Jill Biden earned her
Ph.D. Ed.D. in 2007 in education. Robin Abcarian, reporter for the Los Angeles Times, must be having a tough time finding material to write about, given the article attacking Biden for being identified as Dr. Jill Biden. The level of research Abcarian undertook is exemplified by this erratum in the online version:
FOR THE RECORD:
The headline in an earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Jill Biden had a doctorate in English. She has a doctorate in education.
Media Matters has an excellent response to Abcarian, taking apart many of the slights that Abcarian had worked into the article. One of the most annoying moments in the Abcarian article was its quoting of a newspaper staffer about policy:
Newspapers, including The Times, generally do not use the honorific “Dr.” unless the person in question has a medical degree.
“My feeling is if you can’t heal the sick, we don’t call you doctor,” said Bill Walsh, copy desk chief for the Washington Post’s A section and the author of two language books.
Bill Walsh is confused. While doctor as a description of what someone does for a living is tied to the medical profession by modern usage, the “Dr.” title of address is accurately applied to any holder of a terminal research or professional degree that is a doctorate. That is inclusive of medical doctors, but not exclusive of doctorates in the arts, sciences, and other professions.
The hypocrisy issue raised by Media Matters was particularly telling: would the LA Times demur from calling LA Lakers owner Jerry Buss as “Dr.”, and go so far as to publish articles attacking him for using his earned title? Certainly the “policy” cited by Walsh is inconsistently applied. The LA Times has published articles that do use “Dr.” to refer to people other than medical doctors. Like this article that includes a reference to “Dr. Jerry Buss”.
Of course, the low point in the Abcarian article as pointed out by Media Matters has to be the implication that someone using “Dr.” as a title might be guilty of a criminal offense, “title fraud”:
German investigations of “title fraud” don’t have anything to do with Jill Biden. Nobody – nobody except the LA Times, that is – is suggesting that Jill Biden is guilty of “fraud.” And Germany doesn’t prohibit non-medical doctors from using the title doctor; it prohibits people who didn’t earn their doctorate in Germany or the EU to call themselves doctor. Again: this has absolutely nothing to do with Jill Biden. It’s just a cheap shot; a clumsy effort to suggest there is something fraudulent about her use of the title “doctor,” even though there is nothing wrong with her doing so – by American standards or German.
It’s probably a safe bet that Robin Abcarian doesn’t hold an earned doctorate. The sort of anti-intellectualism that comes through that article doesn’t usually come from a background in graduate studies.