A quick lesson on equivocation and how not to charge that it’s occurring. Charles Cooke has a piece over at NRO about how Jill Biden, who has a Ed.D., has been tweeting under the handle ‘DrBiden’. The tweets have been about educational issues in the US and updates about her recent work promoting educational initiatives. Cooke objects to her use of ‘Dr’ as part of her title. It’s primarily that those who have doctorates aren’t real doctors.
Wherever she goes and whatever she does, Dr. Biden is always referred to as “Dr. Biden.” “Is Joe Biden married to a physician?” wondered the Los Angeles Times in January. “You might have gotten that impression while watching television coverage of the inauguration.” Yes, you might have indeed. Dr. Biden isn’t a physician, of course. She has a doctorate – in “educational leadership,” whatever the hell that is….
One can only wonder what Dr. Biden’s response would be to the urgent question “Is there a doctor in the house?!” Perhaps “Yes! Don’t worry, I’m here! I’m not too sure how to do a tracheotomy, though . . . ”
OK. So Cooke’s objection is that ‘Dr’ carries with it a lot of weight in this culture, and it comes from the status that Medical Doctors have. Then there’s a quick lesson about why folks with still get called ‘doctor’.
It’s somewhat by chance that the recipients of Ph.D.s may even presume to call themselves “doctors,” the unfortunate product of a thousand-year-old liberal-arts tradition …. “Ph.D.” stands for “Philosophiae Doctor,” a Latin term that (rather obviously) means “Doctor of Philosophy” in English. The “Philosophy” bit was intended loosely, in the classical sense of “love of learning”; the “Doctor” bit derives from “docere,” which simply means “to teach.”
Erm. That’s all totally backwards. So it’s not really by chance that Ph.D.’s are called ‘doctor.’ That’s, like, what the degree means — the one who teaches others about the area, the one who is nobody’s student. It’s actually by chance that medical doctors are the ones who get all the cred for the title. Cooke’s got the implications of his own evidence entirely backwards.
But now Cooke pauses to concede that sometimes it’s appropriate to use the title ‘doctor’ for someone with a doctorate:
American etiquette books tend to mark this dichotomy, holding that it is acceptable for Ph.D.s to use “Dr.” within the context of their business but inappropriate everywhere else.
Oy. And what was Jill Biden tweeting about? Matters regarding education. Precisely what her doctorate is in. KA-BOOM. And now Cooke has provided all the evidence to show that he has absolutely no point at all, other than to complain that someone he doesn’t like uses a term of intellectual distinction. Good things conservatives don’t do anything like that. (Oh, yes they do.)