The Silly ‘Dr. Biden’ Kerfuffle

A silly, sexist WSJ op-ed has generated plenty of attention.

Because my Twitter feed is heavy on academics, politicos, and media types, it was filled this weekend with hate for Joseph Epstein’s ill-informed Wall Street Journal op-edIs There a Doctor in the White House? Not if You Need an M.D.

The New York Times and Washington Post have both written pieces denouncing the essay and Paul Gigot, the editor of WSJ’s editorial page, has issued a bizarre defense that has dug the hole deeper, claiming that the outrage was somehow ginned up by the Biden team rather than the decision to publish an insipid column.

The feminists rightly called him out for the lede, “Madame First Lady—Mrs. Biden—Jill—kiddo . . . .” While “kiddo” is apparently a nickname the President-Elect uses for her, it’s simply inappropriate for a stranger to use it in reference to a grown woman.

His argument, in a nutshell:

Any chance you might drop the “Dr.” before your name? “Dr. Jill Biden ” sounds and feels fraudulent, not to say a touch comic. Your degree is, I believe, an Ed.D., a doctor of education, earned at the University of Delaware through a dissertation with the unpromising title “Student Retention at the Community College Level: Meeting Students’ Needs.” A wise man once said that no one should call himself “Dr.” unless he has delivered a child.

So, first off, as I’ve noted before when variations of this controversy have arisen, “doctor” is from the Latin for “teacher.” It was literally used by scholars for centuries before healers appropriated the title for themselves to lend legitimacy to an occupation that was filled with quacks before professionalizing.

Further, if one is a community college teacher seeking a doctorate in educational leadership, it’s hard to think of a more worthy subject of investigation that how to better meet student needs so they can finish their course of study.

Epstein does himself no favors in the next paragraph:

I taught at Northwestern University for 30 years without a doctorate or any advanced degree. I have only a B.A. in absentia from the University of Chicago—in absentia because I took my final examination on a pool table at Headquarters Company, Fort Hood, Texas, while serving in the peacetime Army in the late 1950s.

Which of course makes him sound like someone jealous of Biden’s accomplishments. He was a “visiting lecturer” at Northwestern, presumably teaching creative writing.

I do have an honorary doctorate

This is, in almost all cases, swag given out as a prize for commencement speakers or to large donors.

I was also often addressed as Dr. during the years I was editor of the American Scholar, the quarterly magazine of Phi Beta Kappa. Let me quickly insert that I am also not a member of Phi Beta Kappa, except by marriage. Many of those who so addressed me, I noted, were scientists. I also received a fair amount of correspondence from people who appended the initials Ph.D. to their names atop their letterheads, and have twice seen PHD on vanity license plates, which struck me as pathetic. In contemporary universities, in the social sciences and humanities, calling oneself Dr. is thought bush league.

There’s a lot to unpack here but the bottom line is that the use of “Dr.” in academic venues is regional. I gather that it’s unusual on the West Coast and Midwest, where “Professor” is preferred. It’s the the norm in the South, where “Professor” is reserved for those, like Epstein, who hold teaching posts but don’t hold doctorates. While I wouldn’t put it on my license plate, I could see where a younger person might.

This is particularly rich for someone with no advanced degree:

The Ph.D. may once have held prestige, but that has been diminished by the erosion of seriousness and the relaxation of standards in university education generally, at any rate outside the sciences. Getting a doctorate was then an arduous proceeding: One had to pass examinations in two foreign languages, one of them Greek or Latin, defend one’s thesis, and take an oral examination on general knowledge in one’s field. At Columbia University of an earlier day, a secretary sat outside the room where these examinations were administered, a pitcher of water and a glass on her desk. The water and glass were there for the candidates who fainted. A far cry, this, from the few doctoral examinations I sat in on during my teaching days, where candidates and teachers addressed one another by first names and the general atmosphere more resembled a kaffeeklatsch. Dr. Jill, I note you acquired your Ed.D. as recently as 15 years ago at age 55, or long after the terror had departed.

First, it’s simply untrue that standards have decreased at comparable institutions. (There are a host of degree mills out there, of course, many of them online. But Biden went to an R1 flagship.) Indeed, the professors I had as an undergraduate 35 years ago, who finished their doctorates in the late 1960s, typically earned their degree three years out of undergrad and were full professors by age 30. These days, it’s not uncommon to take five to seven years to complete the program.

I’m not sure the EdD ever required learning ancient languages but I can’t imagine any reason why they still should. In my PhD program at Alabama, which I finished 25 years ago almost to the day, we had the requirement to demonstrate reading comprehension in one foreign language (German in my case) and a suite of statistics and research methods courses substituted for a second. We did in fact have comprehensive exams, a proposal defense, and a dissertation defense. I don’t recall much in the way of fainting.

The prestige of honorary doctorates has declined even further. Such degrees were once given exclusively to scholars, statesmen, artists and scientists. Then rich men entered the lists, usually in the hope that they would donate money to the schools that had granted them their honorary degrees. (My late friend Sol Linowitz, then chairman of Xerox, told me that he had 63 honorary doctorates.) Famous television journalists, who passed themselves off as intelligent, followed. Entertainers, who didn’t bother feigning intelligence, were next.

So, first off, Epstein got an honorary doctorate from Adelphia in 1988. I guarantee you that all of those trends long predated that event. But it gets worse:

At Northwestern, recent honorary-degree recipients and commencement speakers have included Stephen Colbert and Seth Meyers. I sent a complaining email to the school’s president about the low quality of such men as academic honorands, with the result that the following year the commencement speaker and honorand was Billie Jean King —who, with the graduating members of the school’s women’s tennis team, hit tennis balls out to the audience of graduating students and the parents who had paid $70,000 a year for their university education, or perhaps I should say for their “credential.”

I guarantee that Colbert and Meyers are smarter than Epstein. And King is a seminal figure in sport and the civil rights movement. I would think students and parents would be happier to hear her thoughts than, say, those of Joseph Epstein.

Political correctness has put paid to any true honor an honorary doctorate may once have possessed. If you are ever looking for a simile to denote rarity, try “rarer than a contemporary university honorary-degree list not containing an African-American woman.” Then there are all those honorary degrees bestowed on Bill Cosby, Charlie Rose and others who, owing to their proven or alleged sexual predations, have had to be rescinded. Between the honorary degrees given to billionaires, the falsely intelligent, entertainers and the politically correct, just about all honor has been drained from honorary doctorates.

So, Bill Cosby holds an earned doctorate and is a seminal figure in American comedy and the civil rights struggle. Alas, he’s also a serial rapist. Rose, too, is a learned man (undergrad and law degrees from Duke) and an intellectual. Alas, he, too, was a serial harasser and creep.

Apparently, Epstein has been laboring for 32 years under the assumption that he’s something special because a mediocre university awarded him an honorary doctorate. And his feelings are hurt because people he holds in disdain because they’re far more accomplished and famous than he also got one. Oh, well.

As to Biden herself, I’ve written about the controversy before and have mixed feelings.

Her doctorate is real and earned. But it’s a little odd to use the title “Dr.” when teaching outside one’s field. She teaches remedial English at a community college. Students would reasonably assume she had a PhD in English, not an EdD in Educational Leadership.

It’s even more unusual to insist on the title outside an academic setting. I don’t use at at OTB, where I’m quite often just commenting as an ordinary citizen rather than as one who has devoted deep study to the subject at hand. I tend not to use it even when I write for non-scholarly outlets in my field of expertise.

Still, I sympathize with her desire to emphasize her own personal and professional achievements. She’s not simply Joe Biden’s wife but a woman with a career and accomplishments of her own. “Dr. Biden” calls attention to that fact.

UPDATE: Northwestern’s English Department has put this statement on their website:

The Department is aware that a former adjunct lecturer who has not taught here in nearly 20 years has published an opinion piece that casts unmerited aspersion on Dr. Jill Biden’s rightful public claiming of her doctoral credentials and expertise. The Department rejects this opinion as well as the diminishment of anyone’s duly-earned degrees in any field, from any university.

While I wouldn’t go so far as “any field” or “any university,” it’s a stinging rebuke.

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, Education, Gender Issues, Higher Ed
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. grumpy realist says:

    Did Mr. Epstein make a similar stink about Dr. Kissinger and Dr. Gorka? Especially when the White House insisted on using their doctoral titles when referring to said individuals?

    If he did not, then he really has nothing to stand on.

    And if Mr. Epstein really hates honorary doctorates, why did he not refuse the one he received?

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  2. Jen says:

    First, several of Epstein’s past students have piped up on Twitter and he’s apparently long been a sexist jerk.

    Second, my college adviser said that she worked hard to earn her doctorate, and that she expected us to use that title when addressing her, and that’s what we did. (She further noted that she was paid at the PhD rate not the MD rate, so emergencies at 2 a.m. would not be responded to…apparently, in the past students had called her at home to ask questions whenever they got to them.)

    Third, doubling down on this is not a good look for the WSJ. That there’s been a pile-on is completely expected, and it’s utterly unbecoming for Joseph Epstein. He comes across as a jealous, ridiculous, and petty jerk.

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  3. Slugger says:

    We live in an era of coarseness. This is an attempt at denigrating President Biden. Obama was attacked for wearing a tan suit, using mustard on a hamburger, and using a teleprompter. This attack on Dr. Biden is more of this petty, puerile viciousness. These actions besmirch us all. When John Kennedy became President, he asked headline writers to not call him “Jack”, and the “JFK” appellation was born. There were many follies in that era, but there was some respect for our institutions and ourselves. WSJ be respectful! There will be plenty real things to disagree with, and Biden will make mistakes like every other President.

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  4. Scott says:

    I have a good friend who I went to college with. She was 1st generation from Greek immigrants. Her father was a maître d’ and her mother was a seamstress. They did not want her to go to college. Her brother had priority. She did anyway and her goal was to get a doctorate. It was a personal goal as much as a professional one. It ended up in Environmental Sciences.

    Damn straight she put that Dr. in front of her name.

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  5. HarvardLaw92 says:

    If there was ever an “OK Boomer … ” misogyny moment, this was it 🙄

    He could have saved himself the trouble of writing all those pointless words if he’d just condensed if to “Well, in my day we didn’t have to treat women with respect”.

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  6. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    The POTUS is attempting a coup, and the WSJ worries about this?

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  7. mattbernius says:

    A few random thoughts on this.

    1. This essay is a great example that the universal New Yorker cartoon caption–Christ, what an asshole!–works in so many other situations.

    2. Northwester University demonstrated it can throw some premium shade in response to this. Extra points go to the English Department who doesn’t even bother to name the Epstien:

    The Department is aware that a former adjunct lecturer who has not taught here in nearly 20 years has published an opinion piece that casts unmerited aspersion on Dr. Jill Biden’s rightful public claiming of her doctoral credentials and expertise. The Department rejects this opinion as well as the diminishment of anyone’s duly-earned degrees in any field, from any university.

    [Emphasis mine]

    3. James wrote:

    Indeed, the professors I had as an undergraduate 35 years ago, who finished their doctorates in the late 1960s, typically earned their degree three years out of undergrad and were full professors by age 30. These days, it’s not uncommon to take five to seven years to complete the program.

    This is 100% the case. And I write this as someone who opted out of a PhD program in the humanities after grappling with the fact it would probably take me 8 years (if all went well) to graduate into a non-existent job market. If anything there has been an over-correction towards too many expectations being put on PhD students and candidates. In part that’s the nature of professionalization and in part that’s because Universities (in particular R1 unis) operate on the backs of graduate students.

    4. James also wrote:

    Her doctorate is real and earned. But it’s a little odd to use the title “Dr.” when teaching outside one’s field. She teaches remedial English at a community college. Students would reasonably assume she had a PhD in English, not an EdD in Educational Leadership.

    It’s even more unusual to insist on the title outside an academic setting. I don’t use at at OTB, where I’m quite often just commenting as an ordinary citizen rather than as one who has devoted deep study to the subject at hand. I tend not to use it even when I write for non-scholarly outlets in my field of expertise.

    I can easily explain this — many women and Black and people of color tend to insist on the use of their honorifics because that is a way for them to command the respect that is often not given to them. My fields, Anthropology and Design Research, tend to skew towards more female practitioners than male. And I can still easily remember lots of times during academic and professional conferences where I have been in conversation with a leading voice in the field (again often female or a person of color, many times someone who completed their Ph.D.) and I’ve had younger practitioners and outsiders come in the conversation and assume that I’m the expert there. In extreme cases, I’ve seen them literally physically box out the expert that I was talking to in order to get my wisdom (in one case they thought I was the scholar because the individual in question had a name that could be read as male or female).

    So a lot of folks I know and deeply respect have decided for political and representational reasons to claim the “Ph.D.”

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  8. Pylon says:

    Among the worst essays I’ve read in a major paper in years. But not Epstein’s worst effort ever:

    https://www.newsweek.com/wsj-op-ed-writer-slammed-attacking-jill-biden-also-penned-homophobic-essay-using-n-word-1554409

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  9. mattbernius says:

    One other critical thing to remember, while the WSJ’s newsroom has historically been among the top in the business, the editorial page has always been a reactionary conservative tire-fire (including, you guessed it, arguing in fervent support of things like segregation and apartheid).

    Twitter thread with some of the receipts starts here: https://twitter.com/BGrueskin/status/1337848606712279040

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  10. ptfe says:

    I’m a PhD who doesn’t often go by “Dr” except in official documents related to my field (aerospace). But holy hell do I understand when people insist on it: it’s an earned title, and if you’ve put in the time and done the work, it’s something you can use to announce accomplishment loudly. That’s especially necessary for women and minorities, who are too often assumed to be there for some other reason. I have the luxury of leaving it off and leaning on professional ambiguity, because nobody questions my white-guy-seriousness day-to-day (in spite of being a slacker in a lot of ways).

    I actually get a weird feeling when other people use it in front of me, because to me it’s a reference to my SIL – she took my brother’s last name well before picking up her PhD, and she earned the shit out of that. But Mr Epstein would consider her linguistics doctorate too lowly or something. Who knows, since he apparently thinks speaking Latin or Greek is amazeballs and the only reason you should be able to get a Real Degree of Real Consequence that lets you call yourself a doctor.

    I sincerely hope Dr Biden continues to emphasize what she’s accomplished. Contrast this with Michelle Obama, who is mysteriously derided in some RW circles as being an otherwise unaccomplished presidential spouse.

    This guy sounds like a typical misinformed ass who shouldn’t be given column inches in a major publication. Which is par for the course for the WSJ ed pages.

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  11. MarkedMan says:

    I had heard about this but hadn’t paid too much attention until this piece. I thought it might be much ado about nothing, but now I’m seconding Matt Bernius – Lord, what an asshole! And he further “promotes the stereotype” of the WSJ editorial page – third and fourth raters absolutely convinced they are amongst the elite, and anxious to tell each other so. His mansplaining how HIS honorary doctorate is somehow equivalent to a real doctorate is cringingly embarrassing.

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  12. SKI says:

    @Pylon: Yes, and also right in line with his track record as an educator as related by Maureen O’Connor

    I’ve briefly noted this on some friends’ threads, but it’s worth posting a full account: when I was a Northwestern undergraduate, I took a required class with Joseph Epstein. He constantly jingled the change and keys in his pockets, and told us not to bother complaining about it as all his students did. He didn’t care. He told us rather proudly that he never lay awake at night worrying about the future of the blue whale (?). He NEVER called on the women in class, and spent most class time talking about how amazing he is. I imagine he would use the verb
    ‘regale’, clearly thinking he would have been welcomed at the Algonquin Round Table. There was one brave woman who insisted on talking. He ignored her. He rang me in my apartment on a weekend, after we turned in our final essays, demanding to know who had written the essay for me. He asked me several questions about Joyce, about whom I’d written, and kept asking how I knew this or that. When I started to cry, he said I was getting hysterical and hung up. I asked a couple of professors who knew me and my work to intervene. He got back to me to say I seemed to have gotten my little boyfriends (??) to speak to him. I was younger than my years and terrified, ignorant of how to stand up for myself. I got the paper back, with a ‘C’, and a one­sentence comment: ‘This is an A paper, but you and I know why I can’t give you an A’.

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  13. SKI says:

    Good post overall James (though I cringed a bit at the use of “silly” in the title before reading it).

    One point that it is important to remember as to why you may not feel the need to use “Dr.” and other, like Dr. Biden or MLK, do – how society treats non-white males.

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  14. Not the IT Dept. says:

    I showed this post to my wife, and this is her response:

    “At what point in time will women have to stop justifying what they choose to do just because some man – a total stranger – has issues with it? Is there a deadline? Because it would be very helpful to know. And the NWU tweet: twenty years????? Are you freaking kiddingme?”

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  15. It worth noting the end of Epstein’s piece to really underscore the misogyny:

    Forget the small thrill of being Dr. Jill, and settle for the larger thrill of living for the next four years in the best public housing in the world as First Lady Jill Biden.

    Also, I found Gigot’s defense to be quite unimpressive. Not only does he deflect significant criticism by acting like this is just the Biden camp mobilizing a response. He does this:

    Why go to such lengths to highlight a single op-ed on a relatively minor issue? My guess is that the Biden team concluded it was a chance to use the big gun of identity politics to send a message to critics as it prepares to take power. There’s nothing like playing the race or gender card to stifle criticism. It’s the left’s version of Donald Trump’s “enemy of the people” tweets.

    Yes, let’s compare all of this to Trump’s real attacks on the institution of the press. What a great way to both escalate the stakes and at the same time diminish the seriousness of Trump’s behavior.

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  16. @Steven L. Taylor: I would note, too, that criticism of the column erupted on Twitter quite organically and well before the Biden camp responded.

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  17. Mikey says:

    My daughter has a PhD, and spent a few years as a professor. If she had a dollar for every time she was assumed to be a student, or had her credentials otherwise questioned, she could have retired already.

    It goes without saying that her male fellow professors did not have anything approaching a similar experience.

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  18. EddieInCA says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    Shorter Joseph Epstein:

    “Uppity bitch needs to learn her place among the women folk.”

    @DR. James Joayner

    Dr. Joyner, I’m assuming that your “kerfuffle” is a big deal to alot of women. My wife, who only hat two Masters degrees, is livid about this. As noted above, she makes sure colleagues know about her degrees just to level the playing field in a conversation. Even in this day and age, you might be surprised how many men have treated my wife like a staff assistant, as opposed to an equal professional, during conferences and corporate events.

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  19. KM says:

    She’s Dr. Biden to, Epstein – the First Lady Dr. Biden if you’re nasty.

    I don’t care what someone’s personal opinion on the whole “Dr should only be for MDs!” issue; if you care so much about them being linguistically and categorically distinct for some reason, start calling them Medical Doctor X or perhaps Physician X. English has exact words for that – it’s not anyone’s fault but your own if you are unclear in your diction because you’re lazy.

    We should be proud to have such accomplished individuals gracing the White House. One should always honored by using the honorific they’ve worked so hard to achieve rather than a fluff title. FLOTUS is the ceremonial title for the woman who assumes Chief Hostess duties on behalf of the nation; it’s not the President’s wife as 11 women have held the position that were not married to POTUS. First Lady wasn’t even a term used for the first few presidencies but was invented because they had to call Harriet Lane something as she wasn’t Buchanan’s wife. I suspect that our first First Husband (or whatever we end up using) will insist on their title as well if they have one and that the media would jump on it to avoid using the First Husband moniker.

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  20. KM says:

    @EddieInCA :

    Dr. Joyner, I’m assuming that your “kerfuffle” is a big deal to alot of women. M

    Damn right we are.

    To a man, I supposed it would be like having everyone call you Baby Jr instead of Mr or Dr or whatever. I’m sure if Dr Joyner was referred to professionally as Baby Jr Joyner by people denigrating his place, he’d be rightly pissed. It’s not quite up there with calling a Black person “boy” but it comes from the same hateful, disrespectful place.

    Kudos to Dr. Biden for not responding the way I would have. That woman knows where her towel is.

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  21. Michael Reynolds says:

    I find all titles silly, M’Lord, unless used in a professional context. My doctor’s a doctor when he’s doctoring, but if I run into him on the street he’s Eshan, or maybe, Mister Ali. Though more likely he’s just, Hey, dude, howzitgoin? I have enough trouble just remembering that I know a particular person. I almost always forget names and I’m supposed to remember titles, too? Any time I’m dragged to an event and have a publicist handy it’s the first thing I tell them: assume I don’t recognize people. Not even when they clearly know me.

    I’m a strong supporter of trans rights but it irritates me that people get worked up over the proper form of address. Your preferred pronoun is they not he? Who cares? Oh, it’s your grace and not my lady? Fuck off.

    Jill Biden can call herself whatever she likes. I did an event with her at the Library of Congress. She seemed pleasant enough. Though if I ran into her on the street I’d likely not recognize her in which case she’d merit one of the titles used by all right-thinking Californians: man or dude.

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  22. Lounsbury says:

    @HarvardLaw92: Come on, let us be strictly fair, even a Boomer demographic one shouldn’t be so completely un-self-aware about a kind of minimalist gender awareness. This is more pre-boomer neanderthalism.

    I mean I can see have a vague … objection is too strong, quibble, with general use of Dr. as prefix by non-medical PhDs due to perhaps a “common usage” sort of thing, but it’s a quibble. More like a “well I might not do it versus PhD at end of name….” but that OpEd is so massively egregious.

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  23. Michael Cain says:

    Opposite problem here. Over the course of my technical career I held a couple of positions where the default assumption would be, “You can’t get there without a PhD.” When someone addressed me as Dr. Cain I always corrected them. Mostly because I hadn’t earned the title, and a little to point out that it was possible to get there without the formal credential. (I took two runs at a PhD and bailed both times. Friends with doctorates predicted both failures: “The class work is no problem, Mike, and we’ve watched you do original research. But you lack the necessary tolerance for academic b*llsh*t to survive the process.”)

    I’ll call anyone with an earned PhD “Doctor” if that’s what they prefer.

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  24. Sleeping Dog says:

    Off and on, I’ve referred to Dean Taylor as Dr.T, though I’ve not referred to @James as Dr. J, not out of lack of respect or collegiality, but because their is only one Dr. J.

    When this article pooped (intentional) up on Memeorandum the other day, I thought, here we go again, Obama’s tan suit, Michele baring arms and Brandon Trump dressing as a tween. Epstein is a fool and the WSJ editorial page soils itself again.

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  25. Gromitt Gunn says:

    Agree with the majority of commenters. Just piping in to say that in my experience in the community college sphere, people with an Ed.D. often refer to themselves as Doctor in their professional lives. Since we are not generally conducting research in our academic fields, being an educator is our profession.

    Also just have to say that trying to figure out solutions to student retention issues at the community college level is one of the biggest research questions in higher ed right now, for a variety of very good reasons. We’re lucky to have someone who has dedicated years of study on it in the White House. Epstein can take his condescending dismissiveness toward the topic and shove up it up octogenarian behind.

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  26. Joe says:

    “JD” is part of my license plate so I guess that makes me pathetic. But in Europe, attorneys are called Dr. and I often insisted to my children (promptly, properly and fully ignored) that perhaps they should refer to me as Dr. I teased my older cousin at the time my (juris) doctorate was conferred in just 3 years after she had taken the honest route of a masters and an PhD in pubic health taking her 6 years, but I got mine a week earlier, making me the first doctor in the family.

    As a far as I am aware, an Ed.D entitles you to be called Dr. in this country and while I don’t doubt there are plenty of randos like Epstein who have ridiculous and benighted opinions on all manner of things, I agree entirely with Sleeping Dog that the “WSJ editorial page soils itself again” but giving up ink to this bullshit.

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  27. al Ameda says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    He could have saved himself the trouble of writing all those pointless words if he’d just condensed if to “Well, in my day we didn’t have to treat women with respect”.

    Please consider this an Amicus comment.
    I could not, can not, say it better.

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  28. grumpy realist says:

    So after we females and dark-skinned individuals go through the painful effort to get advanced credentials we’re told by the pasty-white male WSJ crowd that we shouldn’t use them?

    Figures. It hurts the poor dears feelings, obviously.

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  29. Neil Hudelson says:

    that he’s something special because a mediocre university awarded him an honorary doctorate.

    Northwestern’s mediocre? Unless I’m mistaken, it’s consistently ranked among the very best universities in the nation. While I understand that what’s considered best is subjective, and acknowledge US News and World has its problems, they rank Northwestern as #9 among national universities.

    The University of Alabama ranks #143.

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  30. SKI says:

    @Neil Hudelson: Except Epstein’s honorary degree came from Adelphi, not Northwestern (where he lectured).

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  31. SC_Birdflyte says:

    I have an ABD from Yale. In my case, it required demonstrating proficiency in two foreign languages (French and German), passage of an 8-hour written comprehensive exam and a 2-hour oral board, plus submission of an approved dissertation prospectus. However, even if I had finished my dissertation, I don’t think I’d be comfortable in being called “Doctor.” But that’s just me. Epstein’s carping is just garden-variety snideness.

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  32. Gustopher says:

    I think the categorization of this as silly is … dismissive.

    That said, Dr. Biden should have stopped her education earlier and demanded everyone call her Master — dropping the last name entirely (although it is an earned last name, as wooing and landing a man such as Joe Biden is an accomplishment of note).

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  33. James Joyner says:

    @Neil Hudelson: Yes, as @SKI notes, I’m referring to Adelphi. It’s a perfectly fine school, to be sure, but not a place one would go to get a doctorate. Alabama isn’t among our elite institutions but it’s an R1 flagship.

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  34. Lynn says:

    I have never used “Dr.” except in certain professional settings, such as testifying as an expert witness, doing competency evaluations in jails, and so forth. I can’t imagine using it socially, and don’t think I’d use it outside of work even if I were an MD rather than a PhD.

    OTOH, I am aware that women with PhDs (and even MDs) are often denied their titles even in professional settings. I can think of at least 2 court cases in which one of the attorneys kept calling me “Mrs.” until the judge corrected him — at my request. Similarly, a psychologist friend worked in a medical setting and was often introduced by her first name while the physicians were addressed as “Dr.”

    I wonder if our charming friend Mr. Epstein complained about all those men in government who were addressed as “Dr.” despite “only” having PhDs?

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  35. Beth says:

    @Michael Reynolds: I’m a strong supporter of trans rights but it irritates me that people get worked up over the proper form of address. Your preferred pronoun is they not he? Who cares? Oh, it’s your grace and not my lady? Fuck off.

    I survived and worked hard, I’ll chose when and where to get worked up over pronouns; she, her or my name, please. You can call me M’Lady, if you’d like. I’d be tickled.

    Personally, I am still shocked that I didn’t see the amount of misogyny that women experience until I faced it myself. I’ve worked with attorneys that treated me as an equal when I wore an ill fitting men’s suit to a hearing, and then start talking over me and treating me like a child because I came to the next hearing in (much better fitting) skirt suit. I’m very femme presenting, yet obviously Trans and men, particularly White Men, read “woman” and their brains shut off.

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  36. mattbernius says:

    Meta-comment observation:
    I’m always a bit surprised how many of the OTB commentariate have Ph.D.s, J.D.s, or their fields equivalents (let alone those of us with MA’s or those who were ABD — for the record I didn’t get that far).

    And outside of that, we have the Michael Reynolds, EddieInCAs, and WRs who have achieved expert standing in their entertainment-related fields.

    Ya’ll, we’re a bunch of elites apparently.

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  37. Teve says:

    @KM:

    That woman knows where her towel is.

    high praise.

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  38. EddieInCA says:

    @mattbernius:

    And outside of that, we have the Michael Reynolds, EddieInCAs, and WRs who have achieved expert standing in their entertainment-related fields.

    Ya’ll, we’re a bunch of elites apparently.

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  39. JDM says:

    I just checked my diploma and it says “Doctor of Medicine”. I never use “doctor” outside of the hospital or use “Dr.” in any personal business such as on checks, credit cards, return address etc.

    In fact, when I first started practicing, a few of my older partners advised me to not use “Dr.” on anything outside the hospital and to try to hide that I was a physician. They said that I would more likely to be cheated by auto repair shops, contractors and the like. So I took their advice.

    In my first job, all the nurses called me Doctor. It made me feel uncomfortable, especially being younger than many of them. So I asked them to just call me by my first name. Big mistake. A few days later, the head operating room nurse called me to her office and explained that she and her staff worked hard to show respect to physicians by calling them “Doctor”, and that I wasn’t allowed to undermine that. Best, nicest, beat down I have ever had. Lesson learned.

    Things have changed in 25 years. Now nurses and staff call me whatever they choose. A very few use my first name, most use my last name. Older nurses usually use “doctor”. And it depends on the context. In the operating room, it’s more informal. In front of patients and family, they always use “Doctor”. Also, I have a uncommon Sicilian last name, which the pronunciation is not evident from the spelling. So I’ve been called “Doctor M” by those who just can’t pronounce my last name.

    And most important, “yes doctor”, can mean, “f*ck you doctor”.

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  40. Teve says:

    About the Gigot BS:

    @paulkrugman

    The conspiracist mindset pervades the right. People can’t be condemning a stupid, offensive article because it’s stupid and offensive; it must be a coordinated Democratic plot

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  41. EddieInCA says:

    @mattbernius:

    And outside of that, we have the Michael Reynolds, EddieInCAs, and WRs who have achieved expert standing in their entertainment-related fields.

    Ya’ll, we’re a bunch of elites apparently.

    Funny. I live an “elite” lifestyle, but don’t consider myself “elite”. Why? Because I grew up effing poor. I’m talking the kind of poor where you make ketchup sandwiches of day old bread from the Wonder Bread outlet bakery and ketchup packages stolen from McDonalds. I’m talking the kind of poor where you put folded duct tape inside of your sneakers so your feet aren’t hitting pavement through the holes in your sneakers. I’m talking everything you ever owned was second hand I purchased my own stuff starting at age 15 because of a job at Taco Bell.

    Fortunately, while my friends were gangbanging and doing drugs, I was playing sports and going to class because my mother was a badass who was not going to have a thug son. So, despite not having anything growing up, I was taught to do things a certain way. One of my mother’s favorite phrases for my and my sister was “…because this is how the high class people do it.”. She taught us manners, etiquette, and how to travel among the “high class” sects. It served us well. Even though I don’t ever feel comfortable in those situations, I can fake it pretty well.

    I remember one particular event when I was in my mid-30’s. I was in a movie theatre lobby after a test screening with Joel Silver, Robert Zemeckis, Walter Hill, Richard Donner, Sid Sheinberg, Steve Starkey, Michael Ovitz, Richard Lovett, and Ron Meyer, and I remember vividly telling myself “What the hell are you doing in this meeting?”. If you grew up like me, you always feel more comfortable with the plebes than you do with the rulers. Although I’m currently a ruler, I still feel like I’m a plebe. And I don’t mean that negatively or ironically. It’s just a fact. I’m more comfortable with Grips and Electricians and Set Dressers than I am with other Producers or Studio Execs.

    ***Mods. Can you delete my post above. Posted accidentally.

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  42. Blue Galangal says:

    @EddieInCA: 100% this. I have 2 degrees in part to be taken seriously by my colleagues – the academy talks a good game but if you don’t put that title out front and first in the conversation, and you’re not a white man, the assumption is – particularly if you’re a woman – that you’re administrative staff and not faculty. You’d think we’d be past that by now but we’re not.

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  43. Michael Reynolds says:

    Titles mean nothing to me. I mean I suppose I could insist people refer to me as New York Times Bestselling Author Michael Grant, but if I did that I’d despise myself and be sucked into a black hole of my own scorn.

    I value accomplishment, especially in fields beyond my abilities. Tell me what you do and I may be impressed. But I’m as impressed by an excellent finish carpenter as I am by a PhD. I’ve known short order cooks who I’d put on a pedestal and professors I’d happily kick to the curb. Shove your title, are you good at something? Are you good at something hard? Are you good at something I could not hope to duplicate? Or are you good at something I do pretty well but you do better? Stephen King?

    I know what @EddieinCA does. I have a fair idea what it involves and I have as much likelihood of succeeding in his job as I do in flying an F-35. Make Eddie a PhD and it would add nothing to my respect for what he does.

    I say this to writers all the time: don’t tell me who your character is, tell me what he does. Actions define character much better than adjectives or titles. You can tell me a guy is brave, or you can tell me he’s back in the hills fighting a raging wildfire. Not is, does.

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  44. Michael Reynolds says:

    @EddieInCA:

    If you grew up like me, you always feel more comfortable with the plebes than you do with the rulers. Although I’m currently a ruler, I still feel like I’m a plebe. And I don’t mean that negatively or ironically. It’s just a fact. I’m more comfortable with Grips and Electricians and Set Dressers than I am with other Producers or Studio Execs.

    Ditto. At a banquet I want to talk to the waiters.

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  45. alkali says:

    If Dr. Biden has ever stomped out of a Starbucks because the barista has refused to write “Dr.” on her latte it’s news to me. So far as I am aware she uses it only in formal settings.

    While I am generally not a fan of using the title Dr., if you are married to a famous politician and you are involved in promoting a particular policy issue, people are likely to infer (fairly or unfairly) that you are a dilettante. So in her case it makes sense for her to use the title to emphasize that she has worked on these issues for her entire professional career.

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  46. EddieInCA says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Ditto. At a banquet I want to talk to the waiters.

    I’m doing the same. But in Spanish. 🙂

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  47. Lynn says:

    @JDM: ” I never use “doctor” outside of the hospital or use “Dr.” in any personal business such as on checks, credit cards, return address etc.”

    When I first got my PhD (and was a bit full of myself), I called to make plane reservations. The reservation person asked for the name and then asked, “Is that Mrs. Smith?” I came all over pissy and responded, “No, it’s Dr. Smith.”

    She then queried further, “And is this Mrs. Smith?” “No,” I said, “I’m Dr. Smith.”

    There was a long pause before she said, “Oh, I’m bad!!”

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  48. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Lounsbury:

    True enough, and I’ll admit that my reflexive reaction to seeing alphabet soup after someone’s name is more often than not “mediocrity trying too hard to impress”, never more so than when I see an attorney append the completely ridiculous esq., but I’d never actually express that impression to someone (except with respect to esq. – those guys I will resoundingly ridicule). If someone has earned the title and prefers to be addressed by it, I’ll honor the preference and use it, because at the end of the day it’s simple courtesy / respect and g-d knows we could use a little more of that in the world. That having been said, I’d no more append JD after my name than I’d sell one of my kids to gypsies. It’s that execrable IMO.

    I can also see the point many are making here that certain demographics have no choice but to resort to alphabet soup because the legitimate expectation – that their body of work would speak for itself, rendering the post-nominals superfluous – is too much to expect.

    You’re correct though – this can be reduced to “cranky old man shouts at the rain”. It’s already gotten more consideration than it ever deserved.

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  49. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Beth:

    Personally, I am still shocked that I didn’t see the amount of misogyny that women experience until I faced it myself.

    I knew about sexism, but it wasn’t until Gamergate that I started to understand the extent of misogyny. Not sexism, not complimenting a woman on her outfit, but men who literally hate women. Hate hate, not ironic hate. I will never get my head around that.

    My working life has been restaurants and kidlit. Restaurants are notoriously raunchy and that can definitely cross the line at times, though for the most part the debauchery was pretty general across all genders. Kidlit is run entirely by women. Of 150 books I had just 2 edited by men, and all were acquired by women. I would infinitely prefer to work for a woman – men almost invariably turn everything into a dick measuring contest and life’s too short for that bullshit.

    Obviously in the normal course of things I try to use whatever title, pronoun, adjective people like. But it’s often with an invisible eye roll. My atheism forbids me to use religious titles like ‘Father.’ And I’m an American, so you can save your baroness-marquess-earl-lord nonsense, we won that war.

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  50. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @ptfe: Contrast this with Michelle Obama, who is mysteriously derided in some RW circles as being an otherwise unaccomplished presidential spouse.

    And IIRC their bosses thought she was the superior lawyer.

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  51. grumpy realist says:

    @HarvardLaw92: Isn’t the “Esq.” used to show that you have passed the Bar–any Bar–somewhere? About the only time I see it used is after the names of authors in my local ABA magazine. On business cards if you’re working in a law firm….maaaaybe, but in my experience the attorneys are more eager to put down their staff position level and whether they’ve made partner or not.

    (I haven’t had business cards made up yet for my new position and would probably limit myself to the “Ph.D” since it is somewhat relevant. I’ll haul out the JD if I get to a point where people start asking me more patent law/policy questions, and the “Esq.” only if I start practicing somewhere.)

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  52. @Mikey:

    If she had a dollar for every time she was assumed to be a student, or had her credentials otherwise questioned, she could have retired already.

    In my experience, it is not at all unusual for female faculty members to be assumed to be departmental secretaries. I had a colleague who constantly had that happen to her (it has never happened to me).

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  53. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @mattbernius: Ya’ll, we’re a bunch of elites apparently.

    Speak for yourself, I’m just a dumbfuck journeyman hammer jockey. 🙂

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  54. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @grumpy realist:

    Some jurisdictions (New York, for example) treat it as being limited to usage by those admitted to the bar, with usage by someone who isn’t treated as unlicensed practice of law, but in a general sense it produces amused eyerolls from many (most) of us. It’s generally regarded as being pompous and ample evidence of mediocrity. In other words, if they were actually any good at what they do, they wouldn’t need to be appending such silliness after their names – the name would speak for itself.

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  55. DrDaveT says:

    Many thumbs up for various responses above. I’ll add my anecdote and my lingering question.

    Anecdote: when I became an Assistant Professor of Engineering, with the ink still wet on my PhD, I was not quite 27 and looked about 19. Being publicly and routinely addressed as Dr. (or professor) was a deliberate tactic on my chairman’s part to introduce me to the other faculty (and the students) as a peer (and authority). (Thanks, Harvey.) It shows up in my online handle for historical reasons that date all the way back to Usenet, when I was one of several Davids (as usual) participating in a particular discussion group, and the others dubbed me “Dr. Dave” as a way of avoiding confusion. Kind of like being “Scary Spice”.

    Question: What the heck was an adjunct lecturer doing sitting in on dissertation defenses? That would have been completely bizarre in any department I’ve ever been associated with.

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  56. OzarkHillbilly says:

    I have had the pleasure of spending a lot of time underground with PHDs, MDs, and even a few JDs of many types (caving attracts a very strange and varied mix of characters). One PHD friend of mine on expedition deep in the mountains of Mexico, called his wife from 6,000′ underground just so he could be among the first to address her as “Doctor” when she received her PHD in biology. I have no idea of the logistics that went into making that call but it couldn’t have been easy.

    So yes, it is important and if somebody wants that accomplishment acknowledged I have no problem with it.

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  57. grumpy realist says:

    @HarvardLaw92: Gotcha. One of the reasons I never bothered to put J.D. on my card was, well, doesn’t everyone here I’m working with already have one? I’m far more proud of the work I did for the degrees with theses.

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  58. DrDaveT says:

    @DrDaveT: Rats, I totally forgot to sign that comment:
    DrDaveT, BAE BA MS PhD 🙂

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  59. SKI says:

    @HarvardLaw92: This.

    It was a culture shock for me when I started in academic medicine and they sent me the proof for my cards and they added the JD (and my other certifications). I had to fight to get them to remove it.

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  60. a country lawyer says:

    The only time I can recall using any title following my name was in the military when regulations required the stating of rank.
    On the other hand, take the British who list everything but their blood type, like-Joe Smith, MP, QC,OBE,DFC. You have to go to GOOGLE to sort out the abbreviations.

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  61. Kari Q says:

    My sister just earned her Ed.D. at 55. Is she offended by this article? Hoo boy, yes. She had no plans to call herself “Dr. Mary” but she has changed her mind.

    Good job, Epstein. Making women forcefully show pride in their accomplishments is the best thing you’ve ever done.

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  62. flat earth luddite says:

    @EddieInCA:

    In my experience, it is not at all unusual for female faculty members to be assumed to be departmental secretaries. I had a colleague who constantly had that happen to her (it has never happened to me).

    Couldn’t tell you how many times in my brilliant (snort) career in admin (secretary/legal assistant/paralegal/office manager) I’ve been presumed to be the engineer/doctor/professor/ because I was the guy in a tie (hey, it was the 80’s/90’s). In the 80’s, when working temp, I’d routinely waltz into law firms in a suit, pony tail, and van dyke goatee, and tell them, Hi, I’m Flat, and I’m your Kelly Girl(TM). Apparently dudes can’t type 110 wpm and know shorthand. OTOH, I had no inclination to go to law school, or anything else that was that much work.

    When working a short term gig as deck ape with an AA in Ocean Tech, I was told repeatedly my MAIN job on board was to make sure the Ph.D.’s didn’t do something fatally stupid.

    That said, our poster child for misogamy today is giving overworked, underpaid adjunct faculty a bad name.

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  63. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @grumpy realist:

    And I’d personally see nothing wrong with noting those, particularly if the terminal degrees are relevant to your legal work. That said, as an informal rule, at least in my corner of the profession, reputation proceeds from 1) firm and 2) the degree to which one’s work / expertise is known in the field. I can’t speak to the others, but with respect to my own firm, the usage of post-nominals and honorifics is quietly but firmly discouraged.

    For most any firm at our level of the profession, the firm letterhead conveys enough respect that even a junior associate would be discouraged from what we’d typically regard as unnecessary and unbecoming puffery. Once one has progressed to a certain level of notoriety / recognition, the attorney’s name itself would garner that respect irrespective of the letterhead, but the puffery admonition would still be applicable. The unspoken but well-known expectation here is that one’s reputation and body of work should generally magnify that of the firm as well as speak for itself, within the confines of one’s level of experience, and if that isn’t the case, the person probably doesn’t belong here.

    Generally speaking, my correspondence is terminated with nothing more than my name and signature, although in specific instances “Attorney-at-law” will be appended. Those aren’t very typical, and my legal assistants (who I will readily admit have forgotten more about appropriate protocol than I’ve ever known) will normally make the call as to when it’s appropriate. Beyond that, I’ve never utilized “JD” that I can recall. Certainly never utilized Esq.

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  64. Kurtz says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    never more so than when I see an attorney append the completely ridiculous esq.

    esq. just makes me think of Bill and Ted. Probably not the image one is hoping for when deciding on business cards.

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  65. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @SKI:

    Indeed. That sort of thing does seem to be more prevalent / revered in academia. My own business cards list nothing more than the firm’s name, my name, Partner, office location, and relevant contact information. If someone had tried to append JD or anything else, I’d have raised a stink about it as well.

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  66. Teve says:

    When I was in physics 15 years ago, it was considered uncouth to call a physicist Doctor. It struck me as this weird form of white male privilege. Like, “I’m so great I don’t even care if you know my title because I am beyond that.” It was weird. It reminded me of how in some places, surgeons insist on being called Mr., because they are beyond Doctors.

    People’s little ego games get weird.

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  67. Gustopher says:

    People who think titles don’t matter are generally people who aren’t disregarded for lack of title.

    In software, women are generally assumed to be more junior and less technical than their male counterparts. I’ve seen companies hide all titles, to try to make sure everyone gets a voice, and then swing back because women and minorities were being ignored because people couldn’t look up the strangers on the org chart and discover that so-and-so is a principal engineer who has been there for 8 years.

    Often my most valuable contribution to a meeting is to wait for someone to talk right after someone that they didn’t listen to, and then ask “Jane, what were you saying?”

    This also allows me to pay no attention in a meeting and just inject that at random, and still come across as very important despite being a complete slacker. Ah, being a tall white man is good sometimes.

    I expect that things like Dr work the same way — they prod people to respect someone’s experience.

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  68. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    While I am as jaundiced as anyone in the world can be about doctorates in Educational Leadership–having worked at an institution that sponsored candidates for Ed. Leadership degrees in the fields of Administration Office Administration, Admissions Office Administration, and Financial Aid Administration, (the Director of the Counseling Office already had a doctorate), I do have to note that student retention at least represents an acknowledgement of the goals of the institution as a provider of service. I agree with Grommit Gunn that keeping students in school and moving toward their goals is the great challenge in education–at all levels. Anyone who advances knowledge in that part of the system deserves acknowledgement of their contributions.

    King is a seminal figure in sport and the civil rights movement. I would think students and parents would be happier to hear her thoughts than, say, those of Joseph Epstein.

    Indeed. In fact, most are likely to respond to the announcement of Mr. Epstein as commencement speaker with “Joseph who???”

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  69. grumpy realist says:

    @HarvardLaw92: I was amused at my prior firm because they insisted on using “Dr.” for one of the attorneys (she had a doctorate in Criminal Law) but as a poor lonely patent agent I got stuck with no, no “Dr.” but the Ph.D. instead.

    Thinking about it more, if I go back into actual legal work I’ll probably just have “Patent Attorney” on my card and punt the JD and Esq. stuff. Let someone else gum up the landscape with the alphabet soup.

    I did use my Ph.D. on business cards when I was working in sales for a high-tech start-up, but the Powers-that-Be insisted on it because we were doing direct sales to professors and I needed to immediately give them the confidence I knew enough about the physics involved that they could start talking to me. (Also, bleeding-edge technology, argh.)

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  70. Joe says:

    @grumpy realist and @HarvardLaw92:
    It is my understanding that “Esq.” or “esquire” technically derives from the English title attributable to landowners, but has no technical meaning anywhere in the US. As everybody here notes, it is generally attributable to attorneys and, early in my career, I would append it to the names of attorneys I was addressing, but never to my own. I have dropped that habit because its seems antiquated.

    And, while JD is part of my license plate, its partly because they are also my first two initials. I have never had JD or Esq. appended to my name, but my business card and my email footer does say “attorney” because, I understand, Illinois ethics law requires me to advise people I interact with that I am acting in my professional capacity as an attorney.

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  71. Northerner says:

    About half the Phd’s of my acquaintance use the doctor title regularly, it’s very much a personal choice. That holds for academics and industry. The WSJ article could have been written in “The Onion”.

    I heard one amusing reason for not using the title at a physics conference about thirty years ago.
    The keynote speaker (already an old man at the time) said he was twice woken up by phone calls from someone looking for a doctor (apparently in his locale they used to list such titles in the phone book if it was part of your official name), and decided he preferred a good night’s sleep to the title. Of course, it probably helps if like him you’re already extremely well known in your field — no one bothers putting a ‘Dr.” in front of Einstein or Feynman for instance. For people just starting out it can be professional useful.

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  72. Lounsbury says:

    @HarvardLaw92: Of course as one managed to have 8 years of Obama – Biden and Madame Biden’s Dr. was never an issue, it seems fairly clear that outside petty misogynistic knuckledraggers and equally petty politics, in the real world she’s not difficult about this…. so

    @Michael Reynolds: I must say I have seen it up close in my own family, actual woman hater. Sad and pathetic really.

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  73. Kathy says:

    Maybe deep down this lad thinks introducing the Bidens at a formal function as Mr. and Dr. Biden is demeaning to Joe?

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  74. SC_Birdflyte says:

    @Teve: I was something of a shock to me when I arrived at grad school and found that it was customary to address faculty members as “Mr.” or “Mrs.” (“Ms. hadn’t become common currency then). This applied even to the most eminent scholars, which is a good corrective to excessive focus on degrees.

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  75. Barry says:

    @Teve: “It reminded me of how in some places, surgeons insist on being called Mr., because they are beyond Doctors.”

    Remember, it wasn’t until the 20th century that surgeons were also doctors. ISTR something from the UK about that distinction being preserved in titles and organizations.

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  76. Andy says:

    Haven’t read the op-ed and don’t intend to – the quotes tell me enough.

    My wife has an engineering Ph.D. and most of our closest friends have science-related advanced degrees including some other Ph.D.’s. I’m one of the few liberal-arts generalists in our circle.

    At least in my circle of friends and associates, “Dr.” is only used professionally. An added twist is that a lot of them are or were (to include my wife) in the military and their rank always trumped any other titles.

    Anyway, one of the topics of discussion in our circle with so many who’ve been through the ringer is academic politics and tribalism. A lot of it sounds like high school frankly. There’s a certain pecking order, with the pure science doctorates at nominal the top looking down on the applied science doctorates, who look down on the soft(er) sciences, who look down on social science, who look down on the humanities, who look down on what some consider to be “light” or quasi doctorates like lawyers or education any anyone that isn’t an actual Ph.D. Fortunately, these attitudes aren’t a majority.

    Medical doctors seem to be in their own class with tribal rank and status determined by specialty.

    But overall I lean toward Michael’s view, especially since I grew up in the family construction business and learned the value of practical knowledge and education. It’s quite a contrast to academia.

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  77. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    I forgot to mention earlier that I used to see Paul Gigot on McLaughlin Group from time to time and am sorry that he’s become the old man who shouts at the clouds. And at a relatively early age, too–being 3 years younger than I am. I guess that 60 isn’t the new 40 for everybody after all.

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  78. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Teve: It reminded me of how in some places, surgeons insist on being called Mr., because they are beyond Doctors.

    Most of the surgeons I have met think they’re Gods, which is funny because no God ever thought he was a surgeon.

    (i know, i know… a really old joke)

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  79. Teve says:

    @Andy:

    .

    But overall I lean toward Michael’s view, especially since I grew up in the family construction business and learned the value of practical knowledge and education. It’s quite a contrast to academia.

    If you don’t think the research I did, in academia, in polymer physics and protein biophysics had practical applications, you’re going to get an earful. Or i’m going to get some chocolate ice cream out of the freezer and watch more episodes of Ballers because I don’t give a shit. One of those two things is definitely going to happen.

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  80. Jen says:

    I’m still fixated on the utterly derisive use of “kiddo.” Whatever made him think that was okay?

    To me, it establishes that he clearly set out to be dismissive and patronizing. If he really had something to say and wanted to be taken seriously, that is NOT the way to start. (Honestly, this is one of those columns that should have been binned the second it was pitched, and I’m still shocked that the WSJ decided to run with it.)

    If they thought there was something to the usefulness or practicality of the First Lady not using her (EARNED) title, then spell it out without the dismissive sh!t. It still would have been panned, but at least they wouldn’t have undermined what’s left of the paper’s integrity.

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  81. Kathy says:

    @Barry:

    The way I’ve heard it, physicians were academics and graduates from prestigious, and expensive, universities going back to medieval times. While surgeons were butchers or barbers, who had ready access to sharp tools and the skill to use them.

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  82. Michael Cain says:

    The only time I did anything strange with my business cards was when I let a boss talk me into putting “Renaissance Geek” in for the position title. No one made fun of it — I was the one who did all of hardware, software, and math from time to time but usually was doing something interdisciplinary.

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  83. Northerner says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    VIDEO

    Though I have been told by one family doctor (she’s not a surgeon) that you need that kind of over the top arrogance to be a good surgeon — so many things can go wrong (literally fatally) that perspective is often not useful. I’m kind of reminded of the cake/alternate universe in “Hitchhiker’s Guide of the Galaxy”.

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  84. Dave Schuler says:

    @mattbernius:

    I can easily explain this — many women and Black and people of color tend to insist on the use of their honorifics because that is a way for them to command the respect that is often not given to them.

    That is absolutely correct and on point. In discourse I am always careful to know to whom I am speaking and always to try to be courteous and respectful. Clearly, Mr. Epstein should do the same.

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  85. grumpy realist says:

    @Michael Cain: I was awfully tempted when I was in Japan to get a business card made up with my title being “Speaker-to-the-Perplexed”…..

    (…of course, if anyone were to ever address me as “sweetie” I’d probably just assume I’d come across another Whovian….)

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  86. ptfe says:

    @Teve: My thesis topic (coordinated satellite cluster maneuvers) was of great value to anyone willing to fly a supercomputer in 2005, or someone willing to park a standard desktop in a corner so it could slog away for several days to run code scrutable only to me to come up with a single maneuver solution. I used to run it in my spare time on my desk at my real job, waiting 3 days until the huge solution space was reduced to a beautiful time- or fuel- or geometrically-optimal maneuver that I could insert in the paper. I was awarded my PhD for writing up several variations of this topic.

    Then I did essentially nothing with satellite clusters for a dozen years.

    Early last year I got a call from a company trying to do that kind of control, on modern processors that could run my code in seconds. It seemed a great fit that used my weird niche topic in a practical way. I took the job, dusted off the code, and spent several weeks looking over all the research that had shown up in the interim. At which point they changed the design so it didn’t need that control at all.

    So it goes.

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  87. JDM says:

    @Northerner: Thank you for the link to that brilliant Mitchell and Webb- It’s not exactly Brain Surgery sketch. It really made my day!

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  88. JDM says:

    @Kathy: I was working with a neurosurgeon a few years ago and while he was shaving the hair off his patients head, after the patient was anesthetized, I jokingly asked him if he had a license to do that. And he replied quite nicely, “I’m a surgeon, I can do anything I want”. So yes, surgeons are still barbers, and sadly, I know a few who are still butchers.

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  89. Michael Cain says:

    @ptfe: How to recognize that you’re in a technical field: half of everything you know will be obsolete in ten years. How to have a long and successful technical career: be right about which half you can discard in order to learn new things.

    Well, and land on the right side of mergers and acquisitions. My tech career ended when I landed on the wrong side of one. Fortunately, I had been on the right side a couple of times and could “retire” and do something different.

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  90. Michael Cain says:

    @Northerner: I was told by a guy doing his residency in a trauma center that one of the keys to being successful in that sort of medicine was your attitude: “Death gets some of them. But not this one, not today.”

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  91. Gustopher says:

    @Kathy:

    Maybe deep down this lad thinks introducing the Bidens at a formal function as Mr. and Dr. Biden is demeaning to Joe?

    I don’t know, Joe snagged himself a doctor, so he is doing pretty good.

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  92. HarvardLaw92 says:

    Off-topic, but Bill Barr just resigned.

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  93. Reasonable people can disagree. In Jill Biden’s position I’d use the title in an academic setting and not elsewhere, but that’s just me.

    That isn’t the real issue.

    A grown man and his editor at a supposedly serious publication think it’s ok to address a 69 year old woman who is about to become FLOTUS as “kiddo.” What a pair of patronizing, mysogynistic assholes.

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  94. JDM says:

    @HarvardLaw92: Just like rats jumping off a sinking ship. Also, I’m guessing he read the biography of Nixon’s AG John Mitchell and doesn’t want to go to prison.

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  95. Andy says:

    @Teve:

    If you don’t think the research I did, in academia, in polymer physics and protein biophysics had practical applications, you’re going to get an earful.

    Whoa, slow down there. I specifically said practical knowledge and not practical applications. I never suggested or implied that academic research has no practical applications -clearly it does to include my wife’s thesis for her engineering doctorate.

    I’m not making any judgment except to generally agree with Michael that titles don’t mean much compared to other factors. I’d go further and say that our society is, in general, too obsessed with credentials and “education” instead of actual knowledge and skill.

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  96. grumpy realist says:

    @Michael Cain: I’ve reinvented my career multiple times so far bouncing between disciplines and right now am in a position where I have to bolt down and become an expert in new technology within 2-3 days. I feel like a stuffed goose.

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  97. Teve says:

    WSJ opinion editor complaining that Epstein is a victim of Cancel Culture.

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  98. steve says:

    As an MD I would note a few things.

    Most docs never deliver a baby. That was stupid.

    None of the docs I know insist upon being called doctor away from work. Most of us dont care if a PhD wants to be called doctor. ( OTOH, my father who was an engineer was always irritated that train drivers were called engineers.) It would never occur to me to call someone, woman or man, kiddo when they were over 50. Or over 40.

    An arrogant surgeon is just a surgeon who is arrogant. In my experience they are more likely to have bad outcomes. There is literature evidence suggesting that is true. Surgery, like other medical care, is a team sport. If one of the members of the team is being an ass it detracts from the success of the whole team. Are there exceptions to this rule and is there an occasional surgeon who is both arrogant and good? Sure, but taken as a whole we are better off, ie patients are better off, if people work with each other. There are tons of instances of the arrogant surgeon causing harm directly and indirectly.

    Steve

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  99. Jay L Gischer says:

    In the Silicon Valley engineering culture that I came up in, pretty much nobody went by Dr. even though there were quite a few doctorates. Maybe in a very formal setting, someone would get called “Dr.” where they would normally be called “Mr.” or “Ms”. I guess that formal setting is more what we are talking about.

    And in that culture, you work with the same people a lot, so the whole “mistake a colleague for an underling” thing that is so understandably maddening just didn’t have much opportunity to happen. Maybe at meetups? There are a lot more open-source conferences now, it might be more of a thing there, but still, the people who aren’t into it just don’t come to those things.

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  100. Teve says:

    @steve:

    ( OTOH, my father who was an engineer was always irritated that train drivers were called engineers.)

    i would suspect the etymology of that has to do with their primary responsibility being to feed, monitor, and adjust the engine.

    Sanitation Engineer would have been the one to piss me off. 😀

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  101. Gustopher says:

    @Teve: The one that pisses me off is Software Engineer.

    I’ve taken just enough engineering classes to know we do nothing like engineering.

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  102. EddieInCA says:

    @Gustopher: @Teve:

    Video Engineer. 38 years in this business, I still don’t know what a Video Engineer is/does.

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  103. michilines says:

    HAHA: “It’s even more unusual to insist on the title outside an academic setting.”

    Your twit handle of choice? “DrJJoyner”
    Please.

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  104. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @JDM:

    Indeed. It would be poetic justice, but the sense of duty to country that fueled Watergate is long dead and buried. All we have is party loyalty and self-dealing now.

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  105. Let’s face it. There are still some old codgers around who want women to stay in their place…on their knees scrubbing floors.
    Ignore those Neanderthals. They’ll soon be gone. No great loss.

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  106. Hanna Barbera says:

    Sure the op-Ed was unnecessary but hey all you pearl clutchers it said nothing about women specifically. To categorize it as misogynistic is really a reach.

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  107. grumpy realist says:

    @Hanna Barbera: No, it just happened to personally address the 69-year old wife of the new President of the United States of America as “kiddo”.

    Purely by accident, I’m sure. Not misogynistic at all, in your humble opinion.

    Do you call people with dark complexions “boy” as well? And can’t understand why you just got fired from your last job?

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  108. Unsympathetic says:

    The key here, of course, is Epstein’s personal insecurity. He’s deathly scared that someone might rightfully call him out for his lack of skill/talent/experience because that would yank the pedestal on which he stands out from under him.. because his entire professional life is built on his ability to lie.

    As with all Republicans, it’s all projection all the way down — the question isn’t Jill’s title, the question is Epstein’s.

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  109. James Joyner says:

    @michilines: Long story short, “drjjoyner” was my Hotmail account when I created it in the 1990s because “jjoyner” was already taken and I wound up using that for most of my other accounts. When I signed up for Twitter, in its earliest days, I really didn’t how it worked. By the time I actually started using it a couple years later, all the good variations were claimed (mostly by people who abandoned their accounts long ago but there’s no way to claim them).

    But I’ve never blogged as “Dr. Joyner” and don’t use the honorific for any but a couple of the hundreds of pieces I’ve published elsewhere. (For example, a War on the Rocks piece I co-authored with my boss includes the title because it would be weird for him to be “Colonel” and me “James.”)

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  110. al Ameda says:

    Many years ago I worked on contracts and physics research grants at the University of California. I was very new on board and one day I buzzed a professor to let him know that I had documents that required his signature, he said he’d swing by my desk shortly.

    When he arrived I said, “Professor ….” Before I could finish he put his palm up to stop me, and said, “Jon, Jon please …, my colleagues call me Jon, my graduate students call me Jon, and staff here does too.” This was a man with Harvard and MIT degrees, yet he incredibly accessible and generous in his interactions with everyone. There’s a lesson in there, somewhere.

    Now, there were other physicists who insisted on ‘professor’ or ‘doctor’ and that was fine with me.

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