Doctor Who, Jill Biden?

2012-jtb-photoDoctor Who? No, not Dr. Who.

“Doctor Who?” is what the National Review Online asks about Dr. Jill Biden, wife of the Vice President.

Apparently, that well-regarded think-tank takes issue with such insistence upon a professional distinction. In the article entitled, “Diagnosing Dr. Biden: The second lady exemplifies a bloated class of people with irrelevant, unimpressive titles,” we’re told that, “Dr. Biden isn’t a physician, of course. She has a doctorate – in ‘educational leadership,’ whatever the hell that is.”

Biting wit, to be sure.

Now, unlike this National Review writer, I’m no “expert” in the appropriate curricula of advanced scholarship.  I’d guess, however, that that “educational leadership” (no capitals necessary for such an inauspicious title), suggests a concentrated course of study in the development and execution of teaching as a profession.

“Profession” is a loaded term, I realize.  This National Review writer prefers to describe Dr. Biden’s field with the more demure adjective “vocational.” (Of course, leaving out the more important information — that she earned a Doctorate in Education. Anyone who has earned an Ed.D., Ph.D., J.D., or is currently studying for one in any field, knows any doctoral course of study isn’t a walk in the park).

We’re all agreed, then, that Education, and any pursuit seeking to further our expertise in that pursuit, is mere women’s work. How dare Dr. Biden make such a point of such silliness!  There’s another word for that: uppity. But why the umbrage against academic credentials, and against women in particular?

A little over a year ago Newt Gingrich made his Ph.D. in History a selling point in his presidential campaign.  True, the former Speaker doesn’t refer to himself as “Doctor,” but his Ph.D. and years as a college professor, drove home the insistence that he was an “ideas man,” a “big thinker.”  The obvious fact that most of Gingrich’s ideas were just this side of loopy never quite made it into the talking points, though.

Perhaps Nutty Newt’s degree itself is the true site of his respectability.  It’s in History, a real man’s discipline.  Social science, yes, but still something grounded in the hard facts of wars and men and meat-eating.  The title of his dissertation, “Belgian Education Policy in the Congo 1945–1960,” obviously has nothing at all to do with education.

Gingrich famously lost the GOP primary cage match to Mitt Romney, a man who wasn’t afraid to downplay his Harvard JD/MBA out of concern that he’d look like an out of touch elitist.  That went well.

The young man who criticized Dr. Biden’s prefix use, Charles C. W. Cooke (a signature boasting not just one, but two superfluous letters), jokingly puts in BA, MA in his byline.  This use is clearly ironic, but still shoehorns in his own pedigree.  Irony is always the last refuge of the weepingly sincere.

I’m sure Mr. Charles C.W. Cooke, BA, MA wouldn’t begrudge a professional woman the distinction she’s earned, whether the letters affixed to her name are Ph.D., M.D., Esq. or Four-Star-General.   I’d wager a guess that he’s been vocally supportive of the more traditional role of Mom-in-Chief First Lady Michelle Obama.  I’m sure the choices he’s made on how to present himself to the world reflect a respect for accomplishment and the dignity of identity.  But based on the sloppy thoughts shown in his writing, I would like more details on how Charles C.W. Cooke earned his BA and MA, or what it is he does as an “editorial associate,” a job often described as an entry-level position.

Rebecca Hughes Parker (AB, JD) is a journalist and attorney who lives in New York City with her three daughters and her stay-at-home husband who keeps the house in order with help from their dog Fozzie. She is the Editor-in-Chief of The FCPA Report, a legal publication providing analysis and insight about the bribery and corruption issues.  Previously, she was a litigator at a large law firm and an award-winning broadcast journalist. Rebecca is on Twitter @rhughesparker, and her pieces about working motherhood have appeared in the Motherlode, the Huffington Post, the Albany Times-Union,, and

Photo Credit: WhiteHouse.Gov

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