One source describes independent thinking this way:
"One of the primary goals of an educator should be to help students develop the desire and ability to think on their own. Independent thinking is the desire of a person to convince oneself that the information being presented is true or reasonable. An instructor will know that he or she has been successful in fostering independent thinking when his or her class starts asking lots of questions."
Successive "faithful slaves" apparently couldn't agree on whether it was good or bad:
GOOD - w57 8/1 p. 469 par. 7 - Minds work, but in the way that a horse is led. Independent thinking is difficult, unpopular and even suspect.
GOOD - w58 8/1 p. 460 - To ask a sound religious question is a demonstration of lack of faith in God and the church, according to the clergy. As a result, the Irish people do very little independent thinking. They are victims of the clergy and fear.
BAD - w62 9/1 p. 524 par. 22 - The student must express himself as he understands the truth. He cannot have independent thinking.
GOOD - w72 3/15 p. 170 par. 7 - Man possesses a mind and a heart, not controlled automatically by instinct, but capable of independent thinking and reasoning, making plans and decisions, exercising a free will.
BAD - w83 1/15 p. 22 par. 21 - How is such independent thinking manifested? A common way is by questioning the counsel that is provided by God’s visible organization.
REALLY BAD - w83 1/15 p. 27 pars. 19-20 - This is independent thinking. Why is it so dangerous? Such thinking is an evidence of pride. If we get to thinking that we know better than the organization, we should ask ourselves: “Where did we learn Bible truth in the first place? Would we know the way of the truth if it had not been for guidance from the organization? Really, can we get along without the direction of God’s organization?” No, we cannot!
BAD - w87 11/1 p. 19 par. 15 - But inside, they [apostates] are spiritually unclean, having given in to prideful, independent thinking.
Is it any surprise that the WTBTS/CCoJW demonizes higher education?