Skirmish #50017: “I see that you not supporting this [dumbing down] trend in Organization, but that is how it is

Srecko: “Simplified editions of text in WTJWORG publications is normal result and normal need, not just for poorly educated secular people, but because  WTJWORG advises only few years of standard, basic education for JW members as something that is ALL they need in this World without Future...I see that you not supporting this trend in Organization, but that is how it is”

 

And it is how it always has been. And it is how it must be.

The “uneducated and ordinary” governing men of Acts 4:13 always remained uneducated and ordinary. The “For you see his calling of you, brothers, that there are not many wise in a fleshly way” of 1 Corinthians 1:26 always remained the case. The “wise and intellectual ones” that do not think Jesus’ teaching worth their time never reconsider their view.

Those identifying themselves as Christian are often embarrassed over this, and seek to present it as a distressing circumstance that they grew out of—“Yes, we may have started out lowly, but look at how we have pulled ourselves up by our own bootstraps!” they say. They should not reason this way.

If the education of this world was worth the paper it was printed on, it would have been reflected in better conditions today. Surely today’s education model must take responsibility for the world is has collectively created. Very seldom are national leaders poorly educated. Typically they have gone to the finest universities.

Usually when something doesn’t work, it is discarded. In the case of “education,” however, the assumption is that more of it is needed—education is the way out, its advocates say. 

Generally speaking, those of the greater world are smarter than us. However, most of their schemes will come to nothing because they do not know how to get along; they do not know how to overcome greed; they do not know how to overcome class division or racial division. They sell what knowledge that they do have—you’d better have substantial funds on hand, or plan on going into deep debt—to benefit from their knowledge. One “educated” person in the Witness organization is worth 50 in the overall world because there are neither pay walls nor turf wars where they have come to call home. They discard the baggage of education that so plainly has not worked and cherry-pick the parts—subjects of pure practicality and applied science—that do work.

A main subtheme that lies just below the surface of those who look down upon Witnesses is the latter’s sense of superiority due to having “higher” education—elitism is as strong as any force, and as misplaced, as any of the other ones that divide people and keep them from reaching but a fraction of their potential.

***

Now when they saw the outspokenness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and ordinary men, they were astonished. And they began to realize that they had been with Jesus.” Acts 4:13

For you see his calling of you, brothers, that there are not many wise in a fleshly way, not many powerful, not many of noble birth,  but God chose the foolish things of the world to put the wise men to shame; and God chose the weak things of the world to put the strong things to shame;”

“At that time Jesus said in response: “I publicly praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and intellectual ones and have revealed them to young children.” Matthew 11:25

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photo:my desk to back right, by NJ tech teacher

 
 

 

 

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Education

Two of the four Witnesses who testified at the April 20th Moscow trial were highly educated. Probably they were selected for just that reason. If the world understands nothing but education, give it to them in spades. But the 50/50 mix at the trial is atypical. For every college trained person among the Witnesses, there are ten who are not. Some say it is that way by design—that the Witness organization wants people to remain uneducated and thereby be easier to influence.

The accusation misses the point. If it is that way with education, it has always been that way with Christianity as portrayed in the Bible. It is even deliberately that way on God’s part, and it can be taken as a taunt at the world’s collective wisdom that has so blatantly failed to provide peace, security, and well-being. “For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in the eyes of God, for it is written ‘He catches the wise in their own ruses,’ and again ‘The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain,’” say the verses.1 Is there anywhere that wisdom is to be found more than in in its system of higher education? Surely that system must take ownership of the world it has collectively produced.

Celsus, a philosopher of the second century, made great sport of ridiculing Christians. They were “labourers, shoemakers, farmers, the most uninformed and clownish of men.”2 The apostle Paul would not have been embarrassed by this. On the contrary, he agrees: “Not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. Rather, God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong.”3 Jesus passes it off as almost a grand trick to those who are too full of themselves to notice: “I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike. Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will.”4

Many modern writers seemingly are embarrassed by these humble beginnings and will gloss over the unpleasantness, as though to say “Okay, they may have started lowly, but look how they pulled themselves up!” They strive to qualify the uneducated roots. They are embarrassed about them. For example, Edward D. Andrews explains it away by writing: “Celsus was an enemy of Christianity … what Celsus observed is only within the sphere of his personal experiences. How many Christians could he have known out of almost a million at the times of his writing?” [italics mine]5 Do not these remarks reflect a cultural bias that it is the educated people who most matter? You do not want to be portrayed as a religion of dumbbells. You must leave such humiliating circumstances behind if you are to rise in popular esteem.

First-century Christianity primarily drew from the lower rungs of society. In time, it apostatized and thereby made itself more attractive to the more elevated rungs, but it has not been that way from the beginning. The “uneducated” and “ordinary” men who formed the very leadership of the new faith ever remain uneducated and ordinary.6 Christianity is a ‘working-class’ religion. It thrives on humility. The more education of this world a person has, the greater the assault on that quality, and the more likely such ones will accept only a modified version of the faith that will fit their terms. Jehovah’s Witnesses are nothing if not ones who hold to the original model. Celsus’ words should not be shied away from. They should be embraced as the template that would forever define true Christianity. If God had wanted to cater to the ‘accomplished’ crowd back then, he would have arranged that his Son be born at the Jerusalem Hyatt instead of the Bethlehem Manger. The fact that he didn’t demonstrates that he doesn’t just ‘put up’ with the ‘lower rungs’—he “chooses” them over the higher ones.

Can the higher rungs really be that high?  Would not the world they have collectively built be much more livable if they were? Pure academic muscle carries little weight with God, much less the credentials that the world defers to. The twelve were decidedly not intellectuals. They were “workmen” who had learned to handle the Word aright.7 Paul had intellectual credibility, with advanced education for his time, but he took direction from the workmen. His lasting stature is not that he was an in-house thinker. He was primarily a doer, whereas the “superapostles” who were always trying to thwart him, boasting of their own credentials, were not.8

It is unfair to say that the Christian congregation has contempt for contemporary education, a charge sometimes made. But it is fair to say it doesn’t allow itself to be shoved around by it. The offerings of human wisdom are ever inconstant, ever arguable, and occasionally downright stupid. The organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses looks to Scripture for basic training in life. “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that one who belongs to God may be competent, equipped for every good work” is their mission statement with regard to education.9

Surely it is fair to demand proof that this world’s educational system delivers the goods it advertises.  If its end result is a planet tearing itself apart at the seams, with extinction an acknowledged possibility, must one not ask of its driving education model: What good is it? Jehovah’s Witnesses unify, dignify, pacify, and harness the activity of persons from every background of race, nationality, social and financial strata. Should this world’s education not produce comparable results before it is hailed as the be-all and end-all? If the swirling mass of humanity should disappear down the giant flush of a washbasin, it will hardly matter how educated each individual imagines himself to be.

Jehovah’s Witnesses do not neglect education. They redefine it. The general model of this world’s education is to focus on training of the intellect, with the apparent assumption that moral qualities will take care of themselves. Of course, history testifies that they do not, and their absence results in the undoing or even the turning to harm much of what its education brings about. Frankly, unless people have proved themselves to be of good heart, you are frequently better off not educating them—they can do less damage that way. If janitors and car wash attendants had run the financial world back in 2007, they might have figured out a way to beat the taxpayers out of a day’s wage. As it was, highly educated MBAs ran it and they found a way to sink all future generations into intractable debt.

It is surprising that so little attention is payed to moral training in the greater education models of the world. One can only suppose it is because those who mold it can agree on no common foundation upon what to base it upon. Jehovah’s Witnesses take it as a given that the Bible fulfills that role. They focus on the moral training to be found in that textbook from the Creator. By doing so, they are not filling in the gaps of education. They are providing its underpinnings. The lessons of the heart are those that are essential. The lessons of the head can be added on an as-needed basis. Bible education alone will not teach you the practical skills required for specific tasks, of course. There, Jehovah’s Witnesses look to offerings in the world’s educational system, which they cherry-pick.

Bible curriculum forms the core of a Witness’s moral training. The great ideas of this world are but footnotes for them—electives. Peruse them if you wish, but they are hardly requirements. After all, if the Greeks form the cradle of civilization, for Western nations, they also form the cradle of pedophilia. The grooming of young boys for sexual purposes was an enshrined component of that society.10 One wonders how today’s rationalists—adoring the ancient Greeks, but abhorring child sexual abuse—will ultimately resolve this bit of cognitive dissonance. Will they finally excuse the sexual abuse as just ‘one of those things,’ or will they haul the Greek perverts, the very heroes of critical thinking, off into infamy? Historian Robin Osborne has acknowledged that “historical discussion of paiderastia is complicated by 21st-century moral standards.”11 Indeed it is.

When Jehovah’s Witnesses look to Scripture for “training in righteousness,” they do no more than recognize that God made us, not we ourselves. If you want to best maintain your fine new vehicle, you read the new vehicle’s owner’s manual. The Witness organization does no more than disseminate the owner’s manual for the vehicle that is us. Take too much to heart of the higher education owners’ manual and you risk prematurely ruining the car. Four years or more of such education will reliably both plant and nurture thinking corrosive to Christianity. Students, over time, are conditioned to look to humans for the answers, as the only ones having it within their power to fix things. They learn of myriad government models to select from, and myriad philosophes. Also, they learn of myriad business, science, and cultural models. Surely something will work if we can just find the right blend. They are influenced to think of God as a human construct. Serious belief is unfashionable. Bland belief is permissible, the sort that repackages human thinking as religion, though even that is looked at askance. ‘The concept of God evolved because the dregs of any clan must be kept in check,’ they say. However, the dregs fight back at any human check, creating societal disharmony, so a superhuman check—a God with whom you can’t fight—is evolutionarily preferable.12

Students are conditioned that man is naturally good. If you can but isolate the cream of human wisdom you cannot go wrong. They are influenced to absorb the intoxicating air of independence along with its corollary that almost the most foolish thing people can do is to let someone else direct them; loyalty to any group of persons is suspect. Authority is problematic. Question it. Acquiesce to nothing until it can answer every question. Personal fulfillment will likely be lauded as the highest goal. Career will come first. Family will be what you choose to make it. Marriage will be a relic of the past. Should you choose to enter it, certainly do not be cowed into thinking it is permanent.

The prime teachings of the greater world’s education are deleterious to Christianity, yet they constitute the air breathed at universities today. Details may vary from country to country, as does the local degree air and water pollution, but they are the essence of the liberal arts woven into most curricula. Should Jehovah’s Witnesses be eager to throw their offspring under the bus of such education? The world is a tortured mass of cognitive dissonance, ever struggling to reconcile its cherished teachings of life with the chaotic mess they have collectively produced. ‘Why shovel our kids into the maw of that monster?’ Witnesses reason. Direct them somewhere with happier outcome.

One might even turn the tables and call the higher education route a route of brainwashing, a charge that has been made against the Witnesses themselves. Does one really become a Witness through brainwashing? If so, there are far better examples, and college is foremost among them. Students are separated nearly 24/7 on campus from all that once stabilized them—a classic time-tested tool of brainwashing. The phrase says it all: a college student is “in college”—living  in the dormitory, in the dining hall, in the social haunts, and in the classrooms on campus, in a setting atypical and unacquainted.

Such brainwashing, if we should call it that, is all the more effective because its nature is veiled. Pursuing college education is no more controversial than pursuing regular health care. It is a thoroughly conventional course of action, portrayed almost as a rite of passage into adulthood. In contrast, persons who study the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses know full well that they are straying off the beaten path. They do it because they perceive that the beaten path is leading nowhere, but they invariably know they are going atypical. Still, even as they do it, they are grounded 95% of the time in their familiar routine and surroundings, as opposed to college life, where everything is new and unfamiliar. If one must bandy about the ‘brainwashing’ label, the trick is not to deny that Jehovah’s Witnesses do it. The trick is to point out that the world’s education does it to a far greater degree and with some ideas that are far more deleterious.

What persons who accuse Jehovah’s Witnesses of brainwashing find most objectionable is something that has nothing to do with brainwashing. It is the conclusions Witnesses come to that rankle, not their process of coming to them. The process is straightforward, plainly labeled, and more easily discontinued in the event of second thoughts than is college, since the latter has often taken great financial commitment and generated social expectations. However, those who would style themselves as thinkers today pride themselves on never shutting down ideas, for that would be to show themselves intolerant. They feel it better to cloak attacks of their ideas as attacks on the ‘unfair’ process of reaching them. If you dislike the kingdom message, you will dislike the organization that facilitates its spread. It is no more complicated than that.

Few things in this world are less tricky than choosing to become a Witness. One cannot do so without a lengthy period of voluntary study, seldom lasting less than a year in the U.S. It is not a religion where one can impulsively ‘come down and be saved.’ The one who studies the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses remains always in familiar routine, save for a personal home Bible study, congregation meetings and a social gathering or two. One is always in control of one’s destiny.

 

As an example of a deleterious idea that will be planted in most systems of higher education, consider the foundation upon which children have historically been raised—that of monogamous marriage. Surely the nurture of children is a foundation of humanity. The Bible zealously advertises and guards marriage as the institution to build life around. The higher education of this world is unafraid to experiment with it and is apt to recommend jettisoning it altogether. “We struggle with monogamy—is it time to abandon it altogether?” postulates New Scientist.13 “Monogamy evolved to keep baby-killers away,” pitches another article,14 and now it works against us. “Women only stay with men for security, and men only stay with women for sex. It’s a cynical view of human relationships, but researchers now say it is the driving force behind the evolution of monogamy—and women started it. By offering sex all the time, females in monogamous species disguise whether they are fertile and trick males into sticking around.”15

Is this the reason people cannot hold together a marriage to save their lives? Is it evolution that, long ago, coerced the women to play a mean trick on the men? If so, it is time to move on, these writers for New Scientist seem to argue. There are no longer predators to eat our children—at least not in the literal sense. Why behave as though they were? Why feel guilty when it is time to ‘move on’? That’s just religion trying to guilt us with its evolutionary manmade gods. We do not want to feel bad about ourselves—it is bad for self-esteem. We want to feel good about ourselves, for man is ‘naturally good’ and should not be made to feel bad unnecessarily. Make no mistake: there is a strong emotional appeal to such news ideas, which lies entirely apart from their scientific merit. And how are the children to fare? They’ll adjust, is the apparent afterthought. Seen in this light, Russia’s Order of Family Glory is a quaint relic of the past and will eventually be phased out.

This new branch of science, called evolutionary psychology, purports to explain how men came to prefer physically attractive women in the first place. A low waist-hip ratio—say .70 or so—is associated with good health and thereby fertility.16 One can almost picture such favored creatures as having convenient shelves upon which to balance many babies, without which she is prone to drop and kill them all. It helps in the struggle for survival to have such a figure, and that it how preference for it came to be encoded in the very DNA of men. It is the very reason male eyes and heads snap about in the presence of a pretty woman. They wouldn’t be perceived as pretty were it not for the dictates of human survival.

Is there really any proof for this or is it not merely the biblical equivalent of “fables fit for old women?”17 Only an Internet search will convince the person of common sense that the above models are real and not mere joking on the part of this writer—for here is offered nary a hint of the scientific method that we all learned in school was the very hallmark of science. As pure speculation, the biblical equivalent of which the Witness organization advises members against getting too caught up in, it may be tolerable. But it is taken as cutting-edge science. Your children will learn the underpinnings, if not the specific teaching, amidst their diet of higher learning. They may even be subject to written exams, where they have to spit the nonsense back to the professor.

From time to time in Watchtower literature one can read that the Bible does not disagree with “true science.” Plainly, Witnesses do not regard the above as “true science.” They regard it as the fraudulent kind, as indeed they do the all-encompassing framework of evolution. But that is not to say they reject every aspect of it. The typical Witness parent sees that evolution chart and wants to turn that parade of ascending ape-like creatures about and march them right back into the slime from whence they came. But he must take care. We are not the religionists who put dinosaurs on the Kentucky ark.18

Watchtower publications speak of the days of creation as [redacted] and the time preceding as [redacted] since Scripture does not insist upon “day” being the 24-hour variety.19 Witnesses refrain from instructing scientists on their own turf. A lot can happen in epochs and aeons. If God churned out living creatures as an assembly line churns out automobiles—well, that he could easily do in a 24-hour day. So what is the point of the epochs and aeons? In 2006, Awake Magazine interviewed scientist and author Michael Behe, who accepts evolution in the main, but stipulates that it has limits.20 They would not have done that if the two hated each other’s guts, would they?

No one is being dogmatic, here. Science is accommodated to the maximum extent without ignoring Scripture, which Jehovah’s Witnesses consider the most reliable guide to life. The 2010 brochure Was Life Created? states [redacted]21 Thus the Witnesses’ current view allows for what is described as micro-evolution (within a kind) but not macro-evolution (outside of a kind). But ‘implies’ is not an ironclad word, is it? The point is, for the Christian, if the time element for developing life is indeed epochs and aeons, you need not squabble much with scientists who describe them. Let scientists be scientists and Bible teachers be Bible teachers. Vast areas of conflict disappear, though certainly not all. Resolve your ‘cognitive dissonance’ by saying ‘I don’t have to know everything just now.’

Jehovah’s Witnesses call theirs ‘divine education.’ Their Governing Body is ever dubious of the latest offerings from the intellectuals, since they know much of it will prove to be the “every wind of teaching arising from human trickery” of Bible verse. It will be “profane babbling and the absurdities of so-called knowledge” that “by professing it, some people have deviated from the faith.” It will be the waterless clouds and the cisterns that leak. It will be the pit that the blind lead the blind into—for ideas have repercussions. It will be things of atheism, of self-determination, of moral experimentation, and of amoral evolution.22 It will be the things furthering the cause of nationalism. It is not Jehovah’s Witnesses who feed the war machine with millions of their young, thereby ensuring there will never be peace. Neither is it Jehovah’s Witnesses whose values result in millions of lives lost to drug abuse, tobacco deaths, or overdrinking; their education safeguards against such things. For every quality-of-life ‘glitch’ that exists among Jehovah’s Witnesses, the greater world has fifty.

‘We hold these truths to be self-evident,’ begins the American Declaration of Independence, ‘that all men are created equal.’ But to those raised on a diet of evolutionist rationalist thinking, it is not at all self-evident. What is self-evident is the chief ape of ‘2001 – A Space Odyssey’ realizing that it can wield a club and wallop the daylights out of the other apes. What is self-evident is the children’s game King of the Mountain, in which the victor shoves rivals aside so as to take their place.

In contrast to current educational models, it is the Bible that makes equality self-evident. “He made from one the whole human race to dwell on the entire surface of the earth,” it says, “and he fixed the ordered seasons and the boundaries of their regions, so that people might seek God, even perhaps grope for him and find him.”23 If there is one thing that even the most ferocious opponents of Jehovah’s Witnesses will agree upon, it is that the faith has proved successful in realizing equality among members. The non-Witness world enjoys little success in this regard. It ought not be surprising. The Witnesses’ prime education model makes clear that all are equal. Outside the Witness world is an evolutionistic origin-of-life view that makes clear that they are not. Why should not Christians focus on the former rather than the latter?

 

Bible knowledge was long deemed indispensable to a well-rounded life. That has changed only in recent decades, as persons have redefined ‘well-rounded’ and have divorced themselves from their historical roots. The range of human knowledge today becomes exceptionally broad but correspondingly shallow. Typical, and a foremost example, of the past is Abraham Lincoln, who peppered his speeches and papers with biblical references. To his son questioning, as any reasonable child can be expected to do, why he needed go to Sunday School, he said: “‘Every educated person should know something about the Bible and the Bible stories, Tad.”24

Historian Michael Nelson wrote: “For all his mockery, Lincoln was consumed by religion as a subject, as well as by the Bible, a book that all of his biographers agree he had read and studied assiduously since his youth. Although disdainful of Christianity in its cruder, frontier forms, Lincoln seems to have been open to, even seeking, an account of the faith that rang true on grounds of reason and justice.”25

The farmer does not begin hoeing out the weeds until the harvest-time. Even Abraham Lincoln was not able to make things out; he was ahead of the curve. He had great respect for the Word, but incomplete understanding. The time was not yet right. Persons were not yet roving about. To a friend, Lincoln gave the best advice he could: “Take all of this book upon reason that you can and the balance on faith, and you will live and die a happier and better man.”26 27  

The theme of John 3:16 has ever reverberated through history: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” Even though persons could not explain just how that worked, they knew the verse nonetheless. Few did, and do, know ‘just how that works’—church doctrine is so convoluted that most reasonable persons give up searching and acquiesce to a science-absorbed world that declares it is all nonsense.

One of the benefits of Jehovah’s Witnesses is that they do know ‘just how that works’ and they are ever ready to explain it, sometimes to people’s dismay as they see them yet again traipsing up the driveway. There was once a saying among Witnesses that new ones ought to be locked up for six months until their zeal was tempered by common sense. It is not to their credit that they know what they know. They simply live in the right time period and have accepted the invitation to explore words “kept secret and sealed until the end time.”28

In a nutshell, Paul’s letter to the Corinthians says it all: “So, too, it is written, ‘The first man, Adam has become a living being,’ the last Adam a life-giving spirit…The first man was from the earth, earthly; the second man, from heaven.” Per the model that is Bible teaching, Adam pulled the plug on himself when he disobeyed God, and the blades of a fan disconnected slow down. He and all his offspring lost out on life which could have been to time indefinite. No succeeding man can undo the damage, for they have not the perfect status that Adam forfeited. Only if another perfect man comes upon the scene and acts as Adam might have does it become possible to repair the damage. That man is Jesus, the ‘last Adam,’ who exactly counterbalances the first. To ones putting faith in God’s ‘swap,’ the hope of life indefinite can yet be attained, after all the other consequences of Adamic rebellion are undone.29

This makes the sense only if one discards the Trinity doctrine. If Jesus is equated to God, and not a perfect man, it all becomes an incomprehensible muddle. Fortunately, discarding the Trinity doctrine is not hard to do scripturally, though politically, it is next to impossible. The doctrine lives only by taking certain phrases, which in any other context would instantly be recognized as figure of speech, literally.30 Among those of the Orthodox Church, the ban of Jehovah’s Witnesses is greatly welcomed—though they seek to clarify that they did not instigate it—due to the Witness’s rejection of the Trinity doctrine. For example, Church Metropolitan Hilarion said of the Witnesses that “they deform Christ’s teaching and falsely interpret the Gospel. Their doctrine contains many lies: they do not believe in Jesus Christ as God and Savior [he is correct on the first but incorrect on the second], they do not recognize the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, and therefore cannot be called Christians.”31 (brackets mine) Most churches would reiterate his statement, though not necessarily with his venom—that is how central the Trinity doctrine is. Jehovah’s Witnesses reject it with an understanding that it is impossible to draw close to God with that as a default belief.

Hampered by doctrines that made little sense, the Trinity being but one, when scientists began calling into question the existence of God—in contrast to Galileo, Kepler, and Newton, who thought their discoveries glorified God by uncovering his ‘handiwork’32—churches had little to fight back with. They did not wish to miss this latest wind of intellectual thought, so the mainline churches acquiesced to whatever scientists said they must. Manifestly, the teaching of human evolution makes the explanation of a first and second Adam nonsense. What is gained by the embrace of such teaching is a certain esteem in the eyes of contemporary educated ones. What is lost is the key to the meaning of life.

 

A certain Watchtower article considered for congregation study spotlights a ‘flying scroll’ that Zechariah saw in vision.33 It consists of a condemnation of theft on one side and of perjury on the other. Immediately beneath the Watchtower paragraph is a photo of a teen looking shifty at a boutique, as though she is about to pocket an item. One critic disdains this literal and mundane application of a vision sent all the way from heaven, and so quickly seeks to shift it to a ‘higher’ one that one suspects she steals from boutiques herself. In fact, it does seem a trivial application; most would agree. However, it fits well with the context of the paragraph, which is a discussion of the “spiritual paradise” that Jehovah’s Witnesses say they enjoy. To that end, it offers a practical example of theft that young people especially will identify with. It does not take much to destroy a paradise. One sicko inserted one razor blade in one apple and the celebration of Halloween changed forever.

At the Regional Convention I can drop my wallet and with near certainty know it will turn up at the lost and found. Can I do that outside of the spiritual paradise? There is a reasonable chance that the wallet will come back to me. But with the money intact? Unlikely. It may happen. But I will not hold my breath. My wallet did come back when I dropped it during a visit to Canada. (It is no picnic getting back across the border without it.) Someone took the trouble to contact me upon my return in the States and arrange its return. I appreciated it. But when I asked about the money within, he said: “What money?”

Teaching not to steal at a very mundane level is the very stuff of Christianity. It is what makes all the rest of it work. I both admire the Governing Body and suspect they are somewhat naive in that they teach what needs to be taught without regard for self-appointed experts who will invariably seize upon their material and beat them over the head with it. They need better public relations: PR. Or maybe they don't. Maybe it is just me who thinks they do. Jesus didn’t seem too concerned about public relations, either. Maybe it should just be taken for granted that they will fare no better than did their counterparts in the first century, representing a “sect” which was “denounced everywhere.”

Besides, they might not even know that detractors make mincemeat of their lessons. They take their own counsel, which is the Bible’s counsel; they don’t go there to check out what the detractors have to say. They are like Jesus, who observed one set of scoundrels slandering him one way and another set slandering him just the opposite way. ‘Don’t worry about it,’ is his advice. “Wisdom is vindicated by her works.” He is like David. All day long they would mutter evil things about him, and he just kept his mouth shut, declining to answer.34

Others would be embarrassed to teach such a childlike lesson of theft at a meeting primarily attended by adults, for Jehovah’s Witnesses do not separate their children into Sunday Schools. But the lesson is not beneath the grown-ups. Adults are ever inclined to dismiss the childish application so as to conduct sophisticated debate over a greater application—and then they pinch a scarf or tie clasp from the boutique on their way home.

 

At another congregation meeting is featured another lesson so basic that few would call it education. Yet for lack of application of it and a few dozen other spiritual themes, so much of the world’s education results in naught. It allows a glimpse into brilliant possibilities and then torpedoes it because its participants cannot get along.

The video shown was entitled Remove the Rafter.35 It featured a disgruntled member who thought most of his congregation a bunch of sheltered oddities. Even if they were, he came to realize in the end that the only one he could change was himself. As the Bible verse he was considering, in order to give his assigned student talk, faded onscreen, two words remained a split second longer than the others: ‘splinter’ and ‘beam.’ This happened three times, and on the third, the word ‘hypocrite’ also remained. It is Jesus’ words he considers: “Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove that splinter from your eye,’ while the wooden beam is in your eye? You hypocrite, remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye.”36

At first glance, it is a slick move from the Watchtower video directors. But it is meant to illustrate a slick move upon the heart. The reason those two words remained, and then three, is that his heart was yet soft enough for them to register—having benefited from previous divine education. A hardened person would not have responded that way. The brother allowed the scripture to mold him. This is how God trains in the congregation, but it would all have been lost upon one who’s heart was molded primarily by this world’s education. Imagine how differently history might read if this verse was a staple of education, and not just a dreamy footnote. With Jehovah’s Witnesses, it is a staple.

‘That’s it?’ detractors will ask. ‘That’s your education?’ That, and the flying Zechariah scroll? Yes. It is part of the foundation and it ensures that anything resting upon it will enjoy success. It is the reason Jehovah’s Witnesses get along and thereby can accomplish things that the general world cannot. It is no credit to them. It is Miss Daisy telling her grown but illiterate chauffer that, as a teacher, she taught some of the dumbest children God ever put on his green earth, yet they could all read by the time she was finished with them.37 It is purely a result of absorbing one’s education. It is the same happenstance as “they will beat their spears into plowshares,” the Isaiah passage adorning the U.N. building. It translates into a way of life for Jehovah’s Witnesses, rather than mere rousing words.

Do opponents of Jehovah’s Witnesses recognize the value of such Bible teachings as the splinter and the beam? No. They assume the organization is using it as ‘mind control,’ an encouragement to ‘overlook whatever sinister things we may be up to—we’ll party while you slave!’ One wonders how adults can become so adolescent. When the Witness Governing Body presents Bible teachings, they expose themselves to it first. They not only recognize it as training from God; they also recognize that they themselves are the ones who need it most, since their actions affect the most people.

The selected articles in the study edition of the Watchtower Magazine used for weekly study of the Bible are more than an outline but less than a complete article. In a pinch, they can stand as one. In fact, they certainly will, for they will take their place in the accumulated volume. But they are not primarily intended that way. Their first use is to facilitate congregation discussion of whatever spiritual theme is under consideration. They could be likened to flour, which does not become a cake until you mix in the other ingredients—the individual comments of congregation members. Afterwards, their work done, the articles are absorbed into the archives, where they may seem curiously abridged. Their primary value was realized at the congregation meeting. There they served to train the hearts which ultimately drive the heads.

 

Scientists identify four fundamental forces of nature: the strong and weak nuclear force, gravity, and the electromagnetic force. For 99.9% of the earth’s population, these are irrelevant and there is only a fifth that must be understood: the force of sexual attraction. God didn’t want to revisit Adam and Eve after a few hundred years, discover them on a barren planet, and hear them say “Oh, we were supposed to do that? I guess we plumb forgot. Sorry.” Sexual attraction is the most crucial force to understand, even if it is not of the Four. Pursue the four if you like—and it is good for human knowledge that some do. However, the typical youngster will never approach a black hole of outer space to see the four forces interact. He or she will approach the black hole of sexual attraction that his seemingly overcautious parents have probably told him about. Intrigued by an awakening of desire, he gingerly approaches. All seems inviting, tantalizing—what is this fuss that the old people have carried on about? He edges closer and closer until its sudden irresistible pull grabs and stretches him into a two-mile strand of spaghetti.

A force so strong and capable of bringing so much joy must be understood and harnessed, for it can easily be misused and cause misery. It is underappreciated how sexual attraction has been a major driver of history. Understanding the interaction of the sexes should not be a footnote to education, as it usually is today, but should be among its centerpieces; let the four brainy forces be the footnotes for interested ones to pursue if they like. Jehovah’s Witnesses are among the minority of religions holding that sexual relations should be reserved for married persons. For the sake of the general world, this writer will concede that it can be more-or-less managed where there are stable monogamous relationships. However, depend upon higher education to undermine even this stabilizing model. Wish ‘good luck’ to the world enforcing its new outrage over sexual harassment while overall continuing to hype sex at every opportunity via a hookup culture in which it is recreation absent commitment—it will need it.

When the greater world finally wakes up to a moral problem, as it has with sexual harassment, it wildly overacts. Sexual liaisons, involving various degrees of coercion and sobriety, are reinterpreted as rape. Harassment and what was once called ‘getting fresh’ are equated with rape. Complementing a woman’s appearance is even interpreted as harassment by some.38 How will it resolve? It is too soon to tell. Suffice it to say that the Witness environment is one of the few environments where men can be expected to behave. They will hear about it if they don’t. It is a result of their education. The occasional miscreant can expect serious chastisement.

Less than two years ago I wrote a book entitled Tom Irregardless and Me, in which I speculated facetiously: “AI robots and VR porn promise sex so steamy that it’s feared people will lose interest in the real thing. Is the world to end with a fizzle, and not a bang, as its inhabitants neglect procreation?” The ‘prediction’ becomes less facetious by the minute. Since then, the robotic sex doll industry has exploded. Robots of both male and female anatomy can easily ‘outperform’ their human counterparts. In a world that neglects to teach men and women how to relate with one another—its mainstream education simply doesn’t go there—many can be expected to forget all about the real thing and take refuge in robots. No matter how whacky the Revelation scenarios become of humans threatening to destroy the planet, modern humanity can always manage to top them.

It is better to stick with the Bible teaching that marriage is a divine institution and listen to its counsel on how to hold it together through thick and thin. You don’t follow your ‘inner caveman’ and move on periodically, even though evolution ‘says’ you can.39 The mainline sophisticated church, with occasional exception, is ready to accommodate the latest wind of thinking—sometimes eventually, sometimes immediately. Evolution they dare not defy, for they do not want to lose more credibility than they already have with this world’s educated people. While not (in most cases) declaring marriage invalid, they adopt popular ways of thinking that make it all but untenable for the long haul. By dereliction of duty, the Church ensures the unhappiness of young people. It virtually ensures they will neither find nor remain with a marriage partner. ‘Let us see how we can incorporate this or that bold new enlightenment,’ it frequently says, rather than toting it out straightaway to the curb where it often belongs.

 

The world does not make it easy for its education to be had a la carte, as Witnesses prefer. It does not want to give just the diamonds one needs. It wants to mix them with the turds of corrosive teachings that have collectively sunk the overall world. Jehovah’s Witnesses do their best to cherry-pick. Sometimes they cherry-pick at the college and sometimes they do so elsewhere. Why not simply accept it all in a package of higher education? Why not just spit out the turds of corrosive teachings later? Alas, we are not built that way. We absorb the atmosphere in which we are immersed. Not so if we are in it for but a brief time. But if it becomes our environment for years at a stretch, then absorb it we do. At seventeen, one is still but a child, with values that are far from stabilized.

Unless your grades are in the toilet, the school apparatus is unlikely to bless your plans not to roll over a 12th year of schooling into an automatic 13th, for they fear you may fall off the rails of career and never remount. Believe me, Witnesses know about this. Their organization, in contrast, unabashedly invites youngsters into full-time service to God as an activity right as rain, often directly out of high school. Youthful activity in the ministry can run concurrently with continued education and complement it. The general encouragement is to view the Christian ministry as one’s vocation and the requisite skills to support oneself in it an avocation. Are you, as a youngster, averse to instructing ones two or three times your age? Share what you know in the ministry and let them share with you whatever they wish. You will know what is poisonous and what is not. If you are unsure, take it in sips.

People and families differ. Not all take up the Watchtower’s invitation for a full ministry straight from high school. Families with a tradition of college often continue in that model; some circumvent the 24/7 pitfalls of higher education by commuting from home. Furthermore, academic offerings, requirements, and environments vary from place to place. Nothing is cast in stone regarding Witnesses and overall education. Sometimes after an interval, Witness adults will return to college with a specific goal in mind. But seldom is it the goal of a Witness family of lesser means to send their first child ever to college so as to lay hold of a life that was closed to the parents. Frequently it is the goal to have that child pioneer. Telling and preparing persons for the ‘true life’40 is the main goal of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The secular education that they choose seldom disregards that overall purpose.

‘A la carte’ can come in the mysterious ways that God is sometimes said (not by Witnesses) to work himself. This writer stumbled across a BBC list of the top 100 important books of all time. I discovered that I had read over half. No other commenter had read more. Is it boasting to slip this into the book? Hardly. Take it as an invitation to be a janitor, for it is while so employed that I ‘read’ most of them via the Books on Tape service. On Twitter, I came across a CEO who grumbled: “Stupid janitor forgot to leave an extra roll of toilet paper – I’m screwed.” I tweeted back: “I read 54 of the BBC’s top 100 books as a janitor via Books on Tape. Sorry about the toilet paper.” There are even people who deliberately choose menial work so as to not turn their minds over to ‘The Man’—corporate or government interests. The Man may reward you materially, but he does not do so without demanding your soul. One can always read the great works, if one has a desire to, on one’s own, free from the indoctrination of the world’s educational system.

They wouldn’t let my homeschooled son read when he briefly forayed into public schooling; it was ever workbooks for him. When he later entered community college, they declared his math skills age-appropriate and his reading skills “off the charts.” “I had no idea that there were so many stupid people,” he innocently remarked later. How can they not be stupid? The intellectual diet of this system of things is one of pop culture, transitory trends, and video games. He had never been denied those things; he had simply been directed to keep them in their place. And nobody on the homeschool front gave two hoots about workbooks. He could read all day if he wanted to and sometimes he did. “He reads?” exclaimed a local educator, an ally, to my wife who had asked what she should do. He then ventured: “Don’t do anything.” Do not mess up that formula.”

The notion of Witnesses ‘redefining’ education does not come unchallenged in a world long used to another model. The Bible describes life under God’s kingdom rule as ‘the life that is true life.’ What does that say as to this life? Take the Bible too seriously and one will assuredly experience kickback from the model that holds that this life is all there is. A 2017 National Public Radio report was entitled ‘Lack of Education Leads To Lost Dreams And Low Income For Many Jehovah’s Witnesses.’41 The writers had found former Witnesses who lamented that they had not gone to college while they were in the faith; their parents and most in the congregation had discouraged it. Some had attended after leaving the Witness religion, but they got a late start and were upset that they were behind the curve. I dutifully read the article, but I didn’t need to; the headline says it all: just where does one look for fulfillment of dreams? Witness orientation is to look to ‘the true life.’

The NPR story is not inaccurate, but it is incomplete. Witness parents will often encourage their youngsters to train for work as high-paying as possible, then do as little of it as possible, so as to focus on the Christian ministry, for that they regard as the most important activity in this present world. This is likely to put you on the lower rungs of the income latter, though not for the reasons NPR stipulates.

University education represents to Witnesses an invitation to trash the faith of their child, for humans are not immune to their surroundings. Thus, some hideous new style appears and within ten years it is widely adopted by ones who wonder how they ever could have imagined those peculiar styles of yesteryear did anything for them. Peer pressure unfailingly works with such trivial matters. It also works with matters substantial. Witness parents wish for their children to avoid an anti-religious minefield that embraces the assumption is that humans have the answers, that embraces throwing off restraints, that portrays obedience as bordering on the pathetic. They regard such education as intensely indoctrinate and ever harping on trendy issues. The foregoing is a generalization. Some subjects involve less traipsing through the minefield than do others, technology or engineering, for example. There are some times in life when a person does choose to enter a minefield. But they don’t go waltzing through it. They think long and hard before they do it at all.

“To be fair, one should compare the satisfaction statistics of ones who have chosen the college route,” one commenter (me) appended to the article. In pursuit of dreams, if they are in this system of things, surely it must be factored in what is the cost of those dreams, for they are far from free in the United States. And what is the likelihood of achieving them? The job market in most places is hardly stellar. Chart wrongly in the U.S, and one can easily end up with a mundane job, or no job at all due to being ‘overqualified,’ but saddled with tens of thousands of dollars of debt that cannot be discharged under current law. Higher education (in the U.S.) offers an uncertain ticket into a high-priced unstable job market that it itself has created. A six or even eight-year degree is the minimum requirement for most high-flying careers of today.  Mike Rowe, in testimony to Congress, stated that education in the trades offers by far the most secure route to a well-paying job.42 That sort of education can often be had free. Sometimes high schools offer it.

Jehovah’s Witnesses are nothing if not eminently practical, and they do not salivate over an education model that has become dysfunctional. They seek practical skills that pay well, are easily transferable, and don’t sap time and energy that is more profitably directed towards God and family. It does happen that a Witness youngster steered away from college may later come to regret it. Since the beginning of time parents have steered their children. Since the beginning of time some children, as adults, wish they had been steered differently. But surely it must factored into the overall equation the many more youngsters who were steered into college by the school system, taking on enormous debt, and came to wish they had listened to someone like Mike Rowe instead.

 

The world does well to take ownership—‘hold itself accountable,’ to use the current buzzword—of all that its system of education has produced before insisting every student drink his or her fill. If higher education was worth the price of admission it would have resulted in a far better world by now. Jehovah’s Witnesses are willing to bypass it all as something superfluous. Should one touch upon it, do so as a hobby. Don’t imagine it is the stuff of life. Beyond some gadgets made by Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, two men who dropped out of college, (does that account for their groundbreaking success?) where is the evidence that it is indispensable? To some extent, this parallels the prodding of the contemporary feminist herstory movement; prove that your version actually works before you carry on too much about your history.

Since Jehovah’s Witnesses go light on college education, the Pew Foundation unsurprisingly reports them the least educated of all faiths.43 So be it. Their relative shunning of college is deliberate, as they redefine what it means to be educated. They focus on moral training so basic as ‘getting along with each other,’ which would enable the world to do something with its education were it able to embrace it. “A day of divine education is worth a thousand years of college,”44 one (me again) might say, who has seen both, and who admittedly likes hyperbole. Focus on the moral qualities. You can always run out and get secular education piecemeal when you need it. Don’t let them tell you their education is a prerequisite to life. Embrace their lauded Greek heritage, and you embrace whatever is today’s moral counterpart of pedophilia and misogyny.

Embrace Bible education instead and tell the Pew Foundation to take a hike. They don’t care anyway. They just measure things. But opponents of Witnesses grab hold of their charts and cry to the heavens at how stupid Witnesses must be. Don’t be intimidated by them. The most basic invention of the West is the toilet. It, combined with some other lifestyle and drug innovations, predictably contributes to constipation over time, for squatting best suits the anatomy, as any toddler knows and as the uneducated still do.45 Nobody’s thinking is as constipated as that of the Western critical rationalists. See them demolish each other online as they argue topics to the death. Sometimes one wishes they could just learn to let go.

Woe to those who pride themselves on their critical analysis, as though no other means of communication exists. Jesus has little use for it. He speaks at length in the gospels, yet very little of what he says would satisfy today’s disciples of argument and reason. He spins involved parables which he rarely explains; let the heart figure it out. He diverts from hostile questions by asking counter-questions that reveal motive. He even resorts to ad hominem attacks of a sort: a major no-no to today’s devotees of reason—though he always connects it with a reason, so that it is not really ad hominem but more like courtroom character cross-examination. Nowhere does he patiently reason on the ‘facts’ with his steadfast opponents because he knows their only relevant fact is that they want him dead.46 He says: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.”47 He lost many disciples that day. What a stupid thing to say if his main concern is to persuade devotees of ‘facts’!  But if his prime concern is, not heads, but hearts, then it is flawless. Persons of heart hung around, waiting for elucidation. People without heart departed; their time was too valuable to waste unraveling riddles.  If the heart is pure, one can work with whatever mind accompanies it. If it is not, the mind is a mixed blessing at best and at times a downright curse.

 

To translate the Bible into 200 languages, a website into 900 languages,48 and printed material into even more, using exclusively volunteer labor, is truly a colossal, one might say unbelievable, achievement—where is Baran’s hagiography critic when you need to show him something? Yet it is typical of the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses. It is not done through ‘college power.’ Whenever intellectuals insist that insufficient university training can be found among Witness volunteer translators, they miss the point that they should come to us, not the reverse, since Witnesses have done what they can only talk about. They are correct that there is little higher education to be found among the countless translators. Any specialized training has come a la carte, and most has been produced in-house, by persons who do not horde their knowledge or sell it but make it freely available as needed.

It is ‘talking’—how hard can it be? A child brought up in a dual language household effortlessly picks up both. In a tri-lingual household, he picks up all three. The sticking point is not the intellectual work; it is assembling, motivating, and empowering qualified volunteers—volunteers, so that the end result is affordable. These factors are the strengths of Jehovah’s Witnesses; their education has trained them to be that way. Granted, the translating of ancient language adds a challenge, but this is a factor only for producing a master text. Master compilations of the Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic scriptures are readily available, and the Witness organization has over eight million members, some of whom will be linguistic experts and who won’t insist that their name appears in spotlights because they have dedicated their lives in service to God. One expert among the Witnesses is worth fifty in the greater world, because they don’t fight. They don’t engage in turf wars. They know how to share. They know how to cooperate and bring their “gift to the altar.” They display the wisdom of the ants, not that of the big dumb male animals that ram each other with antlers.

Our people produce a straight-forward master text in English. All the volunteers worldwide are schooled in translation techniques. They are all encouraged to ask questions about specific problems or verses, and when they do, the answers become part of a database accessible to all. A significant number of translators are young people who know both English and their native tongue—their parents know only the native tongue. Could these plainly qualified persons ever be used on any sizable commercial project? Not on your life. Without a university degree, they would not be allowed within 100 yards of it. The final translation product is affordable due to the volunteer workers. It is made affordable again by not having to rely upon this world’s for-profit distribution channel.

The free transfer of intellectual knowledge is key to making this work. The greater world will not do this. Knowledge is passed along, but only for a significant fee. One must pay the significant, even exorbitant, cost of higher education in order to be entrusted with anything of significance. Even after that, knowledge transfers only on a for-pay basis. None of this blockage occurs in the Watchtower organization. Witnesses are also well known for freely sharing physical abilities in other venues; Watchtower is the largest construction outfit in the world and the Witnesses’ mobilization for disaster relief is the envy of government. Freely sharing intellectual abilities is just as important, and it makes things like the ‘900 languages’ a matter of routine.49

A Nepalese man quoted in the Watchtower magazine expresses appreciation for the New World Translation in his language. In English, there are many readable translations—the New World Translation is far from the only one. But in Nepalese the choice is meager. Nobody cares about the Nepalese man because he does not have any money. He is stuck with some 200-year-old turkey of a translation that he cannot understand and likely cannot afford anyway, until the New World Translation comes along to meet his needs, a situation that is repeated in many lands.

Why has not the greater church world seen fit to equip him with an understandable and affordable Bible? It has far more resources to draw upon. Can it be for any other reason than that they do not consider his spiritual needs important? Even if they should, they are beholden to a profit-driven commercial channel of book distribution that does not consider his monetary means important and therefore does not bother. Dare we say it? “Those people” do not count when it comes to spiritual things. Only those with money count. With Jehovah’s organization, they do count. In fact, they are often given priority, since it is the ones of lesser means who have ever responded to Bible truth more readily than those well-off. One sixth of the world’s population today cannot read, a byproduct of an educational system skewed toward the privileged. How many even know that these people exist? Only Jehovah’s organization produces simplified versions of materials already written simply so as to reach them.

If you are serious about proclaiming ‘this gospel of the kingdom in all the inhabited earth,’ then naturally, you will have such a website with 900 languages. In an ill-advised (in my opinion) suggested magazine presentation, a Witness calls attention to the website, and then asks the householder: “Do you know why we do it?” “What—do you think I’m a trained chimp?” one actual person found in the ministry responded, “of course I know why you do it! You want to reach people!”

When your car needs repair, do you take it to the shop that has equipped itself with every modern tool? Or do you take it to the shop content to operate with hammer, vice grips, WD-40, and duct tape? Shouldn’t anyone serious about carrying out Christ’s commission to preach be so well-equipped? Aren’t they inept at best and frauds at worst if they have not equipped themselves in such a way? There is no excuse to be so negligent. They show either that they don’t care about Christ’s commission to proclaim his kingdom or that they are incapable of the cooperation needed to get the job done. Cooperation, love, humility, coupled with reasonable intelligence, will trump the results of this world’s system of education every time.

Human institutions universally look to higher education for leadership. Successful entrepreneurs are even awarded honorary degrees after the fact, a tactic that serves to maintain the illusion that only college people can amount to anything. For the most part, respectable religions of this world have followed this model. Its clergy must also have advanced post-secondary degrees. It may be that Paul took direction from fishermen, but that will never repeat on their watch. The Watchtower organization is strikingly unique. It is true to the first-century pattern. It does not look to the greater world’s repository of degrees for authorization to lead. Members of their Governing Body are yet fishermen at heart. They don’t pretend to take the lead though brains. They take it though heart.

The Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses has no specialized knowledge of anything, generally speaking, but they know where to find it when they need it. They know how to coordinate it. They know how to put it to use for the benefit of others. How obscenely wasteful and discriminatory is the world’s system for disseminating knowledge. Knowledge for them is a commodity monetized and sold amorally. It is a business. It prices its knowledge out of the reach of much of the population. It is not the fault of any individual within the system. It is the fault of the selfish model that they make their home.

The trick is to not copy Sam Gerard’s ‘The Fugitive’ colleague and say “Well, we’re smart, too,” thus trying to play catch-up with another education that even he considers superior. The trick is to say that you have an education model that leaves theirs in the dust. Without the prerequisite moral training imparted by Bible education, the world does not know what to do with the knowledge it accumulates and is as likely to turn it to harm as to good. Moreover, some of the knowledge it gathers and dispenses in its colleges will turn out to be of the variety Mark Twain derided: knowledge that “ain’t so.”

They are smarter than us, for the most part—the university-trained crowd. It is no good pretending otherwise. But most of their plans will come to naught because they are not able to cooperate. A foremost example presents itself in the aftermath of a Florida school shooting in which 17 children died. Such shootings have become commonplace in the United States. Two arguably effective solutions have been proposed. Either ban rapid-fire assault guns or allow armed veterans, who would love the idea of protecting children, to roam the school corridors. Neither will be adopted soon because neither side will tolerate yielding to the other.

The Witness organization does not let the world bully it into its own mold of education. It has come up with something better. Jehovah’s Witnesses with knowledge are generous with it. They don’t hoard it. Free from petty competitiveness and jealousy, they give it away and thereby accomplish good that a hamstrung world cannot. The educated world is dismayed to find the persons they look down upon outstripping them in practical deed. Those who are noble strive to get their heads around it and examine a model unfamiliar. Those who are not noble stand on their favorite paradigm of university superiority and ridicule the accomplishments they did not produce. Those who are really not noble try to run the competition off the road.

From Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah's Witnesses Write Russia  (see also safe version)

Endnotes

  1. 1 Corinthians 3:19-20
  2. August Neander, The History of the Christian Religion and Church: During the First Three Centuries (London: Rivington. Collection Robarts; Toronto. Digitizing sponsor MSN. Contributor Robarts - University of Toronto, 1843) 41
  3. Matthew 11:25.
  4. 1 Corinthians 1:26
  5. Edward D. Andrews, Your Guide for Defending the Bible: Self-Education of the Bible Make Easy (Christian Publishing House 2016) 242-243
  6. Acts 4:13
  7. 2 Timothy 2:15
  8. 2 Corinthians 11:23
  9. 1 Timothy 3:16
  10. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pederasty_in_ancient_Greece
  11. Robin Osborne, Greek History (Routledge, 2004), 12 online and 21.
  12. Alix Spiegel, “Is Believing in God Evolutionarily Advantageous?” All Things Considered, August 30, 2010, accessed March 25, 2018, https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=129528196
  13. Jessica Bond, “We Struggle With Monogamy – Is It Time to Abandon it Altogether?” New Scientist, November 29, 2017, accessed March 25, 2018, https://www.newscientist.com/article-topic/monogamy/
  14. Mairi Macleod, “Monogamy Evolved to Keep Baby-killers Away,” New Scientist, July 30, 2013, accessed March 25, 2018, https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn23959-monogamy-evolved-to-keep-baby-killers-away/
  15. Joanna Marchant, “Sex, Lies and Monogamy,” New Scientist, April 28, 2001, accessed March 25, 2018, https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg17022880-300-sex-lies-and-monogamy/
  16. Nathan H. Lents, “Beastly Behavior - The Relationship Between Waist-Hip Ratio and Fertility, Psychology Today, June 19, 2007, accessed March 25, 2018, https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/beastly-behavior/201706/the-relationship-between-waist-hip-ratio-and-fertility
  17. 1 Timothy 4:7. NABRE here reads “silly myths” but most translations connect it with “old women,” often reading “old wives’ tales.” NWT says “false stories, like those told by old women.” Expect “silly myths” to catch on more and more, as translators imitate NABRE and endeavor to avoid being gender specific.
  18. Laurie Goodstein, “A Noah’s Ark in Kentucky, Dinosaurs Included,” New York Times, June 26, 2016, accessed March 26, 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/26/us/noahs-ark-creationism-ken-ham.html
  19. “Holy Spirit – at Work in Creation,” The Watchtower – study edition, February 15, 2011, 8
  20. “How Did We Get Here,” Awake! May 8, 1997
  21. Was Life Created? (Brooklyn: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, 2010), 26
  22. See: Ephesians 4:14, 1 Timothy 6:20, Jude 1:12, Jeremiah 2:13, and Matthew 15:14
  23. Acts 17:26-27
  24. “Abraham Lincoln and the Bible,” Lehman Institute Presents: Abraham Lincoln’s Classroom, http://www.abrahamlincolnsclassroom.org/abraham-lincoln-in-depth/abraham-lincoln-and-the-bible/
  25. Ibid.
  26. Ibid
  27. Matthew 13:30, Daniel 12:4
  28. Daniel 12:9
  29. 1 Corinthians 15:45
  30. For example, see Should You Believe in the Trinity? (Brooklyn: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, 1989)
  31. “Russian Orthodox Against Jehovah’s Witnesses,” AsiaNews, May 4, 2017, accessed March 13, 2018, http://www.asianews.it/news-en/Russian-Orthodox-against-Jehovahs-Witnesses-40640.html
  32. Morris Kline, Mathematics and the Search for Knowledge (New York: Oxford University Press, 1985) 213
  33. “Visions of Zechariah - How They Affect You,” The Watchtower - study edition, October 2017, 23
  34. Matthew 11:19, Psalm 38:13
  35. “Remove the Rafter,” JW Broadcasting, accessed March 26, 2018, https://tv.jw.org/#en/mediaitems/VODBiblePrinciples/pub-jwbai_201603_1_VIDEO
  36. Matthew 7:3-5
  37. from the 1989 movie: Driving Miss Daisy
  38. ‘Data Team’: “Over-friendly, or Sexual Harassment? It Depends Partly on Whom You Ask, The Economist, November 17, 2017, March 26, 2018, https://www.economist.com/blogs/graphicdetail/2017/11/daily-chart-14?fsrc=scn/tw/te/bl/ed/
  39. Robert Wright, “Infidelity—It may be in our genes. Our Cheating Hearts,” Time Magazine, August 15, 1994, accessed March 26, 2018, https://canadiancrc.com/Newspaper_Articles/Time_Magazine_infidelity_in_genes_15AUG94.aspx
  40. 1 Timothy 6:19
  41. Luke Vander Ploeg, “Lack Of Education Leads To Lost Dreams And Low Income For Many Jehovah’s Witnesses,” All Things Considered, February 19, 2017, accessed March 26, 2018, https://www.npr.org/2017/02/19/510585965/poor-education-leads-to-lost-dreams-and-low-income-for-many-jehovahs-witnesses
  42. Dylan Love, “Instant MBA: America Needs Plumbers More Than It Needs You, businessinsider, May 17, 2011, accessed March 26, 2018, http://www.businessinsider.com/instant-mba-america-needs-plumbers-more-than-it-needs-you-2011-5
  43. Caryle Murphy, “The Most and Least Educated U.S. Religious Groups,” Pew Research, November 4, 2016, accessed March 26, 2018, http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/11/04/the-most-and-least-educated-u-s-religious-groups/
  44. a reference to Psalm 84:10
  45. Eliza Barclay, “For Best Toilet Health: Squat Or Sit?” NPR – Health, September 28, 2012, accessed March 26, 2018, https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2012/09/20/161501413/for-best-toilet-health-squat-or-sit
  46. For example, see Matthew 15:1-20 in which Jesus answers a question from opposers only in his own time and to his own disciples – after those opposers have taken offense, stormed off, and are no longer around to hear the answer they demanded.
  47. John 6:54-66
  48. See the drop-down language menu at upper right corner of JW.org.
  49. “Remote Translation Offices Help Spread the Kingdom News,” JW Broadcasting – Video on Demand, accessed March 26, 2018, https://tv.jw.org/#en/mediaitems/VODActivitiesTranslation/pub-jwbrd_201505_6_VIDEO

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Standing Up For Your Beliefs in Class

At the Regional Convention, at least half of the videos were directed at young people. This is good because they are under more peer pressure than most not to 'go along with the crowd.' All young people experience this pressure, but Jehovah's Witnesses youth more than usual because what they stand for is more specific and the degree to which they stand is more determined. Besides, there are many young people who resolve the pressure not to go along with the crowd by going along with the crowd. Sometimes they go so far as to answer the wise words of their mama, "If everyone jumped off of a cliff, would you jump off, too?" with a "That's what I'm talkin about!"

Such talks at the convention would feature some Bible character doing something that took guts, and then the modern video application have some young person taking a bold stand based upon consideration of it. I don't remember the specific talk, but I do remember the specific video of a high school girl saying how she was really quite shy but got into the habit of, right from the start, at school's opening intro 'show and tell' session, reveal that she was one of Jehovah's Witnesses and thereafter let it be known, when all the kids are quizzing each other as to what they did on the weekend, that she engages in spiritual activity during much of that time. That is all she did.

"People started coming to me with their problems," she relates. Upon establishing herself as a member of something she thinks works better, all she has to do is be nice, cooperative, friendly, and it is easier for her to stand firm when peer pressure to do something she thinks wrong comes her way. People approached her, she said, and to the extent they did, she was ready to discuss what she had and how she found it had worked for her. Let me tell you, it works way better than haranquing people over religious doctrine, which few in the West care much about anyway, and the ones that do are inclined to do nothing but argue over it.

The Watchtower Study Sunday furthered that basic youth-supporting theme, with paragraphs discussing various situations. When another student approaches her teacher, and you know it is a science teacher because of the ascending apelike creatures on the chart in the background, she does not have to convince him to turn the whole troupe around and march them back into the slime from whence they came; he is not going to do that. All she has to do is tell him that she doesn't buy it. It is undermining to her faith and it is not sufficiently logical to be allowed to do that. To overturn the common sense model seen everywhere else that anything made has a maker and the more complicated the made thing is the smarter the maker must be will take proof more conclusive than what is offered.

Even the teacher, though he may mutter a bit, may be able to live with this because Watchtower publications speak of the six days of creation being "epochs" and the period prior to their commencement being "aeons." Jehovah's Witnesses are not young-earth creationists.

When the Watchtower wants to suggest a biology teacher, always the ascending ape chart is in the background; that's how it is done. It probably is done everywhere, not just in the Watchtower, for that one chart instantly conveys the idea as nothing else does. Icons are everywhere. Sometimes they are not even accurate. When a scientist was impressed with a discussion between he and I and wanted to reproduce it on his own blog, he represented himself with a double-helix. I got stuck with a cross! So I told him Jehovah's Witnesses do not believe that Jesus died on a cross but on an upright stake. "I knew that, actually," he said, "but an upright stake makes a ridiculous looking icon." What could I say? I had to bear my cross.

Several videos (back to the Regional Convention) feature Witness youths being put down, sometimes even by the teacher, and thereafter mustering up boldness to ask to address the whole class, always (in the cases shown) winning respect from students and teachers alike.

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Just Who is a Cult?

An 'anti-cult expert' I keep my eye on invites his followers to watch him on a TV interview, where he makes the point that Trump was elected due to cult influences.
 
If you think half the country fell victim to cult influence, does it not mean that you have drunk too much of the KoolAid yourself? Time was when the word meant something. If you fell under the spell of a charismatic leader and withdrew from normal life, you just might be part of a cult. These days simply thinking outside of the box suffices, and the definition expands to include ‘people we don’t like.’

Can Witnesses be a cult (the latest slam)? How can it be? You cannot join them without a period of study and experimentation, seldom lasting under a year. All the while you are 95% in familiar routine and surroundings. College is more cult-like by this definition, where a student is separated almost 24/7 from family and prior stabilizing influences. It is only because Witnesses come to think outside the mainstream that they are called a cult by those who permit no deviation.

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These Two Beauts Didn't Make the Cut, Though I Like Them Both

Not everything will make the cut in editing. It is always good to write far more than you will need and prune later.

I like the following two paragraphs, but decided they had to go. They are a little too self-indulgent for the Education chapter, and they champion homeschooling, which is not at all a concern of the book. They may show up somewhere someday, but shelve them as regards the present book on Russian persecution:

"Many an educated person has chosen menial work, so as to not turn his or her mind over to corporate or government interests –  ‘the Man.’ The Man may reward you materially, but he does not do so without demanding your soul. This writer stumbled across a BBC list of the top 100 important books of all time. I discovered that I had read over half – no other commenter had read more. Is it personal boasting to mention this? Hardly. Take it as an invitation to be a janitor, for it is while so employed that I ‘read’ most of them via ‘Books on Tape.’ The Man would have never granted me the time. Even in college he would not have done that. On Twitter, I came across a CEO who grumbled: “Stupid janitor forgot to leave an extra roll of toilet paper – I’m screwed.” I tweeted back: “I read 54 of the BBC’s topic 100 books as a janitor via Books on Tape. Sorry about the toilet paper.” One must think outside of the box of today’s strait-jacketed educational system, which is often little more than indoctrination into the prevalent thinking of this world.

"They wouldn’t let my homeschooled son read when he briefly forayed into public schooling - it was ever workbooks for him. When he later entered community college, they declared his math skills age-appropriate, but his reading skills “off the charts.” “I had no idea that there were so many stupid people,” he innocently remarked later. How can they not be stupid? The intellectual diet of this system of things is one of pop culture, transitory trends, and video games. He had never been denied those things; he had simply been directed to keep them in their place. And nobody on the homeschool front gave two hoots about workbooks. He could read all day if he wanted to and sometimes he did. ‘He reads?’ exclaimed a local educator – an ally – to my wife who had asked what she should do, and then ventured: “Don’t do anything” – do not mess up that formula."

Actually, maybe some parts of this I will stick in after all - weave it into other paragraphs where it will not hijack the overall theme.

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Now THAT would be 'Power of the Children'

Yes, I found the original tweet and it is how I remembered it:
 
"High school students are talking on message boards to make April 20th the day they all walk out of school and don’t come back until Congress updates the gun laws as it’s their lives on the line. Plz retweet or share for visibility as this is a great idea.." #FloridaSchoolshooting
 
The panicked grownups have tried to water it down to some symbolic nonsense involving a one-day boycott of 17 minutes for 17 students. But imagine if it was done for real - imagine if they didn't come back until things were fixed. Now THAT would be the power of the children. Shut down the education industry. Don't you think THAT would impel the powers that be to not rest until they came up with some sort of a solution!
 
It would be like people refusing to go into the war. The children don't have to weigh in on which side it right. That is for their mentors to figure out. It's exactly how things should be framed: Not gun-free vs armed veterans on patrol. Not right vs left. No. Let it be children vs adults.
 
Why should they walk into a potential shooting gallery each day? Maybe Nancy Reagan had a point: "Just say no."
 
It might be a new role for the FBI. Make them truant officers.
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Folk Heroes and Dirty Jobs

“In times of crisis, great nations have always turned to folk heroes.” So writes Joe Queenan in the Oct 1, 2011 WSJ, then he waxes nostalgic over folk like Daniel Boone and Joan of Arc. Then he observes that America is in a time of crisis right now, but....well.....there just isn't much to choose from for folk heroes,is there? Oprah? Lady Gaga? Let's face it...the pool is not very deep. “Frankly, things being the way they are today,” he continues, “I'd settle for the guy in the Ford commercial.”


And why not? The guy in the Ford commercial is Mike Rowe. He is the host of Dirty Jobs, a Discovery Channel TV show inspired by his grandfather, who “could fix or build anything." Mr. Rowe testified before the U.S. Senate back in May of 2011, speaking in behalf of “dirty jobs.”

“We've elevated the importance of "higher education" to such a lofty perch that all other forms of knowledge are now labeled "alternative." Millions of parents and kids see apprenticeships and on-the-job-training opportunities as "vocational consolation prizes," best suited for those not cut out for a four-year degree. And still, we talk about millions of "shovel ready" jobs for a society that doesn't encourage people to pick up a shovel.”

In a country where newly graduated youngsters fret over unemployment, it's not happening for Mike Rowe's folk. He speaks of “450,000 openings in trades, transportation and utilities. The skills gap is real, and it's getting wider. In Alabama, a third of all skilled tradesmen are over 55. They're retiring fast, and no one is there to replace them. Alabama's not alone. A few months ago in Atlanta I ran into Tom Vilsack, our Secretary of Agriculture. Tom told me about a governor who was unable to move forward on the construction of a power plant. The reason was telling. It wasn't a lack of funds. It wasn't a lack of support. It was a lack of qualified welders.”

Contrast his words with the truly rotten mainstream counsel over the last two decades. “Go to college” is all anyone hears anywhere. That's the path to successful happy living. Only losers don't. Need to borrow money? Doesn't matter....do it! Need to borrow a lot of money? Look, don't argue....do it! You're investing in yourself!! You'll thank me for it someday.

But....we're seeing these reports everywhere these days.....new graduates are not thanking those that shoved them into college. Are they cursing them instead? Some are. They're graduating with tens of thousands of dollars of debt into a country with few job openings. Whereas those in skilled labor have openings galore, having trained for them much more economically, sometimes without any cost at all. Suzie Ormond interviewed one of these debt-laden graduates on her TV show. He'd borrowed to go through college, but upon graduation there were no jobs, so......"don't tell me,” Suzie says, “you went back to grad school.” Yes! He had! That's what society had told him to do! Invest more in himself! Upon hearing the total sum of debt, Suzie sent him off with advice to enjoy life best he could, much as you might advise someone with terminal cancer.

“Everybody told you,” says Anya Kamenetz on the PBS News Hour, “that BA degree recipients earn a million more over a lifetime than those people who merely have a high school diploma....so it's good debt, it's an investment in yourself.....that was the conventional wisdom for a really long time.” Averages, however, “are a funny thing, because they don't necessarily apply to anyone.”

The remarkable thing about student debt is that you cannot get out of it. Even through bankruptcy. Debt from virtually every other source can be discharged.....if you blew it on gambling, say, or drugs, or just living high......but not that incurred by listening to the education experts. It's incredible! Talk about a world that devours it's young! I thought you were supposed to look out for the younger generation. Wasn't it that way once?

Suddenly the JW organization does not look too bad for the advice they've long offered to their young people. When they weigh in on education at all, it is to defy “the conventional wisdom” and encourage youngsters to look at Mike Rowe's “apprenticeships and on-the-job-training opportunities,” plus technical degrees, certificate courses, and so forth. Do not think it is easy to defy conventional wisdom....you should hear the flak they take for it!

But “Laurence Kotlikoff, professor of economics at Boston University agrees [with a recent Princeton University study] that an expensive education just isn't worth it..... “If you think of education as solely a monetary investment, if we are not thinking about all the other benefits from education like learning things, and getting to hang out with me, and also just becoming a more cultured person, then we have to look at this very carefully.”

Now, to be sure, the JW organization's reservations about college are not the same as Professor Kotlikoff's. That is, they're not primarily about dollars and cents. They're more about “getting to hang out with [him], and also just becoming a more cultured person.” Not he himself, of course....frankly, I'd like to hang out with him....but people he represents who dominate campus life, people who are inclined to think humans have the answers, people who are inclined to denigrate faith, people who are inclined to think the purpose of life is to consume, or even that there is no purpose in life. People who are inclined to overstress the value of being a “more cultured person,” whereas Paul would be apt to dismiss it all as “refuse” (Phil 3:8) and mention more than in passing that “the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God.” (1 Cor 3:19) So why “hang out” with guys like that unless it is truly necessary?

The May 2012 Consumer Reports tells of a web designer who likens his student debt, about $59,000, to “a prison sentence.” It interferes with his buying a home. It prevents him saving for retirement. (no one mentions raising a family) The debt, “just grew and grew and grew,” he says, “and I'm saddled with it unless I make twice as much as I'm making.” He earned his master's degree 18 years ago, when education was cheaper. He's not unhappy with his career choices....I don't want to suggest otherwise......but surely he must wonder sometimes whether it was worth it. He used the words “prison sentence,” not I. He's consigned to paying off debt for a long long time. His freedom of movement is curtailed, not augmented, as he doubtless thought would be the case. Moreover, I know of two young people making their living in web design without any college whatsoever.....they just dove into it as a lifelong interest. Surely it's in the interest of the education industry to suggest learning only takes place in college, an assertion Professor  Kotlikoff seems to make. That doesn't mean it's so.

In contrast, Dave McClure, the old circuit overseer reflects on his life and where it has taken him. Some of his old school mates might consider him a failure, he says, but he's not sure why. He's been to more places than they have, done more things, met more people, certainly met with more variety in people. It's all in what you value.

“The skills gap is a reflection of what we value,” Mike Rowe told the Senate. “....In a hundred different ways, [such as the Milton Bradley game of Life, where you are severely penalized if you choose the “business” road over the “college” road] we have slowly marginalized an entire category of critical professions, reshaping our expectations of a "good job" into something that no longer looks like work. A few years from now, an hour with a good plumber, if you can find one, is going to cost more than an hour with a good psychiatrist. At which point we'll all be in need of both.”

Nobody's listening to Mike Rowe. Not many, at any rate. A high school's success is still measured by the percentage they send to college. Unless your grades are in the toilet, just try telling your guidance counselor that you plan to bypass college. Just try it, and see what happens. The promising careers in this country are seen to be in education and health care. (less so in education lately, where budget cutbacks are wreaking havoc) These are also the same two fields whose models are described as “unsustainable.”  But it's still only losers that go Mike Rowe's way.

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Read ‘Tom Irregardless and Me.’     and           No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

 

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Education, the Ministry, and Supporting Oneself Decently

After connivers brought down Enron in 2001, tanking pensions and lives, business education courses slapped a quick coat of ethics onto their lesson plans. That this was no more than a quick coat became apparent seven years later, when connivers nearly brought down the entire worldwide economic system, causing its greatest reversal since the Great Depression.

As chance would have it, I took a business course during that year of rediscovered ethics. Our text had a newly inserted ethics chapter stuffed full with banalities about looking deep within oneself, listening to your inner voice, and so forth. The subject was distilled into four main points. Points three and four were ridiculous enough to sear permanently into my memory:

 3 - does this or that prospective move make you feel good about yourself, and
 4)  can you live with your decision.

Sheesh! That's it?! Those 911 terrorists, en route to incinerate the World Trade Center felt real good about themselves. Strictly speaking, though, they were not able to live with their decision.

Is it all internal? - that is, are qualities of ethics and morality to be found by looking "deep within ourselves?" Or, put another way, is man "naturally" good (as opposed to naturally bad)?  This question has long occupied philosophers, but in recent decades it has become axiomatic that "naturally good" is how we are to view matters. Thus, look deep within oneself is the cure-all for any ill. Also, "poor communication" time and again spoils our good intentions, so we can't have any of that. Oh...and if we're naturally good, there certainly is no need for restrictions, hence the contemporary loathing for any agency that would even suggest them, much less attempt to impose them.

 All this is not to say that Jehovah's Witnesses take the opposite view - that humans are "naturally" bad. We are created in God's image, after all, and those good qualities of ethics resonate deep within us. But we are also flawed, victims of inherited sin, inclined to do wrong despite our best intentions otherwise. We benefit, therefore, from counsel from a higher source, and who is higher, better qualified, than our Maker? Or, as the familiar illustration goes, who better to direct you in care for your new Ford than Ford?

All this helps to explain the JW attitude toward higher education, and why we don't push our kids to pursue it. Believe me, we take a lot of heat for it. For all practical purposes, our view is heresy to a world that worships higher education and presents it as the surefire cure for almost anything. But that "naturally good" philosophy (JWs might call it "worldly thinking") permeates higher education today. Does higher education deliver the goods? With few exceptions, national and world leaders are highly educated. Yet we all know how world conditions are, and we know in which direction they are heading. The educated world would have more to show for itself if their "brand" of education worked.

Yes, well....maybe the world is screwed up not because so many leaders have a secular education, someone says. Maybe it's because so many of them are religious or greedy or some other factor. Exactly. So why should not education address suchlike factors, which would also include belligerence, lack of love, pride, selfishness, and so forth? Instead, the focus is exclusively on intelligence, with the apparent assumption that these other items will take care of themselves. But as history shows, they don't. Frankly, if people are hateful, selfish, greedy, etc, you're almost better off not educating them. They're in position to do less damage that way. If plumbers and janitors had run the worldwide financial system, they might have found a way to beat the taxpayers out of a day's wage. But it was MBAs who ran the worldwide financial system, and they found a way to bring financial ruin upon us all.

Or maybe they didn't find a way. They tell me a highlight of Michael Moore's I Love Capitalism is his interviews with various economic "experts," who trip over their tongues trying in vain to analyze what went wrong. So maybe the analogy that fits better is that of your kids playing with nitroglycerin. "What's the problem, Pop?" they say. "Chill. We know what we're doing. Besides, we're doing very well for ourselves."

Jehovah's Witnesses tend to be very specific when it comes to education. Watchtower literature frequently speaks of a person's need to "support oneself decently." For some youngsters, as a family decision, that may include college courses, for others technical training of some sort, certificate, or vocational. We don't accept the inevitability of higher education, as might be recommended by education officials simply on the basis of grades, or these days, merely on the basis of easy money in loans or grants. We're pragmatic. We use "the world's" education to acquire skills to make a living. But as to acquiring wisdom from that source, we're not keen on it. Within our congregations, we defer to training which addresses the more important moral concerns. For us, that goal is achieved in the context of Bible training.

"Yeah, you just don't want your religious views subjected to critical analysis", I can hear the sneering now. Well....yeah...I suppose....I mean, nobody wants their heartfelt beliefs automatically trashed. But the reason they are trashed is largely one of philosophy, not "critical analysis." Our beliefs run contrary to the "man is naturally good" mantra of modern times. They run contrary to other firmly entrenched mantras as well - that humans have the answers, for example, and that this system of things will endure forever, and that religion is no more than a product of human evolution.

"Look out: perhaps there may be someone who will carry you off as his prey through the philosophy and empty deception according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary things of the world and not according to Christ," says Paul. We take his words seriously.   Col 2:8

Repeat anything often enough, with enough vehemence, and it eventually sinks in. Alas, it would be nice if we were not built that way, but we are. Thus, some god-awful hideous style emerges and within a few years we're all wearing it, thinking how cool we are, and wondering how we ever could have imagined the dorky-looking styles of the 80's did anything for us. Even I am almost at the beginning of perhaps tolerating, within sharply drawn narrow limits, certain forms of rap - a prospect I find frightening indeed. If only our "follow the herd" instinct applied only to trivial matters like style. It's tempting....it's intellectually flattering (and is there anything we like more than to be flattered intellectually?) to think it does. We love to think that styles and fads are one thing, but when it comes to important matters, our razor-sharp intellect cuts allows us to assess matters according to their true worth. Sigh...it's so flattering, but it's such nonsense. We run with the herd in matters great and small. And these days the herd, with higher education in the driver's seat, is running in a way Christians don't want to go. JWs aren't in a hurry to throw inexperienced kids into it's path.

Look, we're ministers. Not ministers in the modern sense, in which you pay your money, go to theological college, pocket your degree, and pound the pavements till you are hired by some church to teach their congregation. No, we are ministers in the first-century biblical sense, in which every Christian is a minister and has a ministry. It's not a job, and you don't get paid - none of Jehovah's Witnesses at any level do - so it's generally necessary to find work to "support oneself decently." But when we do that, it's our goal to streamline. We don't seek out work so engrossing, so demanding, that we can't do some justice to our ministry. Or, as goes the old joke about job flexibility at Microsoft: "You can work any 18-hour shift you want."

No, you don't go building a career in this system, a not-so-subtle goal of higher education. This system's transitory. Through the vicissitudes of this system of things, our people end up everywhere. No doubt there's plenty at Microsoft. But we don't from the get-go "aim for the stars." Or, I guess we do, but we value different stars. We look for work that allows our ministry maximum freedom.

.......................

Addtional material  here

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Tom Irregardless and Me      No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

 

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Sailing Alone Around the World

All the girl wants to do is sail alone around the world. What's wrong with that? Nothing, says her nautical Dad. Nothing, says her nautical Mom. Plenty, says the Dutch Council for Child Protection, who have successfully sued for temporary guardianship. So Laura Dekker's not going anywhere, not yet, not at 13 years of age.

Now, if this story didn't push a lot of buttons from back in our homeschooling days, I wouldn't write about it. It's all the way over in Holland. What business is it of mine? But it does push buttons, for with the exception of the sixth grade and post-secondary, our two kids never saw the inside of a school. We came to know much about child developmental authorities - more than we wanted to know - and their confidence that they alone knew the best way.

In Laura's case, they're fretting about dangers on the open seas. "She simply does not have the experience to anticipate the problems and possible crises that await her," wrote the Dutch daily De Volkskrant, joining in the fray. Actually, she probably does, and she certainly does in comparison with any journalist or child agency self-appointed to protect her. Laura was born on a yacht and spent her first four years sailing the oceans. She's been sailing solo since she was six, and conceived an around-the-world trip when she was 10. Nobody debates her sailing skills. She'd planned for her voyage to take two years, putting up in ports along the way to dodge bad weather.
 
Still, if those Dutch authorities had limited their concerns to physical dangers, we could live with that. Sure, it smacks of imposing mediocrity on all young people - uncomfortable to the point of denial that some might develop special abilities or possess special gifts. Having said that, I admit that oceans are wet and deep. Winds kick up a fuss. Pirates make trouble. Mean animals swim around - did you never see Jaws? Thirteen is pretty young. It's not as if one can't see their point. And what's this fixation about being the youngest person ever to do this or that? Someone or other brought up the case of Jessica Dubroff, a seven year old who crashed her plane taking off in rotten weather, attempting to become the youngest person to fly cross country U.S. (though her on-board flight instructor and dad approved the bad-weather takeoff, which suggests that adults should be banned from these activities, not kids).

Moreover, terms of the Court's decision are not especially unreasonable, surely more balanced than anything I can imagine here in the States. Nobody has said she can never go. If an Court-appointed army of child development specialists conclude she'll be okay, she'll get their seal of approval, perhaps in just a few months. And they're not removing her from her home - at least so long as everyone behaves. The family’s own lawyer was satisfied. The decision “supports the idea that you are not a bad parent if you try to help your child fulfill her dream," he noted. And, regarding Laura, "she is happy with the ruling, and now we can prepare this (journey) in a mature and responsible way." Yes, if those child protective people had limited their concerns to physical dangers on the high seas, we could all get on with life.

But they don't limit their concerns to physical danger - they're also worried about Laura's social skills! "A 13-year-old girl is in the middle of her development and you don't do that alone -- you need peers and adults," said Micha de Winter, a professor of child psychology at Utrecht University. Adults can make choose to be alone, he added, "but for children it is not good....Particularly the absence of parents at such a crucial time of the child's development ... the risks are serious." It doesn't occur to anyone that self-esteem from such a feat, and interaction with repair, supply and regulatory personnel at ports around the world, might offset the temporary draught of run-of-the-mill peers and grown-ups. "Two years out of school will have an impact on her normal development," another expert said. "It is wonderful to have dreams, but they have to be realistic." And, suggesting that the Netherlands is a nation of busybodies, the Dutch Prime Minister [!], Jan Peter Balkenende told a weekly news conference that Dekker's schooling must be taken into account. ("Where do you learn more, on a 2-year trip or at high school?" the family lawyer responds.)

Of all the objections we faced homeschooling, the most patronizing, smug, asinine, and exasperating were those dealing with socialization. Exasperating on two counts: 1) in assuming social skills would not develop under homeschooling, and 2) in assuming they would under traditional schooling. What about Columbine? What about Albertville? What about their social skills? In fact, how many socially-inept deviant misfits are there among young people today? Yet they all went to school.

My pal Bob the architect homeschooled some but not all of his kids. That topic came up the other day, before the Laura Dekker story had broken. He reflected that the social skills of his homeschooled kids far outstripped those of the traditionally schooled, who’d been mostly confined to that tiny sliver of humanity – those of exactly their own age. Students one grade above or below may as well have been on another planet - and adults another universe, a universe where they exist only to instruct and supervise, not to befriend or interact. Where does that artificial grouping find any counterpart in the real world? On the other hand, the homeschooled kids I observed, my own included, freely interacted with all in the community, of all age groups, and grew up without self-consciousness of those around them.

The trouble with child protective agencies, as with many agencies, is that they are seldom content to fulfill their original mandate. Instead, they seek to expand it. Didn't they once confine themselves to issues of maltreatment and abandonment? John Holt of Growing Without Schooling used to decry how, under the guise of protection, children are banned from the adult world - a significant contributor to delinquency, he maintained. A few years back, in East Rochester, parents were cited for underage employment of their child. They were dumbfounded. They owned a small deli - it was the family livelihood - and it was nothing for a youngster, returning from school, to take a turn behind the register. Can the kid's life really have been improved by forbidding his participation in the family business?

Showing socialization concerns, not the physical dangers, are really the only ones that matter, the Court plans to have Laura interviewed by a team of child psychologists. If she passes muster, she may yet sail off when she is 14. So be it. This girl has handled ships alone through international seas. She has interacted with all and sundry port personnel. The psychologists, on the other hand, have read a lot of books, sat through college courses, and earned degrees asserting they are child experts. My sneaking suspicion is that Laura's far better equipped to analyze them than they her.

Unfortunately, degrees are really all that counts in the world today. It might be a better place were that not so.

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Aha! Laura Dekker has her own website here. Now you can follow her adventures with the high seas and high government. You can even sponsor her, if you like.

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9/8/2009 update: Whoops. I take it back. Looks like Mom doesn't support the trip after all. Sigh....seems like my Mom also used to tell me I couldn't do stuff I wanted to. And most of my scheme's were less ambitious than Laura's. That's moms for you.

 

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

Alan Greenspan and the Financial Black Hole

As the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva was about to become operational, dire warnings appeared on the internet. Scientists had been salivating about their Collider for the longest time. At last they’d be able to simulate conditions from the Big Bang and learn…..well, all kinds of things about physics. But worrywarts fretted that these wise ones would instead open up black holes right here on terra firma….and swallow up everything! Two fellows in Hawaii even filed a “cease and desist” lawsuit, but the far away European scientists pooh-poohed it all. Not to worry, they said, any results of their tinkering would be at the subatomic level. Nonchalantly, chuckling at these unscientific nutjobs, they flipped the switch….and half the world’s wealth promptly vanished into a financial black hole! The week ending Oct 10 was the worst week for U.S. stocks since 1914  [!]

SIR - Can it really be a coincidence that within weeks of the Large Hadron Collider being switched on for the first time a financial black hole has appeared in the universe? - Barclay Price, Edinburgh     (letter to editor: Economist)

And from the Yahoo question board:

How did the Large Hadron Collider cause the biggest stock market crash in History?

Apparently taking this for a serious question, people wrote in to say that 1929 and 1987 had seen larger single day crashes, that the market slide had begun a year ago, and that real estate and bank shenanigans, not physics, has caused the meltdown. And besides, like all new projects, the Collider didn’t go online as scheduled, but glitches and difficulties kept it under repair from the start.

But let these apologists say what they will….it was those infernal scientists! They can’t leave well enough alone. Always have to mess with things. Just like when my son used to work the car window up and down, up and down, and I’d tell him not to because he was going to break it. And do you know what happened? Exactly…..and I was out the cost of a new window motor. Of course, breaking a car window motor is not as serious as destroying the entire worldwide financial system, but the principle is exactly the same and I wasn't happy.

In the aftermath, Alan Greenspan testified before Congress:

“We are in the midst of a once-in-a-century credit tsunami. Central banks and governments are being required to take unprecedented measures. You, importantly, represent those on whose behalf economic policy is made, those who are feeling the brunt of the crisis in their workplaces and homes. I hope to address their concerns today.”

This is the same Alan Greenspan whose voice to the financial community used to be like that of God, the only difference being that God knew what he was talking about. Not that Mr. Greenspan wasn’t bright and competent and all…..it's just that it took only a single flaw to bring down a whole lifetime of work. As chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank, he’d issue statements at least once a month when setting interest rate policy. He’d make the statements incomprehensible….it was almost a game. He’d rehearse them in his head. If they could be understood, he'd rework them. Finance people would strain to discern his real intent, but of course, the task was impossible….by design. Far from becoming fed up with such obscuration, they took it all for brilliance! I mean, any street person would recognize a con-job in two seconds flat, but the bankers hailed it as wisdom from on high. After all, they were making tons of money. Did anything else truly matter?

Mr. Greenspan’s successor, Ben Bernanke, is more straightforward. Mr. Greenspan himself became that way addressing Congress. He dropped the smart-alecky double talk. His words were clear. And not very pretty.

“Given the financial damage to date, I cannot see how we can avoid a significant rise in layoffs and unemployment. Fearful American households [not to mention….which he didn’t…the rest of the world] are attempting to adjust, as best they can, to a rapid contraction in credit availability, threats to retirement funds, and increased job insecurity. All of this implies a marked retrenchment of consumer spending as households try to divert an increasing part of their incomes to replenish depleted assets, not only in 401Ks, but in the value of their homes as well.”

No more smug cuteness building indecipherable word castles. For, alas, “those of us who have looked to the self-interest of lending institutions to protect shareholder’s equity (myself particularly) are in as state of shocked disbelief.”

Then Mr. Greenspan discusses what triggered the collapse: factors involving CDOs, already discussed here.

And…

“It was the failure to properly price such risky assets that precipitated the crisis. In recent decades, a vast risk management and pricing system has evolved, combining the best insights of mathematicians and finance experts supported by major advances in computer and communications technology. A Nobel Prize was awarded for the discovery of the pricing model that underpins much of the advance in derivatives markets. This modern risk management paradigm held sway for decades. The whole intellectual edifice, however, collapsed in the summer of last year because the data inputted into the risk management models generally covered only the past two decades, a period of euphoria.”

Note the absolute failure of the best and the brightest - the cream of the crop of human experts. A Nobel Prize was awarded, for crying out loud, for the economic model that would subsequently ruin us all! This was the not work of con men, but of the most learned, the most highly educated (the most profit-driven?) persons of society. And the final admission is staggering: nobody thought to test the model outside of partytime - “a period of euphoria.” Nobody thought that the real world might be different than the party world!

Isn’t there some scripture somewhere about how you can’t trust “nobles” as far as you can spit?

Do not put your trust in nobles, nor in the son of earthling man, to whom no salvation belongs.
 His spirit goes out, he goes back to his ground;
       In that day his thoughts do perish.   Ps 146:3,4


And doesn’t this validate how Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t bow and scrape and slobber over today’s higher education?Instead they extract from education the ability to make a living, while drawing on other sources for wisdom.”

After his statement, the House Committee grilled Mr. Greenspan for awhile, forcing him to admit:

“I found a flaw in the model that I perceived is the critical functioning structure that defines how the world works. That’s precisely the reason I was shocked…I still do not fully understand why it happened, and obviously to the extent that I figure it happened and why, I will change my views.”

I was going to offer up some feeble joke about how the flaw he didn’t reckon on was the Hadron Collider. But I won’t do it. The whole mess is too serious and sad.

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Tom Irregardless and Me     No Fake News but Plenty of Hardship

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)