Questions From Readers
● How many years of secular education are advisable for children in Christian households?
Many Christian households have found it advisable for their children to avail themselves of the standard basic education provided in their country. The parents involved are the ones responsible for deciding on the nature and extent of this secular training.—Prov. 1:8; 6:20-22; Eph. 6:4.
Christian parents, together with the children, are required to “be obedient to governments and authorities.” (Titus 3:1) This would include their obeying the regulations of the state concerning secular education. In most countries the state requires students to remain in school until a certain age, which may vary from thirteen to eighteen years. In some lands only a few years of education are available, and then it is left up to the family to arrange for the child’s future. In many cases this means that the child is left to fend for himself. But whenever the law stipulates that children are to attend school for a given number of years, Christian children should do this, since it does not conflict with any other Bible command.—Matt. 22:21.
The Scriptures charge parents with the responsibility of training their children, and children are required to be obedient to their parents “in everything” that is not in conflict with God’s clearly stated requirements. (Col. 3:20; Prov. 4:1; see also Acts 4:18, 19.) Thus, as long as children are minors, legally under the control of their parents, or are living in the family household and accepting their support, they are obligated to abide by the decisions of their parents as to the amount of education that it is considered well for them to receive. The same principle applies when parents, one of them or both, are unbelievers. This does not mean that children cannot discuss matters with their parents and make requests of them, but they are under obligation to respect the decisions of the father, or, in those cases where there is no father in the home, of the mother.
Another Scriptural principle to consider is that Christians ought to be equipped to support themselves, and, in the case of married men, their families as well. (Eph. 4:28; 1 Tim. 5:8) For this reason, in some communities, where high costs are involved in securing the necessities of life, more secular education may be an important factor in making a living. Generally, Christian parents and youths in such areas have found it advisable to make use of the standard secular training offered; in America, this is equivalent to what is known as a high-school education.
Another factor to consider is the emphasis that Jehovah places on his written Word, as well as the assignment he has given to his servants to be preachers and teachers of “all Scripture.” (2 Tim. 3:16, 17; Matt. 28:19, 20) This strongly indicates that Jehovah desires all of his witnesses, young and old, to become literate. They should be able to read the Bible well in their native language and to express its message fluently and correctly, both by word of mouth and in writing. They can make good use of secular education in order to attain to such spiritual goals.—1 Cor. 2:13; Eccl. 12:10.
In addition, the basic education offered by the secular state generally includes practical instruction in mathematics, history and health care. Many secular schools also offer additional training, such as in the use of tools and machinery, carpentry, installing of electrical equipment, car repairing, printing, local crafts, science studies, typing, music and languages. And for girls, they offer domestic studies and training in child care. In view of this wide range of studies available in many countries, teen-age boys and girls, under the direction of their parents, can work out a program of subjects to be learned that will benefit them later. Some few parents have thought it advisable to arrange for their youths to enroll for short courses of technical training in specialized schools to acquire skills in trades, or other technical know-how, such as in the field of electronics and computers. This has been for the practical purpose of providing a means of supporting themselves in Jehovah’s service.
Today, there are many teen-age baptized servants of Jehovah. Their personal study, preparation for meetings and sharing in the Theocratic Ministry School have given them a basic knowledge of Bible truth for Christian preaching. They have also benefited by education in the public schools. But how far should they go with a secular education? It would hardly be consistent for such a youth, of his own choice, to pursue extensive secular studies beyond what is required by the law and by his parents. According to First Timothy 6:20 it would be unwise to fill one’s mind with philosophies of imperfect men: “O Timothy, guard what is laid up in trust with you, turning away from the empty speeches that violate what is holy and from the contradictions of the falsely called ‘knowledge.’” For this reason additional years of college education may present snares. One may become “brainwashed” by human philosophies so that faith in God and the Bible is destroyed. (Col. 2:8) Many college and university courses are based on false theories, such as evolution, that bolster the old system of things, which will soon pass away forever. (1 John 2:17) A goodly number of the professors have no faith in God or in the Bible and actively teach their godless beliefs. Moreover, there is the corrupting influence that the college atmosphere often has on morals, including the danger of drug addiction.
In most countries secular schools, public and private, are more filled with lawlessness, violence and corruption (and also drugs) than they were years ago. Admittedly, some schools are very bad. But has the point been reached where Christian youths find it impossible to attend the schools in their communities? This is a question that parents themselves must answer. However, it seems there have been a number of Christian youths who, in agitating for early quitting of school, have used the scare of violence and immorality to pressure their parents into allowing them to drop out. They have prevailed upon their parents, who have become overly protective in sympathy, to agree to take them out of these basic schools. In many cases this has worked to the detriment of the children.
Experience shows that earnest, serious-minded Christian youths, who are well trained domestically and well taught spiritually in Bible principles, can usually avoid problems. If they are careful to mind their own business, they find that they can attend school regularly with comparative safety. Especially is this so if they watch to keep out of trouble, and do not get involved with sports and other extracurricular group activities. It also works for their protection if they let their Christian light shine, considering their classmates as their field for preaching the good news of the Kingdom. But how much witnessing is actually done by those youths who quit school early? Often they get engulfed in the struggle to make a living, or get married early and find themselves with a family to support.
In many congregations of Jehovah’s witnesses it has been found that those few who did not complete their basic secular education found it more difficult later to meet life’s problems, to make a success of pioneer service or to bear marriage responsibilities properly when these came along.
It is not our purpose here to set out rules for Christian households. Rather, suggestions are offered as guidelines. Let parents and youths plan together for an adequate secular education that will enable the young people to meet their life interests and goals in a wholesome, honorable way. The well-trained youths of today will become tomorrow’s mature, hardworking servants of Jehovah. A balanced view of education now can help to make their enjoyment of God’s spiritual paradise complete.