The great thing about the “Dr. Jill Biden” issue is that it means the Bidens and the media will double down on this pathetic pretension and remind a large swath of the population the condescending elitism at the heart of liberalism today. This, at the same time liberalism is agonizing over the need to overthrow the whole idea of meritocracy, which is the invention of an older liberalism, because our conventions of meritocracy (things like test scores, academic performance in difficult fields, etc) are not kind to liberalism’s favored victim groups just now.
Take, for example, this hilarious Tweet thread:
Time was when everyone understood that Ed.D degrees were substantively weak, and largely grew as part of a racket for teachers and administrators to get higher salaries and puff up their resumes. Even People magazine, which you’d think you could rely upon to puff up the egos of politicians, once understood this:
When comedian Bill Cosby received his Doctor of Education degree from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst on a fine May day in 1977, he was the star of the commencement. The press took photos as Cosby, wearing his academic robes and later smoking a congratulatory cigar, received his diploma from the chancellor of the university. Now a disgruntled former professor at the university is calling for a second ceremony. “I think it would be wonderful if Cosby staged a media event similar to the one that took place when he earned his doctorate,” says Reginald G. Damerell. “Only this time he would give back the degree to show that he finally realizes it stands for nothing. I hope that Bill Cosby would raise consciousness about how lousy schools of education are.”
In his new book, Education’s Smoking Gun (Freundlich Books, $17.95), Damerell, 64, claims that Cosby’s Ed.D.—like many an advanced education doctorate—is a sham. “Everybody knows Cosby,” says Damerell, a U. Mass. associate professor for 12 years before he left in 1982. “He just happens to illustrate the point. He earned his degree much as a lot of other people do. It was a ridiculous situation.”
Cosby’s 242-page doctoral dissertation discussed ways that teachers could use his Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids animated TV shows as educational tools. “Cosby could have given up show business and spent six years at the school and not know any more than he did anyhow,” Damerell says. “Unlike chemistry, education has no body of knowledge, so it doesn’t matter how long you spend on it.”
Damerell claims that Cosby’s degree typifies the empty schooling given many education majors. He says that thousands of badly educated teachers are undermining elementary and high school instruction across the country. Holding a copy of Cosby’s dissertation, Damerell says, “A dissertation is supposed to be a contribution to human knowledge. This isn’t. And I would say that 99 percent of [education] dissertations aren’t either.”
It appears that Dr. Jill Biden’s dissertation is only half as long as Cosby’s, at 129 pages, according to Kyle Smith. who has decided that Joseph Epstein shouldn’t have all the fun. (Kyle is getting the full two-minute hate drill run against him yesterday and today for his act of lese majeste against the good Doctor Jill.)
The Washington Monthly seems to understand the shallowness of graduate programs in education:
The problem is that education master’s programs generally don’t produce better teachers. While programs vary greatly, and some stand above the rest, the teachers I interviewed told me that they had spent too much time on theory and not enough on practical teaching skills; professors were too far removed from the classroom and using out-of-date pedagogy; and many programs simply weren’t rigorous. Decades of research back up their critiques. . .
Laura Lozito, a social-studies teacher who works with Chirico, would have liked to get an advanced degree in history. But when she compared syllabi, she quickly realized that a master’s in education would entail less reading and writing, and would cover material she was already familiar with from her undergrad courses. Her schedule couldn’t bear the workload of the history degree, so she chose a master’s in adolescent education . . .
Marguerite Roza, an education-finance expert, got an inkling of that fact [that ed degree programs are bunk] when she published a paper arguing that states should end the “master’s bump.” The money going toward degree-based pay raises—nearly $15 billion nationwide in the 2007–08 school year—was a waste, she argued. She authored that paper from her perch at the time at the University of Washington’s College of Education—the very sort of institution that was benefitting from the arrangement.
The paper had been out for less than a week, Roza said, when she heard from the dean of the college, Patricia Wasley. Wasley told Roza she had been inundated by calls from deans of other education programs across the country, according to Roza. They were asking that she censure Roza or even make her retract the paper.
The New Republic, a former magazine, used to know this:
Ms. Angelou was a civil rights activist, a Tony-nominated actress, a memoirist of some gifts, and the inaugural poet for the first presidential election in which I voted. But Ms. Angelou, who never went to college, was not “Dr. Angelou.”
“Dr. Angelou,” which was repeated by many media outlets after she died, was willed by Ms. Angelou herself: Her website referred to her as “Dr. Angelou” and her Twitter handle was the unambiguous @DrMayaAngelou. Wake Forest University, where she taught for many years, colluded in this ruse, referring to her in its obituary as “civil rights activist and professor Dr. Maya Angelou.” When I called the school to ask why it went along with this misdirection, a spokesman told me, “That was her choice, to be called that.”
Her resume, her choice I guess. Just like Dr. Jill.
The Los Angeles Times once got this too, offering this story back in 2009:
Amy Sullivan, a religion writer for Time magazine, said she smiled when she heard the vice president’s wife announced as Dr. Jill Biden during the national prayer service the day after President Obama’s inauguration.
“Ordinarily when someone goes by doctor and they are a PhD, not an MD, I find it a little bit obnoxious,” Sullivan said. “But it makes me smile because it’s a reminder that she’s her own person. She wasn’t there as an appendage; she was there as a professional in her own right.”
Newspapers, including The Times, generally do not use the honorific “Dr.” unless the person in question has a medical degree.
“My feeling is if you can’t heal the sick, we don’t call you doctor,” said Bill Walsh, copy desk chief for the Washington Post’s A section and the author of two language books.
But you can rely that the media will throw out their style guides and past usages to reaffirm Dr. Jill in her requirements for self-esteem.
P.S. The Europeans seem to take these matters very seriously. Also from the LA Times piece:
Last year, according to the Post, at least seven Americans (with degrees from places like Cornell and Caltech) were investigated for the crime of “title fraud” for calling themselves doctor on business cards, resumes and websites. Only people who have earned advanced degrees in Germany or other European Union countries may legally call themselves that.
The more I think it about, the more I want Mrs. Biden to go by “Dr. Biden.” It will help the ongoing deflation of academic pretension. Take two bromides and call me in the morning.