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Demanding status for menial accomplishments

A former English lecturer set the media — and social media — afire last week for an op-ed criticizing Joe Biden’s wife — specifically her insistence that people use the title “Dr.” before her name.

Mrs. Biden has a doctorate in education, you see. An EdD.

As usual, the chattering class (mainstream media, blue checkmark progressives, et. al.) missed the point. Jill Biden’s critics allegedly are “misogynist” and “sexist,” the chatterers contend, because they’re denigrating a woman’s hard work.

But the real issue isn’t that Dr. Biden got an EdD, it’s that she insists upon using “Dr.” before her name … and mandates others to do the same. Over a degree that often is regarded as farcical.

For example, the soon-to-be-First Lady’s Twitter name is “Dr. Jill Biden” and her Twitter handle is “@DrBiden.”

As anyone who’s spent a bit of time in the K-12 arena can attest, many EdDs basically are nothing more than additional busywork. They’re neither intellectually nor academically rigorous.

As Robert Maranto notes,

[P]rofessors consider the Ed.D. a marginal degree, whose very mediocrity and ubiquity block school improvement.

As Stanford Education professor David Labaree wrote, other college professors “see ed school teachers not as peers in the world of higher education but as an embarrassment. . . . To them the ed school looks less like a school of medicine than a school of cosmetology.”

Universities treat their schools of education as cash cows milking tuition dollars from students who lack the time, motivation, or other assets for serious academic work.

Kyle Smith is harsher, saying people suffer from an inferiority complex if they expect to be referred to by a nigh worthless title: “Insisting on being called ‘Doctor’ when you don’t heal people is, among most holders of doctorates, seen as a gauche, silly, cringey ego trip.”

The President-Elect himself even noted his wife wanted to get her EdD because “She said, ‘I was so sick of the mail coming to Sen. and Mrs. Biden. I wanted to get mail addressed to Dr. and Sen. Biden.’”

In my over quarter-century in public education, I’ve known many folks who went on to get EdDs. Some are very bright, but some can barely put a coherent sentence together. Many — most, really — pursued the degree because they had aspirations to move into administration, and an EdD is a requirement (whether it’s actually relevant or not).

Unfortunately, two of these individuals insisted upon being like Dr. Biden, and everyone but these two people snickered and guffawed at the notion. In fact, in one memorable moment, one of these EdDs went to observe the classes of one of my colleagues, and upon her entrance the colleague announced to the class “Hey everybody, say ‘hello’ to Mrs. C!” The EdD quickly jumped in with the “correction”: “Excuse me, Mr. M — it’s actually Dr. C.” My colleague hesitated, his students with confused looks on their faces, and then he said again (with emphasis this time), “Hey everybody, say ‘hello’ to Mrs. C!”

The other EdD once was so insistent upon his title that he once told a colleague’s young child — who had referred to him as “Mr. B” — that “when you get a bit older it will have to be Dr. B!”

The same furor over Dr. Biden’s academic cred is akin to the accolades bestowed upon Vanderbilt’s Sarah Fuller. Nevetheless, if you have to brag about, and constantly highlight such obvious mediocrity in real life, you’d best steel yourself for some legitimate judgments.

MORE: Study: Most American employees regret their degrees

MORE: Women’s and gender studies degrees have increased 300% since 1990

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Dave has been writing about education, politics, and entertainment for over 18 years, including a stint at the popular media bias site Newsbusters. He is a retired educator with over 25 years of service and is a member of the National Association of Scholars. Dave holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Delaware.