by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
I had written the piece to get what I thought a minor pet peeve off my chest: the affectation of the president-elect’s wife in calling herself, and insisting that everyone else refer to her as, “Dr. Jill Biden.” She is not a physician; rather, she was awarded a degree by a graduate school of education. What I thought was a fairly light bit of prose whose intentions were chiefly comic set off a forest fire of anger toward, abuse of, and outright hatred for its author. It proves you can be a naïf even at the age of 83.
Epstein describes in disturbing detail the negative impact of his piece — from hate email and phone calls to a Wikipedia smear and disassociation from the university he inhabited for more than two decades.
Yet the cancel culture campaign does not deter the author from his initial observation about Jill Biden’s questionable use of the title “doctor.”
As for Jill Biden’s Ed.D., many people who acquire that degree chiefly turn out to be school superintendents. As Nicholas Clairmont wrote at Tablet: “An Ed.D. degree is 90 or so years old, as a concept, and it is not really comparable to a Ph.D. It’s not a welding certificate, but it is perhaps closer to welding than comparative literature. It’s an occupational license, the possession of which allows teachers and education administrators to become about a third better paid. It is a professional training certification, not a scholarly project committed to enlarging the scope of human knowledge.” Clairmont adds that “Jill Biden is not a Ph.D. stealing the valor of physicians. She is a technical school student stealing the valor of Ph.Ds.”
Nor do education departments represent the intellectual heights at any university. In 1997, my alma mater, the University of Chicago, literally disbanded its Department of Education, founded in 1895 by John Dewey, due to the diminution in its quality. What is usually taught in these departments is generally a hodgepodge of sociology, political science, conventional wisdom, and whatever else happens to be at hand. … I have read articles in which people have argued that a good part of the problem with much public schooling today is owing to the offerings in contemporary education departments. In any case, an Ed.D. is far from an unambiguous accomplishment and may not be a degree one wishes to flaunt.