Saturday, December 19, 2020
Sunday, December 13, 2020
Unsurprisingly, I'm not the only one who found Joseph Epstein's op-ed enraging. I give you this delicious takedown from Amanda Kohlhofer.
A privileged white man with no post-grad education telling a woman with a doctorate not to use her credentials. How very original of you, kiddo.Just as I did, Kohlhofer suspects this piece would never have been written if Jill Biden were a man. And even though Epstein's blatant sexism is very obviously jealousy over a woman who is more educated, there are definitely people who casually drop the Dr. (or refuse to even recognize that the title could be Dr.) among women more than men.
To that end, let’s list Dr. Biden’s accomplishments:
She accomplished all of this over the span of 32 years, all while becoming a wife, raising children, teaching at many different levels, running a non-profit, and accompanying her husband through multiple political campaigns. (And, who wants to tell him that not only has she earned all of these degrees, but she has also, in fact, delivered a child?)
- She earned a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Delaware in 1975.
- She earned a Master of Education, with a specialty in reading, from West Chester State College in 1981.
- She earned a Master of Arts in Education from Villanova University in 1987.
- She earned a Doctor of Education (Ed.D) in educational leadership from the University of Delaware in 2007
Saturday, December 12, 2020
I really wish this were satire, but Joseph Epstein's recent opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal is, sadly, a completely earnest bit of mansplaining and suspicion of the intellectual elite:
Madame First Lady—Mrs. Biden—Jill—kiddo: a bit of advice on what may seem like a small but I think is a not unimportant matter. 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. Think about it, Dr. Jill, and forthwith drop the doc.
Epstein goes on to explain that he holds no higher degrees, other than an honorary doctorate. He talks of the hilarity of people referring to him by the title Dr. Yes, it is hilarious, because honorary doctorates are merely a beefed up way of thanking someone for speaking at a university, not recognition following years of hard work to demonstrate that one has earned a title that allows that person to be considered an expert. You see, that's what doctor means - expert. An M.D. is an expert in medicine, a person with a PhD is an expert in the subject of that PhD, and so on. Epstein's honorary doctorate is really more like the prize in a box of cereal. Yeah, he had to do some work for it, but nowhere near on par with the work Dr. Jill Biden did for hers.
Epstein also laments that doctoral requirements have gotten lax in recent years, which is rich coming from someone who has never attempted to earn a doctorate.
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.
Is he correct that the doctoral examination no longer looks like this? Yes. There is no exam in Greek or Latin, nor an oral exam of general knowledge. But that's because the structure of doctoral education has shifted. In the past, doctoral education was very self-directed, with candidates choosing a course of study and pursuing it mostly on his (or her - but let's be real, back in the day mostly his) own. Candidates might spend years lurking around dark, dusty libraries, looking for some groundbreaking thesis to pursue. At the end, it was necessary to show that time hadn't simply been spent trying to write the most off-the-wall contribution to general knowledge, but that the candidate had also learned enough about the field of study to recognize how their contribution fits.
Today? Anyone interested in pursuing a doctorate must complete a certain amount of coursework, some elective but much of it required to establish the requisite knowledge in the chosen field. After that, they must also complete candidacy exams, which may be oral, as Epstein describes above, or written, or some combination. The point is to ensure the candidate has the foundational knowledge necessary to become an expert in the field. Then - and only then - can the candidate propose a dissertation. Other than Greek and Latin, the requirements are much the same, and in some ways, more stringent.
Honestly, not only do I think Epstein's dismissal of Dr. Biden's doctorate is ridiculous coming from someone with a Cracker Jack Prize of a doctorate, but I also suspect that if Dr. Biden were a man, using the well-earned title of Dr. wouldn't be an issue.
Seriously, WSJ? It's these kinds of articles that make me question whether I should keep subscribing to you. It's 2020. Do better.
Wednesday, December 9, 2020
It's been a long time since I've updated! Though I've commented a bit on the pandemic on this blog, I've mostly stayed pretty quiet. Unfortunately, the COVID pandemic has hit home quite literally.
I'm currently in Kansas City with my family. My parents are older and have a variety of risk factors, so they've been staying in all the time. My brother, who lives with them, works in an elementary school, and though he's always been safe and careful, it appears he caught COVID shortly before Thanksgiving. Other than a bad cough, he reported feeling fine. Late last week, my dad had a COVID test done in advance of a procedure, and though he also felt fine, his test came back positive. Shortly after, my mom got a test that also came back positive. They're both experiencing more symptoms now, like shortness of breath and fatigue. My test done that same day came back negative, but yesterday, I started to feel some COVID symptoms myself, mostly fatigue (which could be as much due to stress as COVID).
We're all very lucky that our cases appear to be mild, and my parents' providers are checking in with them regularly to make sure they're recovering well. After this week, I'll probably take advantage of my excess vacation time and take time off from work to rest and recover. I'm in Kansas City for the rest of the year, and thanks to my parents' huge backyard, don't even have to leave to give Zep his much-needed outdoor time.
Stay safe and healthy, everyone!