Wall Street Journal article on Jill Biden incites outrage

Amid a global pandemic, a financial crisis, and a year of social unrest, author and Wall Street Journal essayist Joseph Epstein thought now was the perfect time to criticize holders of advanced academic degrees. Specifically, Epstein went after soon-to-be first lady Dr. Jill Biden and the Doctorate in Education she earned from the University of Delaware. Epstein opened his WSJ essay by referring to Dr. Biden as “kiddo,” and it only got more polarizing from there.

“A wise man once said that no one should call himself ‘Dr.’ unless he has delivered a child,” Epstein wrote. “Think about it, Dr. Jill, and forthwith drop the doc.” The essay grows even more confusing, with the author at one point suggesting that the process for earning an advanced humanities degree doesn’t mean as much without the “terror” of Ph.D. candidates fainting during the dissertation defense process. Confusingly, Epstein also complains about Stephen Colbert and Seth Meyers’ honorary doctorates, despite the fact that Dr. Biden’s degree was earned, not honorary.

Fans of Dr. Biden were quick to criticize the WSJ essay, published on Dec. 11, 2020. Medical doctors and advanced degree holders having the same title of “doctor” doesn’t seem to upset many people, save for Epstein himself. Here’s what people had to say about the situation.

Medical doctors aren't offended to share a title with Dr. Biden

Yes, both M.D.s and Ph.D.s/Ed.D.s go by “doctor.” And they’re fine with that. “I am appalled and unsurprised that the ⁦@WSJ ⁩would print this trash,” tweeted the Columbia University Department of Emergency Medicine’s Dara Kass, MD. “She is Dr. Biden, First Lady-to-be, give her the respect she deserves.”

Another M.D., Dr. Jason Campbell, a medical resident in Portland, Ore., tweeted, “I am a doctor with a medical degree and I want Dr. Biden to keep using her title in the White House, around the White House and even on the roof of the White House.”

“We as physicians know too well how much work & grit goes into earning a doctorate degree,” tweeted Natalia S. Rost, M.D., a stroke specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital. While Joseph Epstein may be imagining some sort of conflict between medical doctors and academics, it doesn’t seem to be the case.

Everyone from Hillary Clinton to the dictionary weighed in on the 'Dr. Biden' controversy

You know things are getting heated when both Merriam-Webster and Dictionary.com enter the conversation. Within minutes of each other on Dec. 12, 2020, the two dictionaries both tweeted about the word “doctor.” Dictionary.com tweeted its two definitions, the second of which is “a person who has been awarded a doctorate, such as a Ph.D. or Ed.D.” And Merriam-Webster tweeted an article about the etymology of the word “doctor” — it comes from the Latin word “docere,” which means “to teach.” So, calling an advanced degree holder a “doctor” is pretty accurate, after all.

“I’m offended for anyone who actually got a Ph.D or Ed.D unlike the fool who writes this, because that ISH is WORK,” tweeted Atima Omara, a D.C.-based political strategist. And New York Times digital storytelling editor Jamal Jordan tweeted screenshots of statements from Northwestern University denouncing Joseph Epstein’s opinion. But the real mic drop might have come from former U.S. Secretary of State and 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, who simply tweeted, “Her name is Dr. Jill Biden. Get used to it.”

The one person who hasn’t responded to the WSJ debacle is Dr. Biden herself. Of course, she doesn’t owe Epstein any sort of response — but it’s unlikely she’ll follow his advice to “drop the doc” anytime soon.

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