After I read that an opinion writer in the on-line Wall Street Journal last week addressed Dr. Biden as “kiddo” and offered advice suggesting using her doctorate as “fraudulent and a touch comic,” my blood began to boil. It triggered feelings in me about how accomplished women’s success is often diminished, particularly as female workers and the industries in which they predominate suffer disproportionately during the pandemic.
The article was an unpleasant reminder of how the field of education, perhaps the most important occupation in our world, gets downplayed, with teaching dismissed as the fallback of people who “can’t do.” (Could this belittlement have something to do with three-quarters of U.S. public school teachers being women?)
Finally, it roiled me as a person with a hard-earned doctorate (and 10 honorary ones) who proudly wears my accomplishments having had parents who revered education but never got to graduate from high school. In fact, my communications staff at PBS in New York, where I served many years as president, often insisted I use my doctorate to show that the institution respected high educational accomplishments and those who had earned them.
I don’t feel that the opinion writer is alone in our distorted society in which Americans have lost their way with the values of a civilized world. I often think of my times in Germany, a country which has had great success, partly because it respects fine work (its master craftsmen are among the world’s best) and because it respects formal education to the level that the business cards of lawyers and executives will often include a double doctor title.
Almost no major German company has a leader without two doctorates. Things have at times gotten out of hand there, as when a lawsuit was filed against a U.S. scientist for calling himself “doctor” when he did not have an approved European degree. The suit was dropped when they found he had a Ph.D. from Cal Tech. Nonetheless, Germans, like people from so many countries around the world, wear their educations and degrees with pride, reverence and dignity. So should we.