In 1972, Joe Biden’s wife Neilia and their infant daughter Naomi were killed in a car crash. Biden’s sons Beau and Hunter were critically injured but survived.
In 1977, Joe Biden married Jill Jacobs. She helped raise his surviving sons while teaching high school English and reading. She also spent several years teaching children with emotional special needs at a psychiatric hospital.
Later in her career, she decided to teach writing at a local community college. As many teachers do when they transition to higher education, she decided to pursue a doctorate.
In 2008, Jill completed her doctorate in educational leadership. She wrote her dissertation on improving student retention at a community college, where dropout rates exceed the national average.
By all accounts, Dr. Biden is a compassionate and giving person. She founded a nonprofit that works on breast cancer prevention by educating high school students about breast health. She co-founded the Book Buddies program, which provides books for low-income children. And she teamed up with First Lady Michelle Obama to support military families during their husbands’ eight years in office.
When Senator Biden became the United States vice president, Dr. Biden could have bathed in the executive office’s spoils. Instead of milking her husband’s position like the Trump family, she chose to continue teaching remedial education at a local community college. An unprecedented decision, the choice provided evidence of Dr. Biden’s humility and commitment to educating students.
Republican pundits and politicians recently attacked Dr. Biden for allowing people to call her “Dr. Biden.” They charged that it was presumptuous and unwarranted and suggested her dissertation was “garbage.”
First, Dr. Biden didn’t invent the practice. Use of the title “Doctor” for academic scholars began in the 1300s, which was used as a form of respect for scholars such as professors. The word “doctor” comes from the Latin word “docere,” which means “to teach” or “scholar.” Medical doctors were not called doctors until the 1600s.
It is still common in academia to refer to a professor with a doctorate as “doctor” in the same way people preface a police officer’s name with “officer.” War criminal Henry Kissinger had an academic doctorate, and people have called him Dr. Kissinger for decades.
Second, if awarding a doctorate was based on a dissertation’s quality, millions of students wouldn’t graduate. The quality of dissertations varies markedly by student and university–from extraordinary to unsatisfactory. Students rarely fail if they make an effort. Many dissertations add to the body of literature on a topic and fill gaps that help advance issues. Many fall short and serve as mere research exercises to earn a degree. I read Dr. Biden’s dissertation. It’s a short, ordinary dissertation on a worthwhile topic.
Finally, to earn a doctorate, students also must complete years of coursework. While the rigor varies by university, it usually requires a tremendous sacrifice of time and dedication. Nobody should diminish the courage it takes, the financial burden it often places on students or the passion that drives them to pursue it.
Students in education doctoral programs typically don’t set out to solve the world’s problems. Their program’s dissertation phase teaches them about the research process and enables them to dive deep into an issue that matters to them and their field. Dr. Biden accomplished that objective by completing a qualitative study and making suggestions to improve university retention. Her dissertation committee passed her based on the University of Delaware’s standards. She earned her degree.
We all know what this is about.
Dr. Biden’s popularity roils Republicans, so they must destroy her reputation. The majority of the Republican Party is old, white men. Misogyny is their brand. They can’t tolerate respected, successful women because they view them as a threat to the male world order. It would never occur to them to embrace someone who will be a nonpartisan role model for every American because they almost always put party and gender dominance over country. They relentlessly attacked First Lady Michelle Obama, Secretary Clinton, and many before them for this reason.
Republicans follow Trump’s lead–a career misogynist with 24 credible sexual assault and rape allegations against him, including an alleged rape of a 13-year-old girl.
Republicans are also notorious for spending time on meaningless symbolic issues: wearing a flag pin, standing during the national anthem, and fighting the use of “Happy Holidays” are a few of their classic hits. We shouldn’t be surprised that as the nation battles a pandemic, endures brutal economic times, and suffers an unprecedented Russian cyberattack that they would spend time attacking Dr. Biden’s academic accomplishments.
Curiously, the same fringe Republican pundits and politicians criticizing Dr. Biden remained silent about Donald Trump’s academic record.
A court found Trump guilty of running a fake university and scamming thousands of “students” out of their “tuition.” The court ordered him to pay $25 million to the 7,000 victims he defrauded, which he paid. Trump’s niece, Mary Trump, stated Trump paid someone to take his SAT. And Trump threatened his university not to release his transcripts when he was elected and lied about ranking at the top of his class.
Which academic record deserves scrutiny? Dr. Biden’s career teaching special needs students and attaining a terminal degree? Or Donald Trump’s criminal record, cheating, and pathological lying?
Trump has trampled the U.S. Constitution, publicly invited foreign interference to win the 2016 election, and the House impeached him for cheating to win the 2020 election. Republicans still call him “Mr. President,” so “Dr. Biden” shouldn’t be hard.
Dr. Biden didn’t run for office. She isn’t a cabinet nominee appearing before the Senate for confirmation. There’s no reason to discuss her credentials. Republican efforts to degrade her should remind everyone why we need more Democratic women in positions of power.