"Dr. Jill"

This debate about whether to call Joe Biden's wife "Dr." is more annoying than it should be. It's a courtesy title. No one has to use it, and anyone may use it. Do what you want.

"Doctor" is from the Latin for a teacher, not a healer, so it's older and more appropriate to use it for someone whose education is pointed at educating. Her degree, Ed.D., is much, much less rigorous than a Ph.D., it is true. It is a teacher's union degree, as is the lesser M.Ed., a degree that a full-time public school teacher should be able to pursue and obtain. It's professional education for someone involved in the labor of teaching children. There's nothing wrong with that, even if it's not the same thing as a 5-10 year full time pursuit with a punishing dissertation at the end of it. 

Since it's apparently important to her, the courteous thing would be to use the courtesy she prefers if it's important to you to be respectful of her wishes. If you wish to demonstrate disrespect, it makes it easier than ever to do so. Either way, it makes it easier for you to do what you'd prefer to do. Take your pick.


Gringo said...

My understanding of the Ph.D.(or Ed.D.) protocol is that on campus or in professional forums, someone with a doctorate is addressed as "Doctor," but in the outside world, a non-doctoral reference such as "Mr." or "Ms." is perfectly acceptable.

I am reminded of a Ph.D. who had very good relations with his neighbors, most of whom had a high school education or less. "You wouldn't know he was a professor." Not insisting on use of "Doctor" in that situation indicates that the person possessing the Ph.D. or Ed.D. is not trying to lord it over others, and respects his less-educated colleagues.

As others have already pointed out, an Ed.D. dissertation is, for the most part, not worth the paper it is printed on. Having looked at some Ed.D. dissertations, my conclusion is that for the most part they do not have research results that can be replicated. Instead, Ed.D. dissertations tend more towards stories.

Conclusion: anyone with an Ed.D. who insists on being addressed as "Dr." outside a campus setting is a pretentious twit.

(That doesn't mean that anyone with an Ed.D. is a dummy. My mother went back to school in her 40's to renew her science teaching certification. Her supervisor had a M.S. in chemistry, so he had some brains to go with that Ed.D. No, I have no idea what his Ed.D. dealt with.)

Texan99 said...

I prefer to call her Mama ("Call Me Doctor Teacher") Jill, for the respect.

I'm sure there are genius Ed. D.'s just as there are genius plumbers. It's still OK to wait for evidence of dignity before assuming it's there.

MikeD said...

Here is my issue on the matter. This whole "I earned this title" smacks of aristocracy and (*shudder*) privilege. The idea that you "earned" a title by attending a great deal of schooling, and that you are owed a dignity and respect not owed to other people who did not attend that schooling, is frankly offensive. A master electrician or plumber easily spends as long or longer earning their title, and yet they are somehow "lesser" or "unworthy" because they didn't go to the "correct" type of school?

No one in the United States is owed a title. We do not have peerages, or knighthoods here. If you wish to be addressed as Doctor, then fine, people may do so if they like. You are not owed that courtesy, however. And I think those who insist upon it do so as a way to feel superior to their fellow citizens. In other words, if you demand an courtesy, perhaps you are not worthy of receiving it.

Grim said...

"My understanding of the Ph.D.(or Ed.D.) protocol is that on campus..."

It's way worse than that. If you're on a public high school campus, it's probably really prestigious to be an Ed.D. But if you're on a college campus, you'd never want to be called "Doctor" because that's a low status title. Everyone's a doctor. The real mark of prestige now is being "Professor," which implies an institutional connection and privilege that mere doctors don't have.

And thus Associate/Assistant/Full Professors, versus Distinguished Professors, etc.

If you go somewhere and everybody's on a first-name basis in spite of these status differentials, it's probably pretty collegial (i.e., an environment proper to a college!). If they're drawing these lines carefully, then either they're not very nice or you've found yourself in a college setting that is non-American, perhaps German or Japanese.

The military is much the same way. You are free to dispense with rank and call someone by their first name if they have the same rank as you. So you'll see Major X and Major Y come up for promotion, and one of them gets to be Lieutenant Colonel first. If they're cool and work well together, Major Y will call X "Colonel" the first time, and LTC X will wave that off and insist on being called by his first name like always. If they're not cool with each other, the insistence on formality will tell.

I pity the Ed.D. who wanders into a legitimate academic seminar and wants to be called "Doctor Such-and-So" by the Full and Distinguished Professors. They'll probably do it, if it matters to her, but it won't redound to her honor among them.

Grim said...

We do not have peerages, or knighthoods here.

Like I said, it's a courtesy title. Being a free man, you can choose to be courteous or not. If you want to be insulting, she's given you a tool to insult her. It's no skin off your nose; your ends are made even easier to obtain, whether you wish to bless or mar.

E Hines said...

In my college days, even in my graduate days, PhDs (I didn't encounter any EdDs; I was at serious schools) were addressed alternatively as "Doctor" or "Professor," or if they accepted informality, "Prof." First name basis was held out for by the professors who considered being ate up with coolth to be more important than teaching.

From the comments above, I guess the times are devolving.

My biggest beefs with the Epstein missive are two. One is the insulting nature of his "if you haven't delivered a baby, you can't be called 'Doctor'." Which means heart surgeons can't be called "Doctor," or neurosurgeons (maybe he was aiming at a particular one), or ENTs, or epidemiologists (again, maybe targeting a particular one), my GP (who's had some but never delivered any), and on and on.

My other beef is with the professional victim crowd, who chose to make Epstein's beef about the supposed pretentiousness of insisting on the title all about running down women because Jill "Edith Wilson" Biden is a woman--so Epstein couldn't possibly be talking about anything other than women.

Eric Hines

E Hines said...

You are not owed that courtesy, however.

No one is owed any courtesy. That's something freely offered by courteous people, not called for by the addressee. Courtesy, after all, is about making the other person comfortable.

The military is much the same way. You are free to dispense with rank and call someone by their first name if they have the same rank as you.

Addressing by rank (or by "Sir") has less to do with courtesy than with necessary discipline. Courtesy does have an important role though, as Blackjack Pershing noted: in any relationship between two men, if the one in the superior position is a gentleman, he never remembers it; if the one in the subordinate position is a gentleman, he never forgets it.

Eric Hines

David Foster said...

My point is similar to that raised by Mike D...there are too many people in America today who think their status comes from their educational credentials, and those who lack such credentials are inherently lesser people. And it's not just a matter of what the degree IS, but also, where the degree *came from*.

Peter Drucker, himself of European origins, tried to warn us about this 50 years ago:

"The most serious impact of the long years of schooling is, however, the “diploma curtain” between those with degrees and those without. It threatens to cut society in two for the first time in American history…By denying opportunity to those without higher education, we are denying access to contribution and performance to a large number of people of superior ability, intelligence, and capacity to achieve…I expect, within ten years or so, to see a proposal before one of our state legislatures or up for referendum to ban, on applications for employment, all questions related to educational status…I, for one, shall vote for this proposal if I can."


"One thing it (modern society) cannot afford in education is the “elite institution” which has a monopoly on social standing, on prestige, and on the command positions in society and economy. Oxford and Cambridge are important reasons for the English brain drain. A main reason for the technology gap is the Grande Ecole such as the Ecole Polytechnique or the Ecole Normale. These elite institutions may do a magnificent job of education, but only their graduates normally get into the command positions. Only their faculties “matter.” This restricts and impoverishes the whole society…The Harvard Law School might like to be a Grande Ecole and to claim for its graduates a preferential position. But American society has never been willing to accept this claim…"

America today has come much closer to accepting Grande Ecole status for HLS (and similar) than it had when Drucker wrote the above.

Grim said...

“First name basis was held out for by the professors who considered being ate up with coolth...”

I was thinking of between themselves. Students might well be expected to use the title as a matter of classroom decorum.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

There are poseurs in academia, but there are also folks who shudder to listen to their colleagues insist on being called "Dr." Rest assured that people have noticed that Jill Biden is one of those, and as her dissertation has come up, may give it a glance to see what she is made of. It is not going to change anyone's ideology, but it is one more chink in the armor, and one more touch of understanding why the Deplorables get so worked up about these things.

The people who are going to be most irritated? The people with Master's degrees who have to put up with insufferable "Drs" in their professional dealings, knowing that they are more knowledgeable and competent.

james said...

As Grim says, people only use the title for the day or two after a candidate has gotten the degree. The rest of the time it's not used. You can't throw a brick down the hall without hitting 3 PhDs or soon-going-to-be's. "Professor" is the distinctive title, and even that isn't used all that much. Oddly enough, I can't speak to classroom usage, since I haven't been in one for years, even though I work at a university.

That doesn't mean everyone gets equal esteem--that has to be earned.

douglas said...

Many good points raised.

When I was in school at an avant garde architecture school (in the 90s), all the instructors went by first names only in some sense of equalite or something. When I taught at university some years later, all the instructors identified themselves by first name to the students, and students varied in whether they used that or Prof. X to refer to them. I never corrected a student either way. I do think that some degree of formality is good to maintain some hierarchy between student and teacher, and think the use of first names exclusively is not useful, especially in primary education, where some seem to want to use it.

I also agree that we have a heritage in this country of not classifying people by title, be they degree or other title beyond Mister, Missus, and Miss. There are good reasons George Washington insisted on being referred to as "Mister President", rather than "your excellency" or somesuch.

I think the problem in the case of Jill Biden is the *insistence* that the title be used (as well as the left's intentional disuse of the title for people like Ben Carson). At that point, it's no longer a matter of courtesy, but rather one of power and positioning, and I agree that withholding the use of that title is appropriate, and generally is not needlessly malicious.

Grim said...

...as Blackjack Pershing noted...

Excellent advice there.

...it's no longer a matter of courtesy, but rather one of power and positioning, and I agree that withholding the use of that title is appropriate, and generally is not needlessly malicious.

A fair point. A free American citizen is the equal of anyone; he can look the Pope or the Queen of England in the eye, if he wants. Our politicians work for us, and should be the ones choosing their words carefully out of respect for our position. You have every right to affirm that.

That said, the effect of that equality is that the title doesn't really matter: whether she's "Dr. Biden" or "Mrs. Biden" or "Your Majesty," she's no better than your equal. The real issue is one you get to decide, which is whether you want to make her feel respected or not. You get to pick, and no one can stop you.

Grim said...

"... but it is one more chink in the armor, and one more touch of understanding why the Deplorables get so worked up about these things."

On Twitter, it's led to a move by women to add their credentials to their names. Except a lot of women on the Deplorables side are putting in things like "Dropout" or "Dr. Sarah PhD MS MA BABABA Esq. JD MD" or the like.

Mockery is never polite, but it can sometimes be apt.

Christopher B said...

To merge a couple of threads that seem to be strung through these comments, there seems to be a more general confusion in society of what is courtesy, and what is respect, and when each should occur. Using a title such as Dr upon first meeting is much more a courtesy than a sign of respect, though it may become that in time. Uncourteous or unprofessional behavior is seen as disrespectful. It is that, though not of the same kind that pointedly ignores or belittles a person's abilities and talents.

douglas said...

"Mockery is never polite, but it can sometimes be apt."

So the question then is when is impoliteness deserved or even required? Or is it ever? I'd contend that it is just as the protections of the Geneva Conventions are not extended (or at least not automatically) to those who do not themselves abide by them, such as ununiformed combatants.

Grim said...

I always heard that it was sometimes necessary to kill a man, but never to be rude to him. Unfortunately, however, killing is frowned upon as a remedy these days; or to paraphrase Conan, 'Savages are more courteous than civilized men, as a general thing, because the civilized expect they can be rude without meeting an axe.'

ymarsakar said...

You get to pick, and no one can stop you.

In reality, the LEft does not allow people to choose to address genders in whatever way they pick, and no one can stop them.

Well, they are being stopped, or at least their job is. And Flynn, Trump, is another example of how they stop you from talking.