The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Monday, December 14, 2020

Doctor Jill

Sometimes you just gotta laugh. The first time I heard Joe Biden's wife referred to as DOCTOR Jill Biden, I asked innocently, "Is she a physician?" When  told she was not, but instead, received a Ed.D. in education from the University of Delaware, I didn't say a word. I just smiled. 

It seems that the Democrats' trained hamsters in the media never (and I do mean, never) refer to Biden's wife without the honorific. In fact, when reading their teleprompters, it seems that they give a slight emphasis to the word "doctor" as if that somehow gives not only Jill, but Joe, more gravitas.

Joseph Epstein caused a bit of a hubbub when he wrote the following the in The Wall Street Journal:

Madame First Lady—Mrs. Biden—Jill—kiddo: a bit of advice on what may seem like a small but I think is a not unimportant matter. Any chance you might drop the “Dr.” before your name? “Dr. Jill Biden ” sounds and feels fraudulent, not to say a touch comic. Your degree is, I believe, an Ed.D., a doctor of education, earned at the University of Delaware through a dissertation with the unpromising title “Student Retention at the Community College Level: Meeting Students’ Needs.” A wise man once said that no one should call himself “Dr.” unless he has delivered a child. Think about it, Dr. Jill, and forthwith drop the doc.

Hoo, boy, the feminists went wild, suggesting that this takedown was anti-woman and unfair. Nah, it was probably appropriate, sticking a pin in the balloon of a person who has an inflated image of her academic credentials. Like all good politicians and their wives, Jill Biden has written two books—about herself and her family. That's perfectly okay, but a quick search of Google Scholar indicates no substantive recent research papers (in fact, none that I could find at all), no academic textbooks, and no long and distinguished full-time professorial career. When the honorific, Doctor, is attached to someone's name, it's normally because they have published widely and are recognized for important research and teaching. 

Throughout my long career as a professor, a consultant, and a speaker, I have encountered many colleagues, both women and men, who insisted on being addressed using the honorific, Doctor (and many who did not). That's okay, I suppose. Getting a Ph.D. is hard work (and I'll assume getting an Ed.D. is also hard work), and the holder should be proud of the achievement. The abject terror of defending your dissertation in front of an assembled faculty that fires questions at you nonstop is a right of passage for a 20- or 30-something Ph.D. student. I know ... I went through it.

But Dr. Jill got her Ed.D. at 55, long after her hubby was a fixture in national politics. I have to wonder whether the faculty at Delaware asked the same kind of softball questions of Dr. Jill during her dissertation defense as the media now asks on the rare occasions when her husband deigns to appear in front of them. I suppose we'll never know.

It's worth noting that Joseph Epstein has been "cancelled" by Northwestern, where he was an Adjunct Professor. He committed the cardinal sin of questioning whether Jill Biden's insistence (her Twitter handle is, after all, @Dr.Biden) on her honorific is a sign of arrogance or insecurity. I suspect it's a little of both.

UPDATE (12-15-2020):

It seems that progressives just won't let the Doctor Jill kerfuffle die (the criticism must have struck a nerve), so let me add an additional comment.

A reader at Ann Althouse's blog writes:

"When I first started teaching at Stanford, someone remarked to me that he had never met a physicist who used 'Dr.,' and never met a Ph.D. [or Ed.D.] from the Education school who did not. This has held true in my experience for decades now." 

That made me smile because it's been my experience as well. In engineering (the discipline from which my Ph.D. was awarded) students do refer to professors by that honorific or by "Doctor" in the university setting. But in the real world—colleagues, the media, and acquaintances—not so much. Unless the person who has the degree insists on it. I suspect that Dr. Jill does just that.