The Wall Street Journal published an article by conservative Joseph Epstein (with whom I agree most of the time) that has caused a media firestorm. Epstein began his missive by calling her kiddo. It went downhill from there.
He attacked a progressive Democrat, a female Democrat, and everyone knows they are untouchable. Epstein suggested Jill using her earned doctorate title. “sounds and feels fraudulent, not to say a touch comic.” He added, “Your degree is, I believe, an Ed. D., a doctor of education, earned at the University of Delaware through a dissertation with the unpromising title ‘Student Retention at the Community College Level: Meeting Students’ Needs.’ A wise man once said that no one should call himself ‘Dr.’ unless he has delivered a child. Think about it, Dr. Jill, and forthwith drop the doc.”
From my perspective, Joseph gets graded an A for daring and an F for fairness, and F for accuracy—all physicians don’t deliver babies. Epstein seems to aspire to the Archie Bunker Chair for Political Science at Podunk University—without a doctorate.
The writer did not suggest Jill had not met doctoral qualifications, however light they may be. She earned her bachelor’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Delaware and master’s degrees from West Chester University and Villanova University. She has been an English professor at Northern Virginia Community College since 2009.
There was no accusation that Jill took short cuts in her education. She did “42 hours of doctoral study and 12 hours of development of a leadership portfolio.” She had to maintain “a cumulative grade point average of 3.0 in the courses.” She had to “complete and defend a proposal for their leadership portfolio.” That is common for the Ed. D. in place of writing a lengthy, much-footnoted dissertation.
Dr. Biden earned four degrees while rearing her family and teaching school earning her doctorate at age 55. She has a bachelor’s degree and two master’s degrees, in addition to a doctorate. In light of that fact, even a radical leftist Democrat who entered her marriage with Joe via an obvious sexual affair deserves praise, so congratulations to Dr. Biden from one who disagrees with all her political positions.
I don’t defend her because I also possess an Ed. D and a Ph.D. but because of honesty and consistency.
Few of Epstein’s critics dealt with substantive criticism in his article. I will do so. Epstein was thoughtless, careless, and unfair in suggesting Jill’s doctorate may be fraudulent and comic. That sounds to me like he was searching for something to say that might be acceptable to thoughtless, careless, and unfair readers.
It has been known for fifty years that if you want a less-than-rigorous doctorate, you go for the doctorate in education. Schools of Education are known for mediocracy. That does not mean Jill or I did not work hard for our degrees. It is a known fact that some degrees require more arduous work than others do, and some universities require more work than others require. As I was working on my Ed. D. decades ago, it was stated in an educational workshop that the Ed. D is often considered a little more difficult to obtain than a GED. And some in the room held that degree.
The teachers’ colleges are not considered rigorous institutions as seen in the former president of Teachers College, Columbia University, Arthur Levine, suggesting that the Ed. D. degree and even teachers’ colleges should be eliminated! The gathered educators gasped. The former president concluded that the curriculum for the education doctorate, the Ed. D, “is incoherent and that the doctorate of philosophy in school leadership, the Ph.D., should be reserved for researchers.” Levine declared, “We take in anybody with a credit card,” referring to the nation’s 1,200 education schools. “We take in people looking for fast, quick, easy degrees.” The degrees, he said, “are basically money mills for schools.”
Speaking at a news conference in 2005, Levine, dealing with the education of school leaders, said he had found that programs in educational leadership suffered from low admissions’ standards, weak faculties, and inappropriate degrees. Levine blasted schools of education for engaging in a “race to the bottom” to shovel degrees out the door. He said, “the Ed. D. should be eliminated as a monstrous waste of time and energy.” He said that most of the educational leadership programs “range from inadequate to appalling, even at some of the nation’s leading universities.” He also declared that accreditation, the sacred cow of education, did not solve the problem.
Harvard University announced its reform by eliminating the Ed. D. and replacing it with a Ph.D. program. The university’s decision closed the first American Ed. D. program that was offered by Harvard for 90 years.
As to Dr. Biden’s choice of a dissertation, it would not rise to the level of the Socrates/Plato symposium in ancient Greece; but it might be appropriate to the times, the occasion, and the circumstances. Me thinks Epstein totally missed the target. This is not to overlook her misspelled words, poor math, quirkiness, and occasional nonsense in her dissertation.
Moreover, Epstein’s assertion that only medical degrees quality for the use of doctor is generally held—by medical doctors. But then, the general characterization of medical doctors having a god complex is well known. Those M.D.s who belittle other doctorates are audacious, asinine, and addlebrained. After all, most of those M.D.s, (who by the way, did not have to write a 40,000 to a 50,000-word dissertation) are highly knowledgeable about the nose, ears, or feet—but little else, including grammar and history. And about half of them failed or never took a course in “bedside manner.”
The level of education has deteriorated horribly in recent years. It was common a hundred years ago that an eighth-grade education was equal to the current high school education. Those in academia have known for years of the dumbing down of our schools at all levels. More than half of the nation’s prospective elementary school teachers fail their licensure exam on the first attempt. The average U.S. college freshman reads at a seventh-grade level, so it is no surprise that American higher education is in trouble.
Contrast that with early American Freshmen who, wanting to enroll in King’s College (now Columbia University), had to translate the first three of Cicero’s Select Orations from Latin to Greek and translate the first ten chapters of the Gospel of John from Greek to English. Most of the Ph.D. professors at Ivy League Universities today could not qualify as college freshmen over 200 years ago!
Remember the famous philosopher who said, “You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.” If high schools continue to send inferior products to the universities, they will continue to produce inferior graduates. Of course, only about half of university students earn a degree. Maybe it is time to discuss affirmative action and “college for all.”
We’ve come a long way, baby; all downhill.
I won’t call Dr. Biden “kiddo” as Joseph Epstein did. He was off base there also.