Although Jehovah's Witnesses are encouraged to do well at school, the Watchtower speaks against advanced education. It is described as a waste of time since the end is near, a place where dangerous ideas form, and pursued by people interested in power and wealth above spirituality. There has been some variance over the decades as to whether advanced education is acceptable, with a softening during the 1990's, but since 2000 it is once again spoken of disparagingly. A Witness will not be disfellowshipped for going to university, but will likely come under criticism. I went to university in 1987, whilst pioneering. Although I was not reproved for attending university, both myself and the body of elders received many complaints from other Witnesses.
If a Witness is not to gain a higher Education, from where do the Governing Body get it's legal team, accountants, IT specialists and doctors?
The Watchtower defines University as higher education.
“The educational system varies from country to country. In the United States, for example, public schools offer 12 years of basic education. Thereafter, students may choose to attend university or college for four or more years, leading to a bachelor’s degree or to postgraduate studies for careers in medicine, law, engineering, and so forth. Such university education is what is meant when the term “higher education” is used in this article. On the other hand, there are technical and vocational schools, offering short-term courses that result in a certificate or diploma in some trade or service.” Watchtower 2005 Oct 1 p.27
Watchtower 2012 Jun 15 p.23
"If you are approaching the end of the schooling required of you, you may find yourself in good health and with few responsibilities. Have you seriously considered entering the regular pioneer ranks? 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. On the other hand, by pursuing a theocratic career, you will be pursuing truly worthwhile and lasting goals. And you will be following Jesus’ perfect example. Such a wise decision will make you happy. It will protect you. And it will show that you are determined to live up to your dedication to Jehovah."
Watchtower 2011 Nov 15 pp.19,24
“Vigilant Christians refrain from using the world to the full with regard to higher education. Many people in this world consider higher education an indispensable stepping-stone to prestige and an affluent life. But we Christians live as temporary residents and pursue different goals. We avoid “minding lofty things.” (Rom. 12:16; Jer. 45:5) Since we are Jesus’ followers, we heed his warning: “Keep your eyes open and guard against every sort of covetousness, be- cause even when a person has an abundance his life does not result from the things he possesses.” (Luke 12:15) Consequently, young Christians are encouraged to pursue spiritual goals, getting only as much education as is required to meet their basic needs while focusing on preparing themselves to serve Jehovah ‘with their whole heart, soul, strength, and mind.’ (Luke 10:27) By doing so, they can become “rich toward God.”…
Men often put material security ahead of spiritual pursuits. Getting higher education and securing a well-paying job are priorities for many of them. According to their way of thinking, the reward of making money is more urgent and practical than any benefits that might come from studying the Scriptures and seeking a close relationship with God.”
Kingdom Ministry 2011 Oct p.3 Are You Learning All You Can From Jehovah?
"Are we encouraging young ones, who are often steered by schoolteachers and others to pursue the world’s higher education, to set spiritual goals instead and pursue the highest education—divine education? Learning all we can from Jehovah will help us to enjoy a happy life now and an everlasting future."
Kingdom Ministry 2011 Jul p.2
"The time is approaching for another school year to begin. Your children will no doubt experience new challenges and pressures. They will also have fresh opportunities to “bear witness to the truth.” (John 18:37) Are they ready?
Do your children clearly understand what constitutes participation in nationalistic ceremonies and pagan holidays and why sharing in them is wrong? Are they prepared for the pressure they will receive to pursue higher education, date, and use alcohol or drugs? Would they simply say that an objectionable activity is against their religion, or do they know how to explain their beliefs?"
Watchtower 2011 Jun 15 p.6
"But there is danger in encouraging them to take up a life style centered on education and financial security instead of true worship.... Plans for a life that subordinates spirituality to worldly goals can snuff out a young person’s desire to serve God."
(The embedded video contains recordings taken from two Special Assembly Day talks by Governing Body member Anthony Morris - Not fashioned after the system of Things (2008) and Our Spiritual Paradise - Jehovah's Provision for Refuge 2011.)
Watchtower 2011 Jun 15 pp.30,31
"If you have a means of supporting yourself, do you really need to spend time, money, and effort on further education just to realize personal aspirations or those of your parents or other relatives? …
Higher education: Jesus warned against ‘seeking your own glory.’ (John 7:18) Whatever you decide as to how much secular education you will obtain, have you ‘made sure of the more important things’?—Phil. 1:9,10. Grzegorz, the computer programmer, made some changes in his life. He said: “Taking seriously the advice of the elders, I simplified my life. I realized that I did not need to further my secular education. That would only rob me of time and energy.” Grzegorz got more involved in congregation activities. In time, he graduated from what is now called the Bible School for Single Brothers. Yes, he ‘bought out the time’ to further his divine education.
- If you have a means of supporting yourself, do you really need to spend time, money, and effort on further education?
- To support yourself, is it really necessary to have a college or a university degree?
- What would be the effect on your meeting attendance?
- Have you ‘made sure of the more important things’?
- Do you need to strengthen your confidence in Jehovah’s ability to provide for you?"
Watchtower 2008 Sep 1
2008 Circuit Assembly Talk - "Stand firm against the Devil's Crafty Acts in the Field of Education"
Watchtower 2006 Apr 15 p.27
"Do you not agree that to continue enjoying divine blessings, we must resist seeking things for ourselves at the expense of Jehovah's worship? That is so whether the activity or interest diverting our attention is the pursuit of wealth, get-rich-quick schemes, ambitious plans for advanced education to have a desirable career in this system, or programs of personal fulfilment."
Watchtower 2005 10/1 pp.28-29
"Then there is the environment. University and college campuses are notorious for bad behavior—drug and alcohol abuse, immorality, cheating, hazing, and the list goes on. Consider alcohol abuse. Reporting on binge drinking, that is, drinking for the sole purpose of getting drunk, New Scientist magazine says: “About 44 per cent of [university students in the United States] binge at least once in a typical two-week period.” The same problem is common among young people in Australia, Britain, Russia, and elsewhere. When it comes to sexual immorality, the talk among students today is about “hooking up,” which according to a Newsweek report “describes one-time sexual encounters—anything from kissing to intercourse—between acquaintances who’ve no plans to even talk afterward.” Studies show that from 60 to 80 percent of students engage in this kind of activity. “If you’re a normal college student,” says one researcher, “you do it.”
Kingdom Ministry 1999 Apr p.8
“A university degree does not guarantee success in the job market. As an alternative, many have acquired marketable job skills by means of apprenticeship programs, some vocational or technical school education, or short-term college courses that require a minimum of time and involvement.”
Watchtower 1999 Sep 1 pp.16-17 Youths-Train Your Perceptive Powers!
"The Bible says that it is wise to plan for the future. (Proverbs 21:5) Have you and your parents discussed your future? Perhaps you plan to enter the full-time ministry as a pioneer. Really, no career choice could bring greater satisfaction. If you are cultivating good study habits and developing skills in the ministry, you are preparing for this exciting career. Have you thought about how you will support yourself in the ministry? If, in the future, you choose to raise a family, will you be able to care for that added responsibility? Making balanced, realistic decisions about such things requires the use of perceptive powers.
12 In some places it is still possible to get on-the-job training in a useful skill or profession. There are youths who learn the family business or receive training from adult friends who have businesses. Others take courses at school that will be useful in earning a living later. Where such opportunities are not available, after careful thought parents may arrange for their children to receive some supplementary education after high school. Planning ahead in this way so as to care for adult responsibilities and especially so as to be able to share in the pioneer service over the long term is not incompatible with putting God’s Kingdom first. (Matthew 6:33) And supplementary education does not rule out pioneering. One young Witness, for example, had wanted to pioneer for a long time. After she finished high school, her parents—regular pioneers themselves—arranged for her to have some supplementary education. She was able to pioneer while she received her schooling, and now she has a skill with which she supports herself as she continues pioneering.
13 In the matter of supplementary education, each family has the right and responsibility to make its own decision. When such education is well chosen, it can be helpful. It can, though, be a trap. If you are considering such education, what is your goal? Is it to prepare yourself to handle adult responsibilities in an honorable way? Or are you “seeking great things for yourself”? (Jeremiah 45:5; 2 Thessalonians 3:10; 1 Timothy 5:8; 6:9) What about pursuing supplementary education away from home, perhaps living on a campus? Would that be wise in view of Paul’s warning that “bad associations spoil useful habits”? (1 Corinthians 15:33; 2 Timothy 2:22) Remember, too, that “the time left is reduced.” (1 Corinthians 7:29) How much time will you devote to such education? Will it consume the bulk of your youthful years? If so, how will you apply the Bible’s encouragement to “remember, now, your Grand Creator in the days of your young manhood”? (Ecclesiastes 12:1) Further, will the courses you take allow time for such vital Christian activities as meeting attendance, field service, and personal study? (Matthew 24:14; Hebrews 10:24, 25) If your perceptive powers are keen, you will never lose sight of spiritual goals as you and your parents plan for your future."
Awake! 1998 Mar 8 pp.20,21 Does the Bible Discourage Education?
"Prior to becoming a Christian, the apostle Paul was instructed in the Jewish law, under the tutelage of one of the most brilliant scholars of the time, Gamaliel. (Acts 22:3) Paul’s schooling might be comparable to a university education today. Further, in Jewish society it was considered honorable for young ones to learn a trade, even when higher education was to be pursued in later years. …
Just as was true in the first century, a wide variety of educational backgrounds exist among Christians today. Under the guidance of their parents, young people who complete their obligatory schooling may choose to pursue additional secular education. Likewise, adults interested in improving their means of providing for their families may view such additional schooling as a viable means to that end. Some aspects of traditional academic education lay emphasis on developing general intellectual capacity rather than professional or vocational skills. Thus, a person may find that even after investing much time in acquiring such an education, he lacks marketable skills. For this reason, some choose to pursue studies in vocational programs or technical schools, with a view to more readily filling actual demands in the job market.
At any rate, such decisions are of a personal nature. Christians ought not to criticize or judge one another on this matter. James wrote: “Who are you to be judging your neighbor?” (James 4:12) If a Christian is considering pursuing additional schooling, he would do well to examine his own motives to make sure that selfish, materialistic interests are not the driving force."
Watchtower 1997 Aug 15 p.21
"Parents are also concerned about the ability of their children to support themselves financially. So give your children guidance, help them to choose appropriate school subjects, and discuss with them whether it is wise to pursue any supplementary education or not. Such decisions are a family responsibility, and others should not criticize the course taken."
Awake! 1994 Aug 22 pp.3-4
“ The names of schooling levels differ from country to country. In these articles “high school” represents the full extent of compulsory schooling. “College,” “university,” “technical school,” and “vocational school” refer to forms of supplementary education that are not required by law but are pursued voluntarily. …
Why is supplementary education often necessary? First, a large number of jobs today require a higher level of skill. “The bank teller who just took deposits has been eliminated by the money machine,” says a U.S. Labor Department representative. “Now [the teller] has to advise me on three types of money market deposits and explain to me why I want this one rather than that one.” William D. Ford, chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, says: “The simple jobs are gone.”
Second, some feel that schools are not giving students an adequate education. They say that the focus on such issues as drug abuse, AIDS, and birth control overshadow the teaching of reading, writing, and arithmetic. Dr. Robert Appleton, a teacher for 27 years, laments that the school system seems to have become a “social service institution” that is under the burden of “dealing with problems that were not considered to be a part of the school.”
As a result of the failure of some schools to teach students needed skills, many high school graduates are unable to support themselves. “They haven’t been taught to work,” says Joseph W. Schroeder, manager of an office of Florida’s Job Service. “In dealing with young people the problem that employers tell me about constantly is that they can’t read or write very well. They can’t fill out a job application.”
A third reason supplementary education may be needed is that in numerous lands there is a surplus of college graduates flooding the job market. “College graduates outstrip the demand for their skills,” says The New York Times. “Given this oversupply,” the report adds, “employers are reluctant to gamble on high school graduates.””
Watchtower 1992 Nov 1 p.20 Education With a Purpose
"If Christian parents responsibly decide to provide their children with further education after high school, that is their prerogative. The period of these studies would vary according to the type of trade or occupation selected. For financial reasons and in order to enable their children to get into the full-time service as quickly as possible, many Christian parents have chosen for them short-term study programs in vocational or technical schools. In some cases youths have needed to be apprenticed to some trade but always with a full life of service to Jehovah as the goal. If additional courses are taken, certainly the motive should not be to shine scholastically or to carve out a prestigious worldly career. Courses should be chosen with care. This magazine has placed emphasis on the dangers of higher learning, and justifiably so, for much higher education opposes the "healthful teaching" of the Bible. (Titus 2:1; 1 Timothy 6:20, 21) Further, since the 1960's, many schools of advanced learning have become hotbeds of lawlessness and immorality. "The faithful and discreet slave" has strongly discouraged entering that kind of environment. (Matthew 24:12, 45) It must be admitted, however, that nowadays youngsters meet up with these same dangers in high schools and technical colleges and even in the workplace.-1 John 5:19."
Awake! 1989 May 8 p.13 What Career Should I Choose?
"A university degree may or may not improve your employment prospects. But one fact is indisputable: "The time left is reduced"! (1 Corinthians 7:29) For all its presumed benefits, would four years or more in a university be the best use of that remaining time?-Ephesians 5:16."
Our Kingdom Ministry 1969 Jun p.3
"In view of the short time left, a decision to pursue a career in this system of things is not only unwise but extremely dangerous… Many young brothers and sisters were offered scholarships or employment that promised fine pay. However, they turned them down and put spiritual interests first."
Watchtower 1969 Mar 15 p.171
"Many schools now have student counselors who encourage one to pursue higher education after high school, to pursue a career with a future in this system of things. Do not be influenced by them. Do not let them "brainwash" you with the Devil's propaganda to get ahead, to make something of yourself in this world. This world has very little time left! Any "future" this world offers is no future! Wisely, then, let God's Word influence you in selecting a course that will result in your protection and blessing. Make pioneer service, the full-time ministry, with the possibility of Bethel or missionary service your goal. This is a life that offers an everlasting future!"
Awake! 1969 May 22 p.15
"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. Of the generation that observed the beginning of the "last days" in 1914, Jesus foretold: "This generation will by no means pass away until all these things occur."-Matt. 24:34. Therefore, as a young person, you will never fulfill any career that this system offers. If you are in highschool 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!
The is why parents who base their lives on God's prophetic Word find it much more practical to direct their young ones into trades that do not require such long periods of additional schooling. And trades such as carpentry, plumbing, and others, will be useful not only now, but perhaps even more so in the reconstruction work that will take place in God’s new order." Click here for scan
Watchtower 1967 Feb 1 p.76
"Rather than being content with "sustenance and covering," those who devote themselves to getting a "higher education" usually want to be able to enjoy "the rest of the things" that money can buy."
Awake! 1953 Oct 22 p.27
"Often Jehovah's witnesses are asked: "What diplomas have you?" Neither Jesus nor his disciples had worldly diplomas to preach God's good news of the kingdom. Yet, it was said of him approvingly, "Never has another man spoken like this." And people are saying the same of Jehovah's witnesses. A well-educated man recently said: "I very seldom find one of you who has a diploma, but you are the most eloquent speakers of any people I have met."
What Pastor Russell Said (Leslie W. Jones Chicago 1917) pp.57,58
"My advice is, then, give your children an education up to public school limit, not even attempting to take them through high school, for they get plenty of Higher Criticism [sic] in the high schools, and it will not be long before they have it in the common schools also."