Doctoral Process 12/18/20

Thoughts by Richard Bleil

At my very first teaching “gig” at a medical arts college in Ohio, one of my first students insisted on calling me “Mr. Bleil”. At one point, I corrected him telling him that the proper term is “Dr. Bleil.” He looked me dead in the eye and said, in all seriousness, “well, you never proved to ME that you deserve to be called ‘Dr.’” I looked back at him and explained, “I don’t have to prove it to YOU. I had to prove it in front of a board of seven doctors when I defended my dissertation, including an external doctor from Harvard.”

One of the better-known hosts on Fox “news” is echoing an op-ed claiming that the First Lady Elect should give up her title of “Dr.” since it’s a Doctor of Education and not a real doctor anyway. Frankly, this just blows my mind. These opinions show a lack of understanding of the doctoral process, and frankly a level of misogyny that ought to be actionable in civil lawsuits.

A doctorate that is not a medical degree is different from being a “news” host on Fox because a non-medical degree is a legitimate doctoral degree. A non-medical doctorate is actually a higher degree than a medical doctor degree. After all, it’s people holding doctorates that teach the medical doctors. In our society, we always list educational degrees from least to most significant (B.S., M.S., Ph.D.). There are those people who have both M.D.’s and Ph.D.’s, and these people always list their degrees as M.D., Ph.D. signifying the Ph.D. as a higher degree than the M.D.

I don’t mean to denigrate the M.D., or our fine medical doctors who have the M.D. After all, these are the men and women who take care of us and are trained to treat us from physical, bacterial, viral and even psychological damage. If anything, my intention here is not to put one of these degrees above the other so much as to point out that it’s absurd to try to do so, and anybody who does is showing excessive ignorance of both.

In the op-ed, it was suggested that Dr. Biden should be proud of the title “First Lady”, and simply go with that. Now, I need to be a little bit careful here because the role of the First Lady in politics is important. I have great respect and love for Michelle Obama and the fine work she has done, but to simply dismiss the title of “Dr.” in favor of “First Lady” is also to dismiss the accomplishments of Dr. Biden in education, and in her own professional life. Many professional women that I know have opted to keep their maiden name in their professional career to avoid a discontinuity of accomplishments. Often, in the sciences, one will begin looking for names of authors they tend to follow frequently. During the Manhattan project, nuclear scientists in Russia reported to the government that the US was developing atomic weapons because all of the biggest names in the discipline simply stopped publishing papers. It’s not that there were not articles in the discipline of nuclear physics still being published from America, but the big names had stopped indicating they were working on something sensitive. With professional women, although it should never happen, when they adopt their married name as their professional, people will “lose” them. Suddenly their regular author appears not to be publishing any longer because they’re not seeing the name and it takes some time before people rediscover the work that was simply performed under a different name.

No, Dr. Biden shouldn’t drop her name, nor should she keep it. In fact, it is nobody’s business to tell her what to do. If she chooses to keep her title “Dr.”, it is well and truly earned and deserved. If she elects to be known as “First Lady”, no doubt she has earned that by standing by and supporting her husband and helping to catapult him to the highest office in the nation. If she elects to go by Mrs., Miss, Ms. or any other suitable title, that, too, is her right and privilege to decide.

I’m so tired of the misogyny of this nation. Women must cover up when breast feeding, but it seems to be acceptable to ogle women’s breasts when they’re not. Women must change their name when they get married, but never men. Women who are sexually active are sluts, but a man can sleep with hundreds of women, like our current president has done, and people hardly bat an eye. I’m so proud of our first-lady elect Dr. Biden, if for no other reason than to begin to demonstrate the ridiculousness of these double standards. Dr. Biden, I’m with you, whatever you choose.

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