Let me stipulate that I detest titles, and I distrust people who insist on using titles. My father was particularly contemptuous of non-medical doctors who used the appellation “Dr”. I had a history professor in high school who made us call him “Dr. Arthur,” because he had a PhD in history. My father was so annoyed when he heard that that my mother wouldn’t let him go to the parent-teacher meeting with the “Dr.” for fear Dad would say something. I have a number of friends with PhDs, and none call themselves “doctors.” Who would they be trying to impress? Who would they be trying to fool?
I guess I could call myself “doctor”; I have a juris doctor degree, after all. As arrogant and smug as so many lawyers are, I have never known any who dared put “Dr.” before their name. It’s bad enough that so many put “Esquire” after it. The incoming First Lady, however, feels compelled to call herself “Dr.” and have others do so, and she isn’t a PhD: at most, she’s as much of a doctor as I am. Her degree is an Ed.D., a doctor of education, earned at the University of Delaware. I’m so impressed.
Actually, I couldn’t care less. If someone is so determined to put on airs or be deferred to that they insist on being called “Dr.,” I’ll accommodate them, though they might not like what I’m thinking. I even called “Judge Napolitano” “judge” when I met him, though he’s not a judge.
Northwestern University lecturer Joseph Epstein wrote a harsh op-ed for the Wall Street Journal chiding Jill and suggesting she drop the “Dr.,” saying that it sounds and feels fraudulent, which it does. (Other misleading “doctors”: Dr. Phil, who lost his license, Dr. Laura, who had a PhD in physiology, and Dr. Teeth, who was a Muppet.) After all, it fooled Whoopie Goldberg! In one episode of “The View’ after the election, Goldberg blurted out, “I’m hoping Dr. Jill becomes the surgeon general, his wife….She would never do it but, yeah, she’s a hell of a doctor. She’s an amazing doctor.”
So, so many facts don’t matter to Biden fans! Epstein also called Biden’s use of “Dr.” comical. Well, Whoopie declaring that Jill was a “hell of a doctor” because of it sure was funny.
For the crime of pointing out the truth about Jill Biden’s use of the title—it is, or should be, embarrassing—Epstein was removed as a Northwestern University “emeritus lecturer,” a post he had held for more than twenty years. Then the Washington Post’s reliably silly “gender” writer, Monica Hesse, defended the indefensible with this series of lame justifications and rationalizations:
1) There is nothing “comical” about toiling for years to achieve a credential that is technically and socially correct for Jill Biden to use.
2) The fact that she accomplished this later in life, after having raised three children and worked another career, is admirable. The title of her dissertation — “Student Retention at the Community College Level” — sounds important and not, as Epstein writes, “unpromising.”
3) The premise that only medical doctors should get to hold the Dr. title is etymologically specious because, as Merriam-Webster dictionary pointed out on Twitter, “doctor” comes from the Latin word for “teacher”; it was scholars and theologians who, back in the 14th century, used the title well before medical practitioners.
4) Absolutely nobody is worried that if a pilot gets on the intercom and asks, “Is there a doctor on this flight?” Jill Biden is going to leap from her seat and try to perform a tracheotomy.
Now THAT’s fraudulent and comical.
Re: #1: If it’s so socially and and technically acceptable, why do so few people with that degree insist on calling themselves “doctor”? They don’t use it because its misleading, and makes them look like insecure, preening fools who want to proclaim that they are smarter and better educated than everyone else, when insisting on the title suggests the opposite.
Re: #2: I guess Jill should have a special title then, like “Mommy Doctor.” What does the point in life when someone earns a degree have to do with anything? Does the fact that my father earned his juris doctor later in life, after becoming a father, and after going through World War II and getting his foot blown up mean that he had special leave to call himself “doctor”? As for the title of Jill Biden’s dissertation, who cares? The greatest title in the history of dissertations wouldn’t make her use of “doctor” less silly.
Re #3: Then I guess Dr. Arthur was right, and every lawyer should also call himself and herself “doctor,” and every teacher too, because we’re still in the 14th Century. Or something. What was Hesse’s argument again?
Re #4: Well, hello, Rationalization 22, “It’s not the worst thing!”
And so it begins: just as Melania Trump could do nothing right in the eyes of the media, Jill Biden can do no wrong.