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I Live With A “Dr.”, Wall Street Journal Column Demeaning

December 14, 2020

This year a shockingly low subscription price was offered to me for The Wall Street Journal. Considering it was an election year, and we were staying at home to ward off COVID meant I jumped at the deal. This past week a shockingly lowbrow column was published about higher education and the honorifics that come with time, money, and brain power spent on attaining a Ph. D. A DML, in the case of my better half.

Joseph Epstein wrote a demeaning, misogyny-laden, and truly dismissive column about soon-to-be First Lady Jill Biden. What ignites passions and national outrage, including those same sentiments in this home, stem from how sneering he was when speaking of Biden, who in her 50s, acquired an EdD from the University of Delaware. That is wonderful as a story, all in itself. She has used that education in her job as a community college professor and plans to continue this meaningful work through her husband’s presidential term. And she has every right to be called a Doctor.

So it rankles deeply when Epstein labeled Biden using the title of “Dr.” as “highfalutin and misleading”. He then even writes of Biden that “no one should call himself Dr. unless he has delivered a child.”

On the one hand, I am not shocked that expertise and higher education has once again faced the belittled and scornful treatment from a conservative. Anyone with a resume or credentials is labeled as an elitist, as that makes it easier for white males holding onto their resentments to get up in the morning. No one should be shocked that Epstein would have such views as he even used the N-word in a homophobic rant. So we need to place the treatment of Biden in the context of who penned it.

“There is much my four sons can do in their lives that might cause me anguish, that might outrage me, that might make me ashamed of them and of myself as their father. But nothing they could ever do would make me sadder than if any of them were to become homosexual,” Epstein wrote in the essay’s concluding paragraph.

But the lack of regard for the University conferring an EdD on Biden is stunning to see in print. I find it a sad commentary about our society–and that is what Epstein showcases–when Biden’s education is considered superfluous. While not everyone will attend college or some form of higher education it is vitally important that we not in any way disparage those who have the skills to do so. Higher education, of the type Biden attained, is at its very root a means to specialize in new ideas, loftier thoughts, and discover new ways to think, ponder, and analyze.  To then attempt to squander those efforts with the dribble from Epstein is simply unconscionable.

“Madame First Lady — Mrs. Biden — Jill — kiddo: a bit of advice on what might seem like a small but I think is not an unimportant matter,” writer Joseph Epstein began. “Any chance you might drop the ‘Dr.’ before your name? ‘Dr. Jill Biden’ sounds and feels a touch fraudulent, not to mention comical.”

For the record, the title of Biden’s dissertation, “Student Retention at the Community College Level” is not as Epstein writes, “unpromising.” Rather my husband, who was a college professor, continually confronted the college to work at retaining students. We know what a degree means. And we know what happens when higher education is treated shabbily, as too many conservatives are wont to do. Most often women have the most issues to confront in continuing their education. The earning potential for staying enrolled is obvious, as is the loss of a lifetime of earnings by not. Biden’s work in this area is extremely important.

I was most disappointed that the newspaper allowed for such a now-discredited column that was sexist and utterly contemptuous of education to be published.

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