Top of Mind Thursday December 17, 2020: The Doctor is In

Last week, the Wall Street Journal published an op-ed piece demeaning First Lady-elect Jill Biden for using the title Doctor.

Leverage2Market LogoDr. Biden rightly earned a PhD in education from the University of Delaware–of that, there is no disagreement. The writer argues that because she doesn’t have a medical degree, it is improper for Jill Biden to use this honorific.

There are currently over 3 million PhDs in the US. It’s highly unlikely most of them are told they shouldn’t be using the title they worked hard to obtain.

The tone of the article implies that the writer is particularly upset because Dr Biden is a woman (in fact, at one point he even refers to her demeaningly as kiddo). He’s very much out of date. Over the last several years, American universities have minted more women than men as PhDs.

However, many women I know who’ve earned this degree tell me they encounter a similar attitude on a regular basis. Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris’ husband noted this comment would not have been made if Jill Biden were a man, and I suspect he’s right. However, I also know people of color of both genders who have been subjected to this treatment.

The WSJ has been asked to remove the offending article. I disagree. Publishing opinions like this shines a spotlight on what’s been kept quiet in academic situations for a long time. The reaction and outrage to the article means it’s a good thing this was brought out in the open–which may not be the reaction the writer was expecting.

Meanwhile, right now, a large dose of respect and common courtesy may be just what the doctor ordered.

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