On earning a title

Apparently, there’s some big to-do about the fact that Jill Biden is referring to herself as Dr. Jill Biden on official stationary. There are stories about it here and here. Biden earned her PhD in education in 2007, and kudos to her. As a lowly master’s student, I know how much work postgraduate work entails. But an L.A. Times story shows us that some people are not as happy to refer to has as “Dr. Biden”:

Newspapers, including The Times, generally do not use the honorific “Dr.” unless the person in question has a medical degree.

“My feeling is if you can’t heal the sick, we don’t call you doctor,” said Bill Walsh, copy desk chief for the Washington Post’s A section and the author of two language books.

Of course, PZ Myers points out that no one has trouble referring to Henry Kissinger and Martin Luther King, Jr., as “Doctor.”

I know that Wikipedia is not always widely accepted, but the article on the title “Doctor” states that in the United States it is customary for anyone with a doctoral degree, aside from those with JDs and honorary doctorates, to use the prefix “Dr.,” but typically only medical folk use the stand-alone title “Doctor.”

They can’t even argue context. Is there any place where knowing that Kissinger has a PhD is important? Is there any context where knowing that King had a PhD was important? Hell, it wasn’t even that important to know that he is a reverend. (Of course, we always call reverends “reverend” and priests “father” in the media. Why is that so important?)

So you have a policy. Change it! People work hard to get to the PhD. It is a sign of respect for the hard work that the person has put in to their education. Refusing to use the prefix “Dr.” for PhDs is akin to not using “Gen.” for generals, and it has the uncouth disrespect about it that replaces “Excuse me, sir” with “Hey, asshole, watch where you’re going!”

Because I’ll tell you this. When I get my PhD, I’m going to make everyone call me Dr. McCaslin. And if you don’t, BAM, flaming bag of poo on your front porch!

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One Response to On earning a title

  1. Jason Roberts says:

    Well said! I know damn well that I’ll have people refer to me as “Doctor” if this damn dissertation ever gets written!

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