Questions From Readers
● Young Christians attending public school face many problems because of growing delinquency, immorality, nationalism, and so forth. Hence, when one has completed the minimum schooling required by law, would it be advisable to leave school and devote more time to the ministry, or should one finish the normal basic schooling?—D. B., U.S.A.
Customs and legal requirements about schooling vary from country to country. In some lands a set amount of schooling is compulsory for all children, with little or no provision for one to leave earlier. In other lands only a couple of years of schooling (or none at all) are compulsory, most education being left up to the individual to be obtained as circumstances allow.
In the United States of America a student usually attends elementary school for seven or eight years (differing from state to state) and then a secondary (high) school for about four years. The laws of most states rule that a youth must attend until he graduates from high school, or until age sixteen. However, even though one can leave school at sixteen if the parents approve, the majority of youths attend until graduation at about age eighteen. The following discussion will deal primarily with the United States of America, since that is what the questioner is interested in, but likely many of the points and principles presented will apply to some extent in other lands also.
Proper knowledge and education are fine things. Christian parents are interested in the education of their children. In accord with God’s directions, they personally instruct and train their offspring in many fields, including the Bible, true worship, home responsibilities and proper conduct. (Eph. 6:4; Prov. 22:6) The Theocratic Ministry School and other meetings in each congregation of Jehovah’s witnesses have been invaluable aids to young Christians, developing in them abilities and poise that often make them above average for their age. But where there are public schools available most Christian parents also want their children to get a reasonable secular education, feeling that the specialized training to read and write well and education in subjects such as geography and history may assist them as Christian ministers. Also, some secular education and training may prepare them for an occupation, something they may need to support themselves and their families.—1 Tim. 5:8.
‘But how long should a child go to school?’ persons might ask. The parents must decide that. (Prov. 6:20; 23:22; Eph. 5:22-24) If the law of the land requires a certain number of years of schooling, Christians know that they are to “be obedient to governments and authorities as rulers.” (Titus 3:1) But if the legal minimum has been met, the parents have to determine what the child will do. Perhaps sickness or dire financial pressure in the family requires that a young man or woman get a job. On the other hand, the parents might direct the minor to attend the extra year or two of school so as to graduate and receive a diploma, as is the custom in the land. Parents and youths can discuss the matter, but the Bible gives the parents, particularly the father, the deciding voice, and the minor Christian should recognize that.—Col. 3:18, 20.
As indicated in the inquiry, many Christians realize that in some schools violence, immorality, use of drugs and disrespect for authority are increasing rapidly. Does this situation warrant removing a youth from school as soon as that is legally possible? A few parents have concluded, ‘Yes,’ and have done so. They are not to be criticized for their decision. Others have moved their children to another public school where such problems are not as bad. But we must face the fact that conditions in the world in general are getting worse. The only way to avoid such things altogether would be to get out of the world, and we cannot do that. (1 Cor. 5:10) Would leaving school and obtaining a secular job completely eliminate the problem? Likely not. Fellow employees may be considerably more experienced and proficient at seduction than fellow students. A Canadian report indicated that two-thirds of all employees are either basically dishonest or would be dishonest if given the opportunity. An American report said that three out of every four companies with fifty or more employees may have a drug-abuse problem. Consequently, all Christians—whether in school or not—have to strive to remain morally clean, to avoid situations that might involve violence and to remain spiritually strong.
Numerous young persons have written to us expressing a commendable desire to expand their activity as Christian ministers in the last days of this system of things. (2 Tim. 3:1; 4:5; 1 Tim. 4:16) Some have commented that if they left school early they might be able to do that as pioneer ministers. By self-scrutiny such ones can consider: Is it really a fuller share in the ministry that you want? Have you consistently demonstrated that this is your sincere, consuming desire by sharing in the ministry at every opportunity, including during holidays and vacations when you can serve as a vacation pioneer minister? A young Christian in school has a basically untouched field for witnessing about the Bible, because when Jehovah’s witnesses in their house-to-house ministry meet a youth they usually ask for and speak to the parents if they are at home. So, do you regularly and actively witness about God to fellow students, expanding your ministry all you can in that way? The decision of whether you will continue in school rests with your parents, and primarily your father. But whatever the decision is, you can follow through on your desire to speak about God at every opportunity.
Youth is a time to serve Jehovah. (Eccl. 12:1) It is also the usual time for one to learn things that may be quite necessary in adult life. It was the custom among the Jews for every lad to learn a trade or some form of useful employment, even if advanced education in the Law was planned. The Jewish view was that he who failed to teach his child a trade was teaching the youth to be a thief. Thus Saul of Tarsus learned the trade of tentmaking even though, before becoming a Christian, he was educated as a pupil of Gamaliel. (Acts 18:3; 22:3) Today the public schools are often the place where one begins to learn a trade or means of supporting oneself, whether it be carpentry, accounting, installation of electrical equipment, typing, printing, welding or some other occupation.
‘But you have not pointedly said whether my youngster should complete his basic education in school or not,’ someone might think. Precisely so, for it is not our place to do so or even to recommend either quitting or continuing in school. God has authorized the individual parents to direct their children in such matters, and we cannot ignore His authorization. This is a serious matter, and parents should make it a matter of prayer and should ponder it with care. (Phil. 4:6) Then they alone will have to make a decision as to what their own children will do.