such topics as reducing the achievement gap between poor and affluent students" in its Spring 2004 issue article was attempting to dissuade parents from giving their competent children a good higher education in college or university. There seemed to be a reason for such alternative action, and it was not because high school education is or has been better than university education at any time.

And how many high schools and high school children put a lot of effort to their high school education? Most of us do not really know what we want to be in life until our early twenties or even in our 30’s. Could all the children of Jehovah’s Witnesses be expected to perform above average in high school? Hardly so, if they fall within the median of the population. If so, why limit their educational growth if their GPAs were above average, why not let them attend college and obtain higher degrees?

Ultimately what the Watchtower article failed to say, what was said at the end of the American Educator, Spring 2004 article: "Employers argue that they cannot trust that the high school diploma certifies knowledge of these high school-level skills. As a result employers report using college degrees to signal that applicants possess high school skills" (Rosenbaum, 2004).

What did Rosenbaum mean? Do employers lie about the educational background of their hired high school graduates or is it simply that it is next to impossible to find a high school graduate with a good math and language level skill? Such as one can only find in those with college or higher degrees.

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Reasons given by the Watchtower not to obtain a higher education:

The October 1st, 2005 issue of the Watchtower magazine deplored with "sadness" the fact that some have fallen away (from the faith) as a result of the demands of their university pursuits and as a result of the time and energy required by becoming entangled with "unscriptural" conduct at colleges and universities (Wt, 2005)

Is this claim legitimately valid?

Is the Watchtower printing sincere articles or is it rather trying to control the minds of its members by keeping them ignorant? What is their real motive?

Didn't the Roman Catholic Religion attempt to do the same in the Dark Ages in order to control the minds of their members? Why would anyone not want their young ones to become aware of their surroundings and thus obtain a higher education unless they were trying to advance their own interests at the expense of their young ones?

Are these statements are intentionally misleading. Why?

A USA Today / CNN Gallop poll ranked education as a national priority, and found that 55% of over 300 business executives ranked higher learning as a key business priority.

Furthermore, there is a direct relationship between the amount of education a person obtains, and advancement in the work place. This is not to say that money is the only driving force for those who seek higher education.

IPAC (1998) found that he amount of time required to find a job, and unemployment rates, were far shorter for individuals with higher education degrees (Koredoski, 2001).

High school diploma holders in 2001 had a 4.5 percent unemployment rate compared to 2 percent rate of unemployment for holders of master’s degrees.

Does not the Watchtower research its articles well? Or is it outright manipulation and deceit the intent of their literature?

IPAC (1998) found that educations improved the dollar amount of one’s earnings, and the ability for a person to become employed, as well as the ability for such person to retain his or her job (Koredoski, 2001).

A college degreed person with a higher education under his or her belt earns approximately 60% more than a high school graduate. The Watchtower article failed to reveal the real numbers regarding the benefit of higher education: for every year of higher education beyond high school, a person earns about 4 to 6 percent more in wages (Koredoski, 2001).

An MBA graduate, Koredoski, 2001 ads, earns $ 20,000 a year more than a high school graduate.

Why does the Watchtower quote self serving statistics which claim that "time sucking" college diplomas have become worth less than ever? Are they misquoting or simply misrepresenting the facts in order to favor their ignorance driving methods so as to keep the world and or its members ignorant? If so, why?

Remember the Catholic Church in the middle ages when it burned its laity members who obtained a copy of the Bible and became learned. Has the Watchtower organization of the Jehovah’s Witnesses taken on the baton passed on to by the Catholic Church now that the Catholic Church is all powerful and capable of withstanding "intelligent and educated" people among its members?

Furthermore, just because a person is poor does not mean that he or she is not materialistic. A poorly educated person may be more materialistic or interested in money that someone with a higher degree. Nevertheless, the Watchtower article of October 1st 2005 issue mislead its readers into thinking that higher educated people pursue their careers simply out of materialistic pursuits.

Margaret Thaler Singer claimed that cults develop sophisticated means of changing behavior such as deceptive thinking and techniques of influence that render some its converts incapable of making rational decisions for themselves and or their own well-being. 1

Antoine de St. Expery wrote: "I know of one Freedom, and that is freedom of the Mind." 2 One may sincerely ask the question, is the Watchtower organization attempting to take the freedom of its members away?

An Internet article in 2005 stated that organizations increase their members by keeping them ignorant. Prevention of independent thinking trough fear and guilt is a very effective thought-stopping process which allows the indoctrination process to implant phobias.

This in turn makes its members completely dependent on the crowd mentality of its leaders, driving him or her further into the need to belong and seek "shelter" under the mother organization.

Is the Watchtower implanting another phobia among its members -- that higher education is wrong?

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References used:

bulletJ.K. Hadden, "Cult Group Controversies," at: http://religiousmovements.lib.virginia.edu/
bullet "Steven Alan Hassan's Freedom of Mind Center," Logo, at: http://www.freedomofmind.com/
bullet"WTGreed," "Watchtower’s Investments in Warfare Technology," at: http://www.geocities.com/
bullet"Median years of tenure with current employer for employed wage and salary workers by age and sex, selected years, 1983-2004," Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2004-SEP)at: http://www.bls.gov/
bullet"Education- What It's Worth?" Indiana Career and Post Secondary Advancement Center (ICPAC). (2002).  ICPAC (1998), Info Series(IS-45), at http://www.learnmoreindiana.org/ This is a PDF file. You may require software to read it. Software can be obtained free from: 
bulletA.C. McCormick, et al., "Life After College: A Descriptive Summary of 1992-93 Bachelor's Degree Recipients in 1977," NCES, at: http://nces.ed.gov/
bulletJ.E. Rosenbaum, "All Good Jobs Don't Require College Degrees....But getting a good job without a college degree depends a lot on high school effort--and the support a high school provides," American Educator, (Spring 2004), at: http://www.aft.org/
bulletP. Wang, "Four Myths about college costs: The True price of that B.A. may not be as high as you think," Money Magazine, (2005-JAN), at:  http://money.cnn.com/

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Copyrighted © by the author, 2005. Used by permission
Originally posted: 2005-NOV-17
Latest update: 2005-NOV-22
Author: Name withheld at the author's request

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