It’s been five days since I wrote about it here, and a week since Joseph Epstein made the point in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, thus getting him “cancelled” at the institution where he had been a lecturer for two decades. Nevertheless, the arguments over the appropriateness of the First Lady insisting that she be called “Dr.” are still roiling, with several essays hitting the web yesterday. Adding to the noise is Jill Biden’s—she won’t call me “doctor,” and I’ll be damned if I’ll call her that on my own site. Now, if we meet, that’s different. I call people what they want to be called, because it’s a Golden Rule thing—-dissertation, which is now widely linked so anyone can see how truly Dr.-worthy it is.
Ethics Alarms has been going through another one of those periods where readers irritate me by carping, “Why did you write about that? Why don’t you write about what I want you to write about?” (This is even covered in the comment guide, which I can summarize on this point in two words: “Bite me.”) Thus I will (again, as I did in the initial post) explain what interest this trivial matter has to an ethicist. THAT can be summed up in eleven words “So this is the way it’s going to be, is it?”
After never giving the Trumps any credit, praise, sympathy, gratitude, generosity, respect or a break for four years, the mainstream media is now going to defend every bit of criticism of the Bidens like Travis, Bowie and Crockett battled the Alamo. Wow. They aren’t even pretending to be objective and fair any more, and why should they? They pulled it off; they abused their role sufficiently to warp public perception and manipulate the election.
But we all know, even if the students being educated in our current excuses for public schools don’t and won’t, what happened to Travis,Bowie and Davy. This extreme partisanship and dedication to propaganda will not end well. The public trust of the media is already near rock bottom, with more than 50% of the population permanently alienated. We need a strong and trustworthy journalistic presence to survive as a democracy, and foolish choices of when to spin will only doom it and us.
1. As I said in the original post, I don’t really care about Jill’s sad insistence on “Dr.” and I have consistently written here that going back and using old theses, dissertations and other writings for academic credit to attack public figures is a cheap shot. Nonetheless, I couldn’t resist trying to read the paper that is the justification for her “Dr.” title, and stopped after the second sentence, because there is a typo or a mistakenly chosen word in that sentence, which is astounding.
Anyone who reads here often knows my unfortunate penchant for typos, a byproduct of having to fit in posts with income-producing work, poor proof-reading skills and my inability to type. However, I can say with certainty that there wasn’t a single typo in my Government honors thesis (Title: “Applying the Great Man Theory To The Presidents of the United States”), because we had been assured that such carelessness and lack of requisite seriousness would cost us dearly. (“And if there’s a typo on the first page,” my thesis advisor cautioned me,”some professors may refuse to read your thesis at all.”)
Yet here is Jill’s second sentence in “Student Retention in the Community College: Meeting Students’ Needs”:
“The needs of the student population are often undeserved, resulting in a student drop-out rate of almost one third.”
Undeserved? Who “deserves” needs? Obviously the writer meant underserved, which Miriam Webster (for now!) defines as “provided with inadequate service.” The failure of community colleges to serve the needs of its students is the topic of the document, and yet this crucial typo (or unforgivable error) remained in the dissertation for its supposedly critical review by seven scholars, and it’s still there.
No wonder Mrs. Biden never noticed that her husband’s mind is failing.
2. The Jill Biden story taught me a term I had never heard before: “ring-knockers,” used to describe military officers who leave class rings or challenge coins on their desks. The civilian equivalents are people over the age of 25 who wear class rings from prestige schools and always manage to drop into conversation the names of their alma mater.
3. Joe Biden has said, “She said, ‘I was so sick of the mail coming to Sen. and Mrs. Biden. I wanted to get mail addressed to Dr. and Sen. Biden.’ That’s the real reason she got her doctorate.” If true, that justifies kicking Jill’s “Dr.” title into the can all by itself. One of the most destructive maladies in U.S. education is the development of a culture that regards education as something you acquire as a credential rather than as a tool to accomplish something, improve your abilities and be a better human being.
4. Then there is this, from Kyle Smith at the National Review:
[Jill Biden] got it from the University of Delaware, whose ties to her husband, its most illustrious alumnus if you don’t count Joe Flacco, run so deep that it has a school of public policy named after him. That the University of Delaware would have rejected her 2006 dissertation as sloppy, poorly written, non-academic, and barely fit for a middle-school Social Studies classroom (all of which it is) when her husband had been representing its state in the U.S. Senate for more than three decades was about as likely as Tom Hagen telling Vito Corleone that his wife is a fat sow on payday. The only risk to the University of Delaware was that it might strain its collective wrist in its rush to rubber-stamp her doctoral paper.“
5. As the previous note shows, the story has become an abject lesson in the Streisand Effect, which Biden defenders better learn quickly. Ignoring Epstein’s op-ed was the prudent move; calling attention to it just called attention to his point, which is valid, and what Mrs. Biden has done with her degree, which isn’t much. Without the escalation, it is unlikely, for example, that anyone would have hunted down, at a website that rates professors, what some of her community college students said about her as an instructor:
“Please do NOT take her. She simply doesn’t care about teaching. we spent one class each week in the lab doing NOTHING. A very tough grader.”
“Worst English teacher at Nova. I should have read the comments before choosing her for my first semester. She grades things by her way, there is no rubric. I came to her personally to change my grade and showed her all the work I’ve done and she gave me a B then later on she didn’t recall giving me that grade so she gave me a D.”
Others are more complimentary, but a 60% positive rating seems a bit thin for the author of “Student Retention in the Community College: Meeting Students’ Needs”…unless her students’ need for effective teaching was undeserved.