The good news about this week’s national flap over how the wife of the president-elect should refer to herself is that there has been an ocean of outrage to counter an op-ed screed published by the Wall Street Journal.
It’s unlikely that the outrage would have reached such enormous proportions 50 years ago, and indicates that American women have come a long way.
However, the author of the piece that spawned the outrage and the newspaper that published it apparently have not.
The column by Joseph Epstein called on Dr. Jill Biden to lose the formal title in front of her name. The problem was not with the subject itself, which has long been a matter of debate. The problem was that the column dripped with misogyny and condescension, familiar weapons used to denigrate the accomplishments and credibility of women.
Biden is a professor at a community college and plans to continue to teach. Epstein stooped low when he referred to Biden—who has two master’s degrees and a University of Delaware doctorate in educational leadership—as “kiddo.” He also took a cheap shot when he referred to the title of her doctoral thesis, “Student Retention at the Community College Level: Meeting Students’ Needs” as “unpromising.”
Epstein’s column flipped into a full-scale scattershot screed that spared nothing and no one. He blasted higher education in a nation where college graduates toil for decades after graduation to pay for their studies. He derided honorary doctorates and those who receive them in a nation that long ago recognized that people possess many valuable kinds of intelligence and that accomplishments can exist outside the hallowed halls of academe. One of his lines was blatantly racist.
Nothing was beneath Epstein’s schlock. He even attacked Biden for facing often arduous doctoral exams at age 55, “or long after the terror had departed.”
The Wall Street Journal defended the column as “provocative.” Epstein’s opinion piece is a relic of a time when society limited women’s roles because of their gender, oppressed minority Americans and confined honorific titles mostly to elitist white males.
Academia needs a new title that could be awarded to and used following the names of the “Joseph Epsteins” of the world. Instead of Ph.D, the degree should be Id.D—Doctor of Idiocy.
Take that, “kiddo.”
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