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Blatchford: Jill Biden, or anyone, using ‘Dr.’ title in non-professional setting is pretentious | COMMENTARY

Well, folks, we made it — 2021. The 21st year of the 21st Century. Perhaps such numbers portend better times to come. I’ll go with that and hang on for the ride. We are still, after all, hearty and resilient Americans.

Last week, a columnist indicated that Americans “are at war with education and science.” Really? That’s a unique point of view — seemingly an erroneous assumption which has resulted in an erroneous conclusion. I’ll concentrate on the “education” side of that claim. The writer then framed his issue. He queried, “… why is a Wall Street Journal columnist attacking Dr. Jill Biden for earning a doctorate degree in education?” OMG! Where does one begin?

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First, too many people these days, consider any questioning to be an “attack.” The slightest criticisms are labeled as “attacks.” I feel secure in declaring that some people’s sensitivities, these days, are far too near the surface.

But let us proceed. There was no such attack against Jill Biden and even had there been, it was not for her “earning of a doctorate degree.” I believe I can adequately shine a light on the Wall Street Journal writer’s intentions because I understand the reporter’s perspective — completely.

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At issue is the simple fact that some people who are not medical doctors prefer (sometimes insist) to be called “doctor.” The fact of the matter is that many people find this off putting. Permit me to regress to my pre-teen years.

As a youngin’ I was blissfully unaware of the world of doctorate degrees. Then I met Dr. S. Hunter.

Hunter was a statistician, a graduate of, and an employee of Princeton University. To this day, I wouldn’t be able to say statistician if he hadn’t assisted me. He was married to the eldest daughter of our next-door neighbors in West (by God) Virginia. Mrs. M (neighbor) took great pride in introducing him as Dr. Hunter — much to his embarrassment. He was a nice guy and abhorred the open use of the title if it was not work related. I knew I liked that man. He and his family were quiet, down to earth, unassuming folks. He formed my model of what a person holding a doctorate should be as a person.

A more recent situation with a “doctor” was significantly different. A man, running for public office, consistently and frequently employed the title doctor before his name. He is not a medical doctor. I questioned the use of the title in his campaign, inquiring if the advanced degree (never specified) might have a positive impact on the position he sought. The question remained unanswered. The conclusion was that the frequent use of the title was meant to impress people and to attract votes. That is my impression regarding the constant reference to Dr. Jill Biden. It’s meant to impress even though it’s irrelevant outside of her educational responsibilities.

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Now probably to my wife’s embarrassment I’m announcing that she has an advanced degree in mathematics. That’s advanced arithmetic. I’ve never heard it mentioned and only saw it written back in the day when she submitted a resume for employment. Why else would it matter to anyone? I don’t care if it’s a master’s or a doctorate. It’s immaterial to the everyday life of most people. Jill Biden is not a better person by virtue of her studies.

Better yet? As the complainant columnist objectively indicated, “… education does not make a person intelligent or well informed. Many well-educated people don’t seem to have much common sense.” Amen, brother! That, sir, is my point. On that we agree!

It is not that Jill Biden’s education is resented. It’s the pretentiousness of using the title in a non-professional setting when it’s irrelevant. Nothing more and nothing less. Does it bolster her prestige? Apparently, some think so. If the area of your specialty is not a topic of the conversation, isn’t the fact that you have a doctorate in another field kind of irrelevant?

Many seek an advanced degree as a path to greater achievements. For others, the prestige of the degree itself is the culmination. That is a waste.

So, to any concerned doctorate holders out there, it’s not about your education. It’s about the attitude. It’s a free world. You may choose to act however you like. We lesser beings get to choose how we wish to react.

Rick Blatchford writes from Mount Airy. His column appears every other Saturday. Email him at rpblatch4d@comcast.net.

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