Dear Joseph Epstein, BA – Your Time is Done

Today the Wall Street Journal published an op-ed by essayist Joseph Epstein, calling for future FLOTUS, Dr. Jill Biden, to drop the “Dr.” title from her name.

Now, while I realize the Wall Street Journal is a conservative publication comprised mostly of old, sexist, and irrelevant white men, I also operated under the assumption that it was a business and financial-focused publication. Apparently there’s not enough going on in the business world though. I mean, why write about the new COVID vaccine, or the economic impact of the latest numbers of COVID deaths and unemployed Americans, when you can write about how annoyed you are that a woman with a doctoral degree actually expects to be addressed as “Doctor?”

In what can only be described as a bizarre, jealousy-ridden, and misogyny-filled piece of writing, the author calls her degree “fraudulent” and “comical” and tells her to “drop it.” He writes:

“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.”

First of all, that’s a whole lot of words to say “I am intimidated by women smarter than me.” Second of all, before he has even begun to attempt to make a point, he has degraded and insulted the future FLOTUS. “Kiddo?” Seriously? I’m gonna stop you right there Joe. She is Dr. Jill Biden, soon-to-be First Lady. Give her the respect she deserves. (Also, I’m pretty convinced he originally wrote “sweetie” and then changed it to “kiddo.”) A privileged white man with no post-grad education telling a woman with a doctorate not to use her credentials. How very original of you, kiddo.

To that end, let’s list Dr. Biden’s accomplishments:

  • She earned a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Delaware in 1975.
  • She earned a Master of Education, with a specialty in reading, from West Chester State College in 1981.
  • She earned a Master of Arts in Education from Villanova University in 1987.
  • She earned a Doctor of Education (Ed.D) in educational leadership from the University of Delaware in 2007

She accomplished all of this over the span of 32 years, all while becoming a wife, raising children, teaching at many different levels, running a non-profit, and accompanying her husband through multiple political campaigns. (And, who wants to tell him that not only has she earned all of these degrees, but she has also, in fact, delivered a child?)

Sadly, for Joseph Epstein, BA, that’s not enough to compel him to address her by the title she EARNED through years of hard work and public service. Mr. Epstein goes on to describe how he has taught at the collegiate level without any advanced degree. He received an honorary doctorate from a professor who was subsequently fired. He goes on to say how he was referred to as “Dr.” often over the years (but somehow never never managed to correct those who called him that.)

The next part of the tirade is at first whiny and incoherent, and then ends with the typical racism and sexism you see from men like him. He digresses from telling Jill how she should be addressed, to going on a tirade about the legitimacy of honorary doctorates. He complains about the level of intelligence of those who have received them, as if he should be the sole judge of who, and by what standards, anyone should receive an honorary degree. Then, in one of the more disgusting and desperate parts of the piece, he goes as far to say that “political correctness” has diminished ANY value they may have possessed. He writes that if you ever want an example to show how rare a thing is, you could say “rarer than a contemporary university honorary-degree list not containing an African-American woman.” He implies that honorary degrees are given out as “charity” or for publicity only. It is important to note, AGAIN, that while he goes on this vicious tirade about honorary degrees, Dr. Biden’s are not honorary; they were hard-earned and worthy of value and respect. (Unlike his fake, I mean honorary, doctoral achievement.)

He finishes off this piece of trash with this: “As for your Ed.D., Madame First Lady, hard-earned though it may have been, please consider stowing it, at least in public, at least for now. Forget the small thrill of being Dr. Jill, and settle for the larger thrill of living for the next four years in the best public housing in the world as First Lady Jill Biden.”

So, he is telling Dr. Biden that she should ignore the “small” thrill of her admirable education, and “settle” for being the little lady next to the POTUS? Let me tell you something, kiddo: A bachelor’s, two masters, and one doctoral degree are not SMALL accomplishments, and the thrill that comes with those achievements is not small either. The misogyny in this piece is not even thinly veiled. Let’s be clear: This would NEVER have been written about a man. If Joe Biden had a doctorate, this piece of garbage would have no problem calling him doctor. If this were about all people in general who do this, then there would be a similar patronizing call to men in the same boat. Why is the same demand not being made of other doctors in the political arena, such as:

  • Senator Dr. Ben Sasse (History)
  • Representative Dr. Jim Baird (Monogastric Nutrition)
  • Representative Dr. Tom Cole (British History)
  • Representative Dr. Rob Wittman (Public Health)
  • Representative Dr. Jody Hice (Ministry)

And these are just a few of many. Now, we don’t know in what circles they may or may not be addressed as “Doctor,” but that is beside the point. No one would ever tell them they shouldn’t be. Is there truly no end to the men that are appalled and threatened by educated, powerful women? Will there ever come a time when insecure men will stop trying to put us “in our place?”

Sexism is very prevalent in the educational field. A 2016 survey by AASA showed that while women make up 76% of teachers in the U.S., less than 25% of leadership positions in education (K-12) are held by women. The imbalance there is astounding. Dr. Biden’s accomplishments are not just about her. They are inspirational, and helping pave the way for future women to hold powerful positions of leadership in our nation’s educational process.

The truth is, women have to work harder, and earn more accolades in all fields, to be considered even remotely equal to a man who has achieved way less. And no matter how hard a woman works, there will always be a less-qualified man in the wings waiting to take her down. Yes, in 2020, this is still a thing. Pieces like this, albeit written by an old, white, asshat, only perpetuate the sexism and misogyny still very much in charge in our country.

Another point to consider, Joseph Epstein, BA, is that there are no MD’s without those with EdD’s, or PHD’s. No one gets to any of these levels without educators. And calling any one of these “Doctor” does not take anything away from the other two also being called “Doctor.” Those with doctoral degrees are not out on the street trying to pass themselves off as MD’s. If you were inside the academia circle, you would realize no one is trying to sound smarter than they are. Not to mention, “doctor” comes from the Latin word for “teacher.” It was originally reserved for theologians who were approved by the church to speak on religious matters. After that, it was used for academic titles, and medicine followed suit. In fact, in the US, you could not call yourself doctor unless you held a doctorate degree until the 1800’s, when it was adopted by physicians. (Also, the Miriam Webster Twitter account wins the internet with this reply)

Bottom line, only the person who earned the degree gets to make the decision on how they are addressed. Requesting that people in professional and public circles refer to you by your proper, earned title, is not unreasonable. I seriously doubt she makes her children and close friends “Doctor.” And while she will now be in the White House, she will still continue teaching, and has already made clear that education will be a priority in her duties as FLOTUS. So, she should still be addressed as Dr. Biden in the White House. Not that she owes anyone any reason or explanation for it.

And so, MR. Epstein, the lessons here are these:

  • Do NOT come for educators. They will eat you alive.
  • Do NOT come at us with your misogynistic BS. Women have had it, and we are not taking it in stride any longer.
  • Do not ever, for one second, think you have the right to tell ANYONE with a doctorate degree how they should or shouldn’t be addressed. Take your BA and sit down.

In conclusion, your days are through. You have historically been a racist, sexist, homophobic asshole. Your words and beliefs are irrelevant, and not worthy of anyone’s time. So, I’m gonna go ahead and file this under “Fragile Males Intimidated By Smart and Powerful Women” and move on. Dr. Biden has more class and education in her pinky than you have in your entire body. While your words made my blood boil, I would bet they are of no consequence to her. Her education, reputation, and character speak for themselves. She should and will wear her title proudly, and the rest of us will commend and respect that!


The EdD’s, PHD’s, and all of the doctors more educated than you.

P.S. – If Indiana Jones can keep the title of “Doctor,” then Jill Biden sure fucking can too!


160 thoughts on “Dear Joseph Epstein, BA – Your Time is Done

  1. Thank you so much for calling out a small, insecure man without a Ph.D. who still–even though he is in his 80’s–envies those who have the degree and the title! I am embarrassed I was at Northwestern while he was a lecturer but so happy that a 404 error appears now on the Northwestern University website replacing his name on the roster of past lecturers who taught there!

    Liked by 7 people

    1. Yes! I never thaught “Damnatio Memoriae” could be appropriately used in Western society again… Then, along came Joseph Epstein’s garbage OpEd – and NWU’s reaction…


    2. Many wonderful Jewish parents encourage their children to pursue graduate studies. One encouraged me to earn my JD and early in life one encouraged me to earn an MD (wish I’d listened). Perhaps the WSJ resents the fact that his adult influences failed to do this or, if they did, he did not listen to them…

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I blame the WSJ for even publishing this trash. I cancelled my subscription a few years ago when it became increasingly evident that the WSJ was in competition with Fox News, to see which was the lowest of the low.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. You words are both elegant and deadly. Your passion and cadence remind me of Suzanne Sugarbaker on that old show Designing Women. I imagine women everywhere, myself included, giving you a standing ovation for putting that asshat in his place. Bravo!

    Liked by 5 people

    1. It’s not just women everywhere giving a standing ovation for this critique of a proud cretin suffering from a depressed level of bravado. I’m 👏👏🤝 and I’m an old white man.

      Liked by 3 people

  4. Epstein must be happy that he finally got some piece of thrash published. What a despicable, arrogant, and horrendous creature so full of vile, racism, and sexism. He will be an excellent subject of study for a doctoral dissertation. “How idiotic men excel in achieving nutcase status before their time on earth expires” will be an appropriate title.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Should we also tell him that people without MDs (and therefore deserving to be called “doctor” in his pea-sized brain) deliver babies as well or save that for another day? From a midwife with a PhD

    Liked by 4 people

  6. I agree with the author, but an Ed.D. is not a Ph.D. Yes, call Dr. Biden by her title, out of respect for her. But even in education (as a field and discipline), the difference between the academic credentials are significant. Lawyers and dentists are also doctorate-holders, and hence technically deserving of the title.
    Still, the author is right: the op-ed is misogynistic garbage, and Dr. Biden deserves or respect, as well as the title, if she wants to use it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. To be precise, an Ed.D degree is a Doctorate degree – the only distinction being in Education rather than Philosophy. So Dr. Biden is entitled and DESERVES to be addressed as Dr. Biden, not only out of respect but as a matter of accuracy.

      Also, although lawyers have earned a J.D. degree, academia generally recognizes that degree is not equivalent to a Ph.D or MD; there is a Doctorate degree for lawyers however, generally sought by law professors (JSD).

      Previously, lawyers earned an LLB (Bachelor of Law) degree. That was changed in the 1930’s to pump up the prestige of the degree. I know because our son is a lawyer. We don’t call him Doctor but we are proud of his academic achievements. And don’t get me started on the use of “Esquire”!

      Liked by 3 people

      1. My brother received his law degree a few years ago. He attempted to make all his friends send invitations addressed to “Dr.” He was not successful. He is an asshole….we don’t talk.

        I am a veterinarian. I wonder if I’m allowed to be called “Doctor?” After all, I don’t deliver human babies and we wouldn’t want to confuse the boys. I can easily remove testicles, however.

        Liked by 3 people

    2. My friend and I completed my EdD and her PhD at the same time. There was no difference in work, research, examinations, clinical or rigor. She actually thought my program was more challenging. We both teach in higher ed. I submit that the bias against educators including our perceived value, work ethic, training and experience has clouded the idea that PhD and EdD are different with respect to work. Many courses were the same. We are treated and paid the same in our careers. My program’s focus weighed slightly more toward teaching and learning, but equal in every other way

      Liked by 2 people

  7. Usually, in graduate and post-grad graduation ceremonies, the degrees are usually conferred in order of rank, from lowest to highest. That is, the MDs and JDs first, then masters degrees, the MAs, MSs and MFAs, etc. lastly, the doctorate degrees. That is, those with MDs behind their name are entitled to be addressed as doctor long before they are legally qualified to deliver a baby. The vast majority of those doctors will never deliver a baby.

    I, as a paramedic with a Ph.D. (In sociology) prefer not to be addressed as doctor to avoid being confused with the medical doctors with whom I work. That’s my choice, even though I have delivered a baby (two in fact).

    This Epstein guy is, as you say, an asshat and is clearly unqualified to argue how academics should be addressed.
    Andrew Ovenden, Ph.D., MPH, MA, BS.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I’m still puzzled by “the unpromising title ‘Student Retention at the Community College Level: Meeting Students’ Needs.’ ” Was this just a gratuitous backhanded insult? Would he prefer a dissertation with the title “Community College: Should They Stay or Should They Go?”

    Liked by 2 people

  9. This is excellent! As someone who went to Northwestern as a grad student and thus had to deal with Epstein’s back in the 1980s, I fully back your statement that he has “historically been a racist, sexist, homophobic asshole.”

    Can I suggest that you correct one minor error in your post, though (and feel free to delete my post after you do). You write “He received an honorary doctorate from a professor who was subsequently fired.” You meant to type “a president,” not “a professor,” right? As a professor myself, it would be fun if I could hand out honorary degrees, but I can’t! 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  10. Epstein needs to retire along with his ideas. We women with a doctorate have had enough back stabbing men try to take us down because they are scared, inadequate and intimidated by our intelligence and accomplishments. Elizabeth Ferraro, Ed.D.

    Liked by 3 people

  11. Imagine announcing to the entire world that you think every medical doctor has delivered a child, and that no Doctor can call themselves one unless they’ve done that one thing. Oops.

    Liked by 3 people

  12. thank you, amanda, for the searing indictment of one joseph epstein. i think you were generous to call him an asshat after aptly parsing his misogyny and bigotry. he is to me more than that.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. My brother the doctor (MD) has NEVER implied he is threatened by nor thinks my Ph.D. is inferior to his degree. As a matter of fact, after watching me earn a Master’s degree and Ph.D. after the age of 40 while working, being married, and raising a family of 3 young boys (who grew into fine men during the 15 years it took me to complete my journey), he was one of the first people to greet me with Hi Doc! Oh, and by the way, once I had the degree, I then began the even longer process of paying off my damn school loans. The WSJ Editorial Board should be ashamed of themselves for publishing this piece of garbage.

    Liked by 4 people

  14. When I went to my graduation ceremony which included JDs, MDs, DVMs, in addition to PhDs, all of the degrees were handed out to the “real doctors” and lawyers first. They walked across the stage and were handed their degrees just like the undergrads. Then, the university president reminded the audience that the PhD is the ‘highest degree the university can confer’ and each PhD had their dissertation title read, were hooded by their department chair and their mentor before joining the faculty standing on the dais. Obviously, Epstein was never invited to participate in a graduation ceremony in his time at Northwestern.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. This is a fabulous and spot-on response to a jerk who deserves absolutely no response except the one felt when the rest of the world turns their back on him.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. The idea that the only people who can legitimately call themselves “doctors” are those who have delivered a baby is on a nice, irrational continuum with the idea that the sole purpose of marriage is procreation. A judge in Washington State tried to codify that argument several years ago only to be forcefully reminded that people “past the age” were also allowed to marry in his jurisdiction. Oops.

    Liked by 2 people

  17. “A wise man once said that no one should call himself “Dr.” unless he has delivered a child.” Doctors don’t deliver babies, babies are not pizzas… Newsflash: WOMEN BIRTH BABIES. Just the tip of the iceberg with this insulting clown.

    Liked by 2 people

  18. I love this article! Not to split hairs, but HAS Dr Biden delivered a child? Not that it matters, but it seems a silly argument in this article when it’s not accurate?


  19. Are Joseph and Jeffrey related? If you tried to do Epstein name proud, boys, it’s a big fail.

    MA, M.Div married to Ph.D husband; daughter of Ph.D mother and Ed.D father, sister of M.Th brother and J.D. brother.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. I assume that Epstein, a soi-disant academic would have called Dr. Johnson kiddo as well. It is nice to imagine the withering scorn with which the great Doctor would have dismissed the little twerp. I would add that his title was based on honorary degrees. Of course Epstein is so dumb that he does not know that it is considered demeaning in England to refer to surgeons as Dr. rather than Mr., as they are a cut above.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Please don’t forget the absolutely insane privilege he had, by virtue of age and gender, of being allowed to teach AT ALL at the college level without a higher degree! No one would be allowed that today – and is it simply a coincidence that those opportunities existed for mediocre white males, and higher degrees began to be required around the same time that the numbers of women and people of color with higher degrees began to climb? His entire career he’s been allowed to excel in his mediocrity, but somehow, someone who actually WORKED to earn something is supposed to settle for being the “best wife”?

    No one needs the opinions of those who’ve failed upward. Sit down and shut up, Kiddo, your stupid is showing.

    Liked by 2 people

  22. As someone with a Ph.D. who DOESN’T use the doctor (I’ve always been a very informal guy) I couldn’t agree with you more. It is Dr. Biden’s choice if she wants to use the doctor, hers and hers alone. And jeez, Epstein might have bothered to look up the origin of the word at least, I mean I’ve known that Ph.D.s were the real doctors since long before I got mine. The MDs stole it from us since they wanted to sound more impressive. I will admit to always joking with my students “Please, use my first name, the only person who wants to be called doctor in my family is my brother the psychiatrist.”

    Liked by 1 person

  23. I don’t like or care for the Biden family in the slightest. However, if she’s earned a doctorate degree …. then she’s a doctor! It’s very simple. I have ALWAYS referred to any number of my former professors as “Doctor N.”

    Liked by 1 person

  24. I do wonder, though, if the honorary degree practice should be abolished. Bill Cosby received more than 70 of them.
    And while everyone is churning around the deliberately provocative chum of “kiddo” let’s not overlook his frontal assault on education itself. What could possibly be so disturbing (“unpromising”) to him about about an educator writing a dissertation about KEEPING PEOPLE IN SCHOOL . . . So many “-isms” it’s hard to know where to begin.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. I fully agree with the points made here and with most of the comments. I have a pet peeve though. It’s a “doctoral degree” or a doctorate. Doctoral is an adjective describing the type of degree, and doctorate is a noun. I see this all the time in my field and it grates on my nerves.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Good job!! Well written, well thought out and on point! I am in a PhD program researching women in leadership and appreciate your use of the disproportionality of female superintendents (your stats are correct, AASA). It is even larger for women of color. Again, brava!!

    Liked by 1 person

  27. As German teachers would say:

    “Setzen! Sechs!” (“Sit down! You failed!”)

    Because, damn! Epstein is such a sexist hypocrite. Bashing honorary degrees while he himself lacks a *real* Doctor – unlike the Future FLOTUS, who had to write a freaking thesis and had to defend it. And delivered children. Oh, the irony! Pulling that “only doctor of delivered baby” BS card on a *mother* of all people…

    And being the wife of the president being a “larger thrill” than being a Doctor? Yeah, that’s sexism and misogyny talking…

    As an aspiring male B.A. (and hopefully M.A.) Thank you for this appropriately scathing, scolding piece of a smackdown! I have the highest respect for all the men and women who worked that hard and got that far to write a dissertation or doctorate thesis and defend it and get their Doctorate.

    A little, misantropic, jealous, misogynist imp like Joseph Epstein wont change anything in these people’s accomplishments.
    The only thing he is is a disrespectful, attention-seeking brat no-one should give any attention at all.

    Meanwhile, Dr. Jill Biden keeps on being a literal teacher with a literal teaching degree in teaching…

    Liked by 1 person

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