Narrowly focused, sometimes illiterate

by vienne 18 Replies latest watchtower beliefs

  • vienne

    Three of my sisters - there are five of us - were baptized as Witnesses. One of them has gone from reading voraciously to only reading her textbooks and Watchtower publications. This does not seem to be unusual among Witnesses. I know this is not the only path taken by Witnesses. One of my uncles reads widely and was for some years a professor. But of my relatives, near and rather distant, who have become Witnesses the tendency seems to be a sole focus on the newspaper and Watchtower books. Why is this?

    Also, I notice that many Witnesses have poor grammar. Again, not all, but enough to notice. I realize that the Watchtower discourages a university education. But some Witnesses scramble the English language. Certainly, the Watchtower Society encourages attention to lessons even if they'd rather have their members go on to trade school rather than university. I do not mean that they use casual grammar. Most do that in conversation. I mean their grammar is sometimes so poor that it is hard to follow.

    I am at a loss. I cannot explain this. Your thoughts?

  • Biahi

    Many put forth little to no effort to learn proper English. It’s not “important” enough for them. I was (and still am) a voracious reader, as a kid I read everything I could get my hands on. Which is why I won all the spelling bees in school. 😀

  • Simon

    I think the opposite is likely true, JWs probably have better than average literacy skills - any group that promotes reading of anything is going to develop better skills.

    It doesn't mean everyone is outstanding, there will always be people starting from a low base with a poor education, but I think they will tend to be better off than non JWs in average.

    It's one of the forgotten benefits of being raised a JW, practicing reading a lots.

  • dubstepped

    They are kept so busy reading the copious amount of literature produced that they have little time for anything else. The newspaper is what they read in order to keep up with world events to know when the end is near. Nothing else matters, and they are told this from the platform. Anything else is a waste of time. Let's's a cult. They aren't going to want you doing non-culty things.

    I find that many JWs and ex-JWs write very poorly. Many are home schooled by parents with little education inside a cult that downplays education as having little importance, and their school materials are often little more than cult propaganda. That propaganda gets more simple as they infantilize their followers.

    Many don't read or have any interest in reading because all they're allowed to read growing up are Watchtower publications and their lack of interest means that they simply never read.

    Now it appears that most exposure is to JW videos, so my guess is that reading will become even less important.

  • LeeT

    JW's might have a moderate amount of reading to do, yet in their desire to reach as large an audience as possible, they've made sure they dumb down the material to a remarkably low required reading age.
    Try putting a few sample JW articles through an online readability scorer and compare the results to other non-JW material.

  • FedUpJW

    Also, I notice that many Witnesses have poor grammar.

    I have noticed that also. I mentioned it in passing to an elder some years ago and the reply I got was, "Well, we don't want to give the appearance of being over educated or overly precise. It may offend someone new who does not have a good education and keep them from becoming one of Jehovah's Witnesses."

    My only thought now is that he must have been running ahead of Jehovah's chariot and the organization who now seem to rush to dumb things down to the lowest common denominator.

  • scholar


    I agree with Simon that JW's generally have high literacy skills as shown by the fact that we are a Bible reading and studying community with our publications published in hundreds of languages with a continuing emphasis on literacy.

    Regarding the claim of poor grammar this also I reject because currently JW's are engaged in an extensive letter-writing campaign which gives the individual Witness much practice in the art of writing which includes proper spelling, punctuation, vocabulary, sentence structure and grammar. Further, because of the internet, a Witness is able to publish posts on various forums which again demand a high degree of literacy and the simple fact that in Western countries Witness youths have completed High School which was not the case when I was in my youth wherein our generation completed the required primary School prior to leaving for employment at mid-teens

    scholar JW emeritus.

  • Rivergang

    I think the point Simon made was certainly true in the days of Frederick Franz, when Watchtower articles used such words as "revivify" (and we all had to consult the Oxford Dictionary to confirm that there was indeed such a word in the English vocabulary!).

    When I first started attending Kingdom Hall meetings in the late 1960s, the JWs were fastidious about grammar and pronunciation - certainly in the congregation I was with, anyway. However, towards the end of my time with the JWs (in the late 1980s), there seemed to have developed an absolute aversion to using any words "bigger than marmite", with a clear preference for those of single syllables. Together with that, it was no longer a punishable offence to make a grammatical error in ones speech.

    Since breaking with them in the mid-1990s, I have had very minimal contact with the JWs, and have read very little of their printed matter.

    Vienne may well be right.

  • FedUpJW

    Anyone care to wager that the (I would suppose mostly frustrated) JW down voting posts will be back and thumb down the two comments immediately after my last one as soon as they login again?

  • vienne

    I'm not certain that writing letters improves anyone's grammar. It can just as easily reinforce bad habits by repeating an error many times. Posts on the internet? You meant that as a joke - I hope. Read twitter or face book and tell me that again. The typical facebook post is questionable. Read some of the comments on this board written by Witness trained people. Writing posts has not improve their writing ability.

    That your "community" publishes much literature in many languages says nothing about the grammar of your congregants, some of whom do not understand what they read. And it reinforces my comments on the narrow focus of many Witnesses. Note that I did not say the majority. Just 'many.'

    And I make this additional assertion: The Watchtower fears an informed, questioning believer. They view them with suspicion.

    Completing high school is not a guarantee of anything. Many U.S. colleges have sub 100 level courses to bring students up to an acceptable level. Mind you, that's not to make them grammarians, just approximately competent report and essay writers.

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