The soon-to-be First Lady going by the moniker “Dr. Jill Biden” catalyzed a gendered controversy over credentials not witnessed since a swarthy gentleman under demon makeup and upon platform boots insisted that women call him Dr. Love.
“Any chance you might drop the ‘Dr.’ before your name?” Joseph Epstein petitioned her in the Wall Street Journal. “ ‘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.’ ”
The problem with Jill Biden calling herself “Dr.” stems in part from her inability to set your leg or deliver your baby but in greater part from the farcical quality of trades masquerading as humanities.
The op-ed catalyzed his former employer Northwestern University to characterize his views as “misogynist,” the president-elect’s spokesman to label the piece a “repugnant display of chauvinism,” and numerous Twittericans to call the 83-year-old Epstein “sexist,” which seemed, given the inherent I-don’t-give-a-fudge unwokeness of octogenarians, needlessly redundant, which again, comes across as redundant. Hopefully, Epstein, like Nigel Tufnel and so many 83-year-olds, hears sexy rather than sexist.
Kyle Smith of National Review, who also thought of “Dr. Love” when hearing “Dr. Jill,” points out that the Bidens’ greatest media supporters refrained from calling even medical doctors by the title prior to all of this. “Eminent pediatric neurosurgeon and HUD secretary Ben Carson is now ‘Mr. Carson’ to the New York Times, but the same paper refers to Mrs. Biden as ‘Dr. Biden,’ ” Smith informs. “This practice appears to contradict the Times’ style guide, which explains that the ‘Dr.’ title is used for non-physicians ‘only if it is germane to the holder’s primary current occupation (academic, for example, or laboratory research).’ ” But, let’s face it, performing brain surgery isn’t teaching remedial reading. If you mess up on the latter, they still do not know what Judith Butler meant.
A perusal of articles from the Gray Lady (sexy or sexist?) shows Ron Paul, an OB/GYN, similarly addressed without an honorific. Then again, we all called Dr. Ruth, who, like Dr. Jill, earned an Ed.D., by the title when we called her show.
It turns out Dr. John did not complete even a year of high school and Professor Longhair never actually taught at the collegiate level. Masters may demand the respect of the title when dictating Dungeons & Dragons games and while involved in Marquis de Sade online adventures. Rare the fragile creature who prefixes a lesser degree to his name (B.A. Baracus one example).
Yet another Biden infamously responded in 1987 to a gentle question about credentials by sharply stating, “I think I have a much higher IQ than you do” (the extant video does shows him addressing someone not Lennie from Of Mice and Men). Joe Biden, Esq., boasted of winning “the outstanding student in the political science department” at the University of Delaware, where he “graduated with three degrees,” and then “went to law school on a full academic scholarship.” He “ended up in the top half” of his class there. A cursory inspection revealed all of this as honest as its boaster’s hairline. In another misadventure during that ill-fated campaign, Biden called himself the first in his family to ever go to a university, a line which turned out both false and purloined, in another effort to heighten his academic accomplishments.
Who cares what you did in boot camp before the battlefield?
And why the brazen attempt to rub the sheen of medical doctors upon themselves? Ashley K. Fernandes notes in a brilliant article in Tablet that physicians joined the Nazi Party in greater proportions than any other profession and “were seven times more likely to join the SS than other employed German males.” When the state gives doctors great prestige or power, doctors kiss up to the state. One understands why Ed.D.s might wish to call themselves something other than “lawyers,” but “doctors” strikes as a non sequitur of a term given what Ed.D.s do. Maybe “Teacher of Teachers” best describes them. Which raises the question, why do teachers not just study the subjects they teach?
The problem with Jill Biden calling herself “Dr.” stems in part from her inability to set your leg or deliver your baby but in greater part from the farcical quality of trades masquerading as humanities. The great irony about university education programs centers on their closeness with professional training and their distance from actual education. How many languages did the University of Delaware require Dr. Jill to learn? Did she read texts or textbooks? What standards (education majors generally score among the lowest on standardized tests) did her department uphold in admittance?
Matt Bramanti highlighted the math mistakes and horrible writing that plague her dissertation. “Three quarters of the class will be Caucasian,” Mrs. Biden writes in one passage, “one quarter of the class will be African American…the remaining seats will be filled with students of Asian descent or non-resident aliens.”
What remaining seats?
Clearly, a difference exists between the rigors imposed on education students versus those imposed on, say, philosophy students. But our worse betters insist no difference should exist in what we call them. To acknowledge that Jill Biden deserves a title less demeaning than “kiddo” does not constitute a cry of uncle doctor.
Whoopi Goldberg, playing Shakespeare’s wise fool in this drama, shined a satirical light on it all earlier this year on The View. “I’m hoping Dr. Jill becomes the Surgeon General,” she explained to looks resembling those that greeted Ozzy Osbourne when he bit the head off that dove at CBS Records. She continued, “She would never do it but, yeah, she’s a hell of a doctor. She’s an amazing doctor.”
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