Response to that WSJ Article, Kiddo

Honestly, what I want to write is “Mr. Epstein, kiddo, go fork yourself.” But, that’s not terribly productive. Or kind. Or thoughtful. It’s just rude. Much like this editorial. It’s rude. It’s disrespectful. It’s pointless. Talk to some women who have earned their doctorates and many if not most of us have stories of passive-aggressive sexism, disrespect, or the simple thrill of getting addressed by your title when you earned it. Not Miss, Ms. or Mrs. Dr.


So instead of simply telling the WSJ where they can stick their opinion, here are some brief thoughts and facts in response to that garbage opinion piece arguing that Dr. Jill Biden should stop using her honorific because she is not an MD and therefore it feels “fraudulent” or “comic,”


Sorry. It just came out. 

Let’s set aside how disrespectful it was for Mr. Epstein to call Dr. Jill Biden “kiddo” in a major national newspaper. The title doctor originally had nothing to do with medicine, so the idea that only someone who has delivered a baby should be called “doctor” is kind of nonsensical. Also, Dr. Jill Biden has given birth to a child, so she’s delivered a baby, ffs. “Doctor” comes from the Latin verb “docere,” meaning to teach, or a scholar. The Ph.D. is older than the M.D. People have been getting Ph.D.s since long before the time when medical professionals were using leeches and operating out of barbershops. To be specific, Dr. Jill Biden has an Ed.D., which follows the conventions of the Ph.D. There were Ed.D. students in many of my Ph.D. courses because of the intersections between our courses of study.

This argument he makes about honorary Ph.D.s makes no sense, whatsoever. Dr. Biden earned her degree. It wasn’t bestowed on her out of generosity. She. Earned. It. Most people who get honorary doctorates don’t go around addressed as “Dr.” Most people who earn them do. Me? I went by Miss Book Lady, Miss Librarian, or Miss Kasey for a long time because I worked outside of the academy, but I sure appreciate it when people respect me enough to use my title. I especially loved the affectionate “Doc.” Because I earned it. I earned a full-ride for undergrad. I earned a dissertation fellowship. I earned my doctorate. It was hard, lonely work. No one gave that to me just because. I didn’t achieve these things in a vacuum and I’m grateful for the support I had, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t earn my title. Of course, there is also Dr. Samuel Johnson, the famed 18th-century literary critic and dictionary author who went by Dr. Johnson everywhere he could and his doctorate was honorary. So, there are some notable exceptions (*cough* Dr. Cosby).

Yes, there are a lot more Ph.D.s now than there used to be and more professional fields are moving toward doctorates as their terminal degree. My brother, for example, earned a doctorate in physical therapy, which is a relatively new development in his field. But, based on the most recent data, only 13.1% of the U.S. population holds Ph.D.s. EDIT: 13.1% hold master’s, doctorate, or professional degrees. Fewer than 2% hold Ph.D.s It’s not exactly common. It’s not easy. 

And women are starting to earn Ph.D.s more often than men. But, in many fields, women are still far outnumbered. Then, there’s the prestige gap. And, there is a historical trend in professional fields that once women start to make up the majority of the field, the pay goes down. Look at librarians. Teachers. So, by all means, start to disrespect the doctorate once women start to excel there, too. That seems productive.

Finally, not to make it personal, but that the author opens with the fact that he taught at Northwestern for 30 years without a Ph.D., but with “only a B.A. in absentia” really makes it sound like he is in some way jealous or threatened by Dr. Biden’s academic success. And if Ph.D.s are sooo much easier to get than they used to be, why don’t you go get one, bro?

Further Reading:

Jill Biden Tweets Rebuke

What is the Real Difference Between a PhD and MD?

2 thoughts on “Response to that WSJ Article, Kiddo

  1. You earned it for sure, Doc! So proud of you!
    By the way. I have a Masters in education that wasn’t easy either. They are taking away the pay bump, so fewer people will reach for this goal now. Just another form of disrespect in a largely female profession.

    • I’m proud of you too! I have fond memories of us all doing homework at the kitchen table when you were getting your third degree. I can’t believe they’re getting rid of the bump! Ugh!

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