NPR News: Lack Of Education Leads To Lost Dreams And Low Income For Many Jehovah's Witnesses

by breakfast of champions 16 Replies latest watchtower scandals

  • breakfast of champions
    breakfast of champions

    Can't comment on this right now because I'm heading off to school



    Of all major U.S. religious groups, members of the Jehovah's Witnesses have the lowest rate of formal education - that according to a Pew study. And as Luke Vander Ploeg reports, that can have a real impact on people who choose to leave the religion.

    LUKE VANDER PLOEG, BYLINE: Cracked leather couches and pictures from mission trips line the walls of a borrowed room at a church in Long Beach, Calif.

    DEAN: My name is Dean. I was baptized in '93, left '95.

    BECKY ALVAREZ: Becky Alvarez. I left in '94.

    DAVE HAMPTON: My name's Dave Hampton. I'm married to an ex-Witness which is always fun.

    VANDER PLOEG: This is a meeting of the ex-Jehovah's Witnesses of Los Angeles, a support group that gets together once a month. Today it's about 12 people strong. Zachary Linderer left the Witnesses about five months ago. He's new to the meetings.

    ZACHARY LINDERER: Actually this one today was my first time.

    VANDER PLOEG: How did you feel about it?

    LINDERER: It was a little funny, a little uncomfortable, but I don't know. I still relate to them very strongly because of my background. So it's kind of a mixed feelings.

    VANDER PLOEG: A main function of the support group is talking about that shared background. This week, the topic of discussion is how Witnesses treat higher education. It's something that's played a major role in Zachary's life.

    LINDERER: I wanted to be a physicist or an oceanographer or something having to do with the sciences, but it was very clear that I wasn't going to be able to do that.

    VANDER PLOEG: Zachary's dad had heard stories about college.

    LINDERER: He told me that he knew people who were into science, and it drug them right out of the truth.

    VANDER PLOEG: There was some secret dangerous piece of knowledge that universities taught.

    LINDERER: I didn't know what that was, but it was just like a bogeyman. It's just there, and it's going to get you. And if you do it, it's going to ruin you.


    ANTHONY MORRIS III: I have long said the better the university, the greater the danger.

    VANDER PLOEG: That's Anthony Morris III, a member of the governing body of Jehovah's Witnesses. Witness leadership declined to speak to NPR for this story. This is Morris in an online video.


    MORRIS: One brother likened his experience in a university setting to being in a house that is on fire. Spiritually speaking, he said, even if you escape alive, your clothes still smell like smoke. It has an effect on you.

    VANDER PLOEG: Corrupting influence is just one of the reasons Witnesses frown on higher education. They also believe the end of the world is imminent and time in college would be better spent going door to door winning converts. Zachary Linderer's family discouraged education so strongly that he never even finished high school. He did end up going back to get his GED and becoming an electrician, but he says that longing to study science never left him.

    LINDERER: I think I had that feeling, that sense at 17 years old or so that that was like - that's what I wanted it to be. That's what I needed to be, and there's been this hole ever since then.

    VANDER PLOEG: That's a sentiment I heard from nearly all of the 100 plus ex-Witnesses I talked to, that feeling of being robbed of something. It's not unheard of for Witnesses to graduate college, but it's very unlikely. Pew Research shows that only 9 percent of Jehovah's Witnesses get a bachelor's degree. That's well below the national average and the lowest of any faith group. The same study also shows that Witnesses have some of the lowest income of any major religion. Amber McGee falls in that category. She grew up a Witness in rural Texas. Her parents pulled her and her siblings out of school at a young age.

    AMBER MCGEE: My mom herself who was supposed to be our homeschool teacher was not capable of doing it emotionally, mentally.

    VANDER PLOEG: Amber's mother never finished high school.

    MCGEE: She had three young children. She was by herself very far from family and even just grocery stores and that sort of thing.

    VANDER PLOEG: Eventually, Amber's mother gave up teaching them. The girls had to do it themselves using workbooks.

    MCGEE: I would do all the multiple choice and true and false, and they would write all the essays for all the subjects. So it was really bad. I literally barely graduated.

    VANDER PLOEG: That's made life difficult for Amber. She's 34 years old and the most she's made in a year is about $14,000. Amber and her husband left the Witnesses a year ago. They're doing better now financially, but it's still far from what Amber had hoped for her life.

    MCGEE: I was taught very, very young to stop dreaming, to not have dreams, that you'll never ever be a famous person or a doctor or nurse. It's not possible. So now as an adult, I'm learning to start dreaming again.

    VANDER PLOEG: If not for her own future, then definitely for the futures of her kids. For NPR News, I'm Luke Vander Ploeg in Los Angeles.

  • darkspilver

    Can't comment on this right now because I'm heading off to school

    haha cool

    Thanks for posting... it is interesting to see the difference in 'Subject Area' choosen....

    First up it was AndersonsInfo who decided for 'Friends'

    Second was silentbuddha who went for 'Scandals & Coverups'

    Third was freemindfade who selected 'Social / News & World Events'

    Fourth was breakfast of champions who decided to go with 'Scandals & Coverups'

    So does that mean we have a winner now?!....

  • steve2

    Thanks for posting this. Little wonder JW organization struggles with a low level of donations from JWs - the JWs themselves are among the lowest income earners! I do wonder that, as time passes and finances become even tighter within the organization, that sheer necessity might force an adjustment on "higher education". Besides, there appear to be more Witnesses who decide for themselves to pursue further education for employment purposes - although these would hardly be classified as "dedicated" Witnesses in the JW sense of the word.

  • ab.ortega

    Thanks for sharing..

  • compound complex
    compound complex

    Good sense and careful planning will always out.

    Those "seat-warming" JWs who were maligned for working full time are sitting pretty, and warm, in their retirement years, while the Old System lingers on and on and . . .

  • LongHairGal


    I was one of those "seat warmers" who was maligned for having a full-time job. It was a little worse than just being maligned. There were people in car groups who would not have a conversation with me!

    Anyway, now I am retired and out of the religion and it makes ZERO difference today that certain individuals shunned me 30+ years ago because I supported myself.

    I'm so grateful I followed my gut instincts and ignored the religion's foolish advice.

    I'm sorry for anybody there who is waking up at a late date realizing they have to do something for their retirement. Good luck to them because the religion certainly doesn't care about them.

  • Doubtfully Yours
    Doubtfully Yours

    Hi y'all,

    In the Spanish side of the WTBTS there is a large group of elderly JWs that are feverously praying for the Kingdom to come oh so soon because they know they won't be able to stay afloat financially when they retire. Some already know they'll never be able to retire, period.

    Well, they'll just become charity cases, like quite a few already are in the cong, thanks to the wonderful policies of this Org.

    Because of this false prophecy fallout, I notice more and more JWs helping their children to obtain higher education. So, at least the this actual generation graduating HS will do better in that regard.


  • Spoletta

    I'm in a congregation with only home schooled kids that are a lost cause, definitely members of the janitor/window washer class.

    My oldest son (degree in computer science) is a ministerial servant in a congregation where the majority of those his age have degrees. It's the "hot" congregation in our district.

    One congregation is depressing, the other a delight. One concentrates on Armageddon to end their misery, the other is enjoying life.

    My hope is that the contrast will wake up many (my son included) to the bad advice the Organization is giving on how to lead a "happy" life.

  • neverendingjourney
    My oldest son (degree in computer science) is a ministerial servant in a congregation where the majority of those his age have degrees. It's the "hot" congregation in our district.

    In my experience, these places usually don't last very long. They're usually done in by a combination of JWs waking up and leaving and outside pressure exerted from embittered forces who aren't going to stand by idly while other JWs operate happily with impunity when they and their families were forced to pay the cost of no college in order to maintain good standing in the organization (If my kids couldn't go to college, it's not fair for others who did go to college to maintain their privileges).

  • breakfast of champions
    breakfast of champions

    Oops! Didn't realize there were other threads started on this and posted in haste. . . .

    Still a good article. Great that this stuff is getting out there.

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