A dull mind gets bored easily. A curious mind expands forever ~ Maxime Lagacé
Education is hard. Ask anybody that has attended college or university and they will tell you that millions of people on this planet have suffered hardships, been tossed on a violent ocean of turmoil, worked two jobs, all while going to college and then on to university. With their eyes set on the prize of a coveted university degree. I know. I was one of them (college) – Twice!
Being lazy or looking for instant fame is harder. It’s hard to remember all of the lies. Unfortunately, there are always going to be those that look for a way around putting in the long hours it takes to get a degree and what this article is primarily about.
The highest degree awarded by a graduate school or other approved educational organization is a “Doctorate in Classics.” A doctorate is an umbrella term for a degree or rank. On the other hand, a Ph. D. – North America vs the more common PhD in other parts of the world – is a specific degree that falls under the doctorate category. A doctorate is a program that can result in either a professional or an academic degree.
A doctorate or doctor’s degree or doctoral degree, is an academic degree awarded by universities. It is derived from the ancient formalism licentia docendi (license to teach). In most countries, it is a research degree that qualifies the holder to teach at university level in the degree’s field, or to work in a specific profession. There are a number of doctoral degrees; the most common is the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), which is awarded in many different fields, ranging from the humanities to scientific disciplines.
In the US and some other countries, there are also some types of technical or professional degrees that include doctor in their name and are, in some of those countries, classified as doctorates. Professional doctorates historically came about to meet the needs of practitioners in a variety of disciplines.
Many universities also award honorary doctorates to individuals deemed worthy of special recognition, either for scholarly work or for other contributions to the university or to society, and this, unfortunately, has been abused for far to many decades.
Research doctorates are awarded in recognition of academic research that is publishable, at least in principle, in a peer-reviewed academic journal. The best known research degree title, in the English speaking world, is Doctor of Philosophy – abbreviated Ph.D., PhD or, at some British universities, DPhil – awarded in many countries throughout the world.
Other research doctorates include the Doctor of Education (Ed.D. or EdD), Doctor of Arts (D.A.), Doctor of Juridical Science (J.S.D. or S.J.D.), Doctor of Musical Arts (D.M.A.), Doctor of Professional Studies/Professional Doctorate (ProfDoc or DProf), Doctor of Public Health (Dr.P.H.), Doctor of Social Science (D.S.Sc. or DSocSci), Doctor of Management (D.M. or D.Mgt.), Doctor of Business Administration (D.B.A. or DBA), the UK Doctor of Management (DMan), various doctorates in engineering, such as the US Doctor of Engineering (D.Eng., D.E.Sc. or D.E.S.), also awarded in Japan and South Korea, the UK Engineering Doctorate (EngD), the German engineering doctorate Doktoringenieur (Dr.-Ing.) the German natural science doctorate Doctor rerum naturalium (Dr. rer. nat.) and the economics and social science doctorate Doctor rerum politicarum (Dr. rer. pol.).
The UK Doctor of Medicine (MD or MD (Res)) and Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) are research doctorates. The Doctor of Theology (Th.D., D.Th. or ThD), Doctor of Practical Theology (DPT) and the Doctor of Sacred Theology (S.T.D., or D.S.Th.) are research doctorates in theology.
Criteria for research doctorates vary, but typically require completion of a substantial body of original research, which may be presented as a single thesis or dissertation, or as a portfolio of shorter project reports – thesis by publication.
The submitted dissertation is assessed by a committee of examiners, and is then typically defended by the candidate during an oral examination – viva in the UK and India – by the committee. Candidates may also be required to complete graduate level courses in their field, as well as study research methodology.
Criteria for admission to doctoral programs varies. In the US and the UK, students may be admitted with a bachelor’s degree, while elsewhere; in Finland, a master’s degree is required. The time required to complete a research doctorate varies from three years, excluding undergraduate study, to six years or more.
A higher tier of research doctorates may be awarded on the basis of a formally submitted portfolio of published research of a particularly high standard. Examples include the Doctor of Science (DSc) and Doctor of Letters (DLitt) degrees found in the UK, Ireland and some Commonwealth countries, and the traditional doctorates in Scandinavia.
Higher doctorates are often also awarded honoris causa when a university wishes to formally recognize an individual’s achievements and contributions to a particular field.
With all of this preamble out of the way and it really did need to be covered, I would like to talk about one such person that used all of the loopholes in the education system to obtain a doctorate degree, despite the vapid pages of her 20,000 word piece of litter-box lining.
Jill Biden’s – the now First Lady in the White House of the United States – embarrassing 2006 dissertation, is essentially a weakly argued 20,000-word op-ed that offers zero hard evidence for her policy proposals, which are that Delaware Tech should beef up its Wellness Center, add a student center, and offer lots of counseling and mentorship to students in order to increase retention rates, which she says were about two-thirds at her institution, about par for community colleges.
Everything is based on soft data, such as the results of insipid surveys she sent out asking Delaware Tech students whether they agreed with her ideas. One of them being “should a student center be built.” Of course students would like to have a student center built. Students would always say yes to any proposed amenity. Students would likely say yes to a new screening room, tennis court, or fro-yo lounge, but that doesn’t mean these would be wise uses of the institution’s money.
How much would a student center cost? Biden doesn’t say. Would the benefit be worth the cost? Biden is silent on the question too. Even if a student center were worth the cost, would some other potential use of that money be even more worthwhile? The question never crosses Biden’s mind. Biden simply proceeds from the assumption that the world is a place of unlimited resources for things she wants. Whatever additional time, money, and effort are required will magically appear and this is not a scholarly approach.
To distract from her own opinions, Biden pumps in lots of other people’s as well, dressed up as citation: “Bryant and Crockett (2005) argues that the job of an advisor does not end when student signs up for classes. The advisor should be connected to students until the day they graduate.” The idea of flooding the zone with student advisers is barely an idea.
Biden at no point considers whether it is worth it, on either side, for community colleges to press harder to retain their least motivated students. Unlike a bachelor’s degree, a degree from a community college is not a particularly valuable credential, and it may be that many students are correct in believing that a community college degree is not worth the time or other resources required to obtain it, or simply believe that they are not learning very much.
Every hour a community college student spends on his studies is an hour he is not spending on some other activity. Perhaps that other activity is a job in which having a community college degree confers zero additional value.
The question is at least worth considering, but Biden does not consider it. She, a community college instructor, simply proceeds from the assumption that a community college degree is a thing of such obvious value that both students and educators should press for as many students to earn them as possible, with no mention of cost.
It doesn’t cross her mind that someone in a community college might have something better, more interesting, or more remunerative to do with his or her time. This is a subject that Mike Rowe (Dirty Jobs) has covered many times and so far, has been 100% correct to state the facts that he has.
A chat session she convened with other faculty members – which she considers meaningful original research – suggests an ulterior motive for students who aren’t interested in studying. Pre-Obamacare, adults who could show that they were full time students could remain covered by their parents’ insurance. Biden simply breezes by this piece of information, barely noticing that her own colleagues are telling her some students are present for the health insurance, not to learn anything. Why fret about retaining students who aren’t there to study in the first place.
Biden gets so caught up in repeating liberal nostrums that she doesn’t even realize some of them contradict others. She claims without evidence that a major reason many students do not feel comfortable at their community college is a lack of diversity in the student population, having forgotten that the first sentence of her paper is: “Delaware Technical and Community College serves a highly diverse student body in terms of age, gender, race, and socioeconomic status.”
Moreover, Delaware Tech is typical of community colleges in general. Diversity, rather than homogeneity, is the norm. So slipped is Biden’s memory that the sentence that immediately precedes her bewailing lack of diversity is this one.
“The National Center of Educational Statistics (1999), reported that 42.3 percent of African Americans in higher education are in the community college system, along with 50% of the Native American and 55.6% of Hispanic enrollment (Pope, 2002).” If about half of America’s minorities who are in higher education are in community colleges, these institutions would appear to be quite diverse indeed, if by “diverse” one means “largely nonwhite,” which appears to be Biden’s definition. Delaware Tech is by this definition considerably more diverse than the state in which it sits, which is 69 percent white.
Biden claims that another source of friction is the lack of diversity “in the make-up of the faculty, which creates a feeling of alienation,” but she provides no evidence for this claim either, nor does she provide a demographic breakdown of the Delaware Tech faculty. Many such assertions float through the paper, not bound to anything. I can see the red pen of my eighth-grade Social Studies teacher going furiously to work. “Where is the evidence!?”
Obviously, when you’re married to a senator, ordinary dissertation standards have a way of disappearing and it is that double standard in which college and university students see, increasing the disheartening frustration that most of them are living in a lie, while their bank accounts show huge amounts of money being given for the very same lie.
Biden’s paper doesn’t even compare her meager findings about her own community college to what happens at other community colleges, because that would have meant more effort than she was willing to make, which was questioning a few people in her immediate vicinity, leafing through a few secondary sources, and typing out long strings of nugatory prose. Her paper is a dressed-up barstool chitchat, not academic work.
She is certainly entitled, as insecure people in possession of doctorates tend to be, to ask to be addressed as “doctor,” but the polite response should be: “Sorry, I reserve that honor mention for medical doctors.”
A somewhat less polite response would be: “You’re not even an academic, you teach remedial English to community college students, and your dissertation holds the value of toilet paper.”