Tag Archives: media

Herr Doktor

A couple of years ago, I wrote an oped for the Wall Street Journal about doctors, “doctors” and such, and I got a fair bit of reaction to it. This past Saturday, the brilliant Joseph Epstein wrote a column along the same lines but putting focus on Jill Biden, soon-to-be First Lady of the United States. It’s worth your time, but here are a couple of paragraphs:

Madame First Lady—Mrs. Biden—Jill—kiddo: a bit of advice on what may seem like a small but I think is a not unimportant matter. Any chance you might drop the “Dr.” before your name? “Dr. Jill Biden” sounds and feels fraudulent, not to say a touch comic. Your degree is, I believe, an Ed.D., a doctor of education, earned at the University of Delaware through a dissertation with the unpromising title “Student Retention at the Community College Level: Meeting Students’ Needs.” A wise man once said that no one should call himself “Dr.” unless he has delivered a child. Think about it, Dr. Jill, and forthwith drop the doc.

The Ph.D. may once have held prestige, but that has been diminished by the erosion of seriousness and the relaxation of standards in university education generally, at any rate outside the sciences. Getting a doctorate was then an arduous proceeding: One had to pass examinations in two foreign languages, one of them Greek or Latin, defend one’s thesis, and take an oral examination on general knowledge in one’s field. At Columbia University of an earlier day, a secretary sat outside the room where these examinations were administered, a pitcher of water and a glass on her desk. The water and glass were there for the candidates who fainted. A far cry, this, from the few doctoral examinations I sat in on during my teaching days, where candidates and teachers addressed one another by first names and the general atmosphere more resembled a kaffeeklatsch. Dr. Jill, I note you acquired your Ed.D. as recently as 15 years ago at age 55, or long after the terror had departed.

I think it’s terrific, but even those who disagree should recognize that the reaction to this column is sheer silliness. Northwestern has apparently removed any mention of Epstein from their site – sheesh. Revisionism, anyone? How about some defence of free speech, oh respected university? I guess that is asking too much. Of course, the Twitter mobs went bonky and Biden herself stupidly reacted to it, opening herself up to dissection of her actual dissertation. Unfounded accusations of sexism met the oped – as though criticism of a woman is necessarily based on gender – as well as pearl-clutching about Epstein’s use of the word “kiddo.” I guess those who were upset about that word don’t know any older people. This is a common term of familiarity – and even affection – used by pre-boomers. Heck, Joe Biden uses it A LOT.

In my own family, there are several PhDs, and I have noticed that those who are the most huffy about insisting people use it, and insisting people respect their “accomplishment,” are a) the most insecure and b) the most left-leaning. There’s an elitism and a love of credentialism and an obsession with class and status among the left that you won’t see matched on the right (though yes, it exists there).

The most surprising thing – at least for me – about the reaction to the column was that so few people seem to know who Joseph Epstein is. I had to explain to several people I know that he is a brilliant literary critic, essayist and fiction writer. He is also a gentleman: I sent him a note saying how much I liked his column and I also included a link to mine. He responded almost immediately with a very positive, kind message.

(The title of this post is indeed a reference to Sylvia Plath because a) I am a woman and there is always room for a Plath reference and, b) I just finished this book, so she is on my mind.)

The Upside of the Woke Madness

I meant to post about Bari Weiss’ magnificent resignation letter, and about Andrew Sullivan’s statement later that same week (sheesh -six weeks ago! I’m a bit slow to follow up), but got distracted, likely by something absurd. I will instead make a simple statement: the upside of all the woke madness is that Sullivan is now blogging again. Yay. Reminds of ye olden tymes in the early aughts. He is not charging (yet) – I imagine he will, eventually, and that is justifiable. In the meantime, here’s a snippet of this week’s column:

In the current chaos, I’ve come to appreciate Marcus Aurelius’s maxim that “The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane.” And I have to say I’m horribly conflicted on some issues. I’m supportive of attempts to interrogate the sins of the past, in particular the gruesome legacy of slavery and segregation, and their persistent impact on the present. And in that sense, I’m a supporter of the motives of the good folks involved with the Black Lives Matter movement. But I’m equally repelled by the insistent attempt by BLM and its ideological founders to malign and dismiss the huge progress we’ve made, to re-describe the American experiment in freedom as one utterly defined by racism, and to call the most tolerant country on the planet, with unprecedented demographic diversity, a form of “white supremacy”. I’m tired of hearing Kamala Harris say, as she did yesterday: “The reality is that the life of a black person in America has never been treated as fully human.” This is what Trump has long defended as “truthful hyperbole” — which is a euphemism for a lie.  

But here’s one thing I have absolutely no conflict about. Rioting and lawlessness is evil. And any civil authority that permits, condones or dismisses violence, looting and mayhem in the streets disqualifies itself from any legitimacy. This comes first. If one party supports everything I believe in but doesn’t believe in maintaining law and order all the time and everywhere, I’ll back a party that does. In that sense, I’m a one-issue voter, because without order, there is no room for any other issue. Disorder always and everywhere begets more disorder; the minute the authorities appear to permit such violence, it is destined to grow. And if liberals do not defend order, fascists will.

Emphasis mine. And it can’t be emphasized enough.

Animals Nobody Loves

When I was a kid, my mum gave me a book called “Animals Nobody Loves.” I could not put it down – and now, as a getting-older lady, I wish I had kept it. Checked my library app and could not find it (though I found a book with the same title and probably in the same vein, written by someone else). Lo and behold, Amazon has it, and I still remember that cover (see link above)! Well, the glories of Jeff Bezos.

Why do  I mention it? Because two days ago in the New York Times I found this column, which in my view is near perfection.

Epic quote:

World, world, forgive our ignorance and our foolish fears. Absolve us of our anger and our error. In your boundless gift for renewal, disregard our undeserving. For no reason but the hope that one day we will know the beauty of unloved things, stoop to accept our unuttered thanks.

One of those columns where I say, “Man oh man, I wish I had written that!”