Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Megyn Kelly and the Disappearance of Courtesy

I've never met Megyn Kelly. But based on what she said a couple of days ago, she seems to believe I'm a fraud. Agreed, she didn't say this about me. She said it about Jill Biden. But I certainly felt Ms. Kelly's disrespect, and I was not amused.

What caused Ms. Kelly to take to Twitter and express her outrage about the First Lady was this: during the Eagles-49ers playoff game, the play-by-play announcers, noticing that she was in the crowd, referred to her as "Dr. Jill Biden." This offended Ms. Kelly, and she said so, accusing the First Lady of being nothing more than a "wannabe" with a "fake title." She concluded her tweet by suggesting to the First Lady, "Get a real MD or just work on your self-esteem."

Okay, I understand. Ms. Kelly is a partisan, a former Fox News commentator, and she dislikes the fact that Joe Biden is president. I'm fine about that-- she has every right to her opinion. I can also understand that she might be criticizing Joe Biden by proxy whenever she criticizes his wife.  But the scornful dismissal of Jill Biden's degree, and Ms. Kelly's annoyance that the announcers used the First Lady's preferred title, was uncalled for. 

Like Jill Biden, I got my doctorate later in life: she was 55, and I was 64.  Hers was a doctorate in Educational Leadership from the University of Delaware; mine was a PhD in Communication from the University of Massachusetts.  Like Jill Biden, I studied nights (and worked days) in my quest for the advanced degree. I promise you, it wasn't easy doing it that way. If you have an adult learner in your family, or if you are an adult learner yourself, you know that when you've been out of school for a while, it can be challenging to go back. I've read some online critics who claim the Doctor of Education isn't a "real" degree; but I know some folks who have one, and they worked hard to get it. They don't deserve to be mocked, by Megyn Kelly or anyone else.

To me, it's about good manners. I grew up in the 1950s and 1960s, and perhaps I'm hopelessly outdated, but I was always taught to be polite when speaking to others. For example, I was taught that you called professors "Professor." You didn't call them by their first name. Nor did you call priests or rabbis or ministers by their first name: you used their title. Ditto for a wide range of other folks, including your boss. Now, agreed, once you got to know them, if they gave you permission to use their first name, it might be okay. But it was their decision, not yours.

Thus, I'm not bothered if Jill Biden wants to be called Dr. Biden; it's her decision, and it reflects the degree she worked hard for. When my students are addressing me for the first time, I'd expect "Professor Halper" or "Doctor Halper." To me, it's just courtesy. I understand that we're in a more casual era now, and first names are more common: in fact, I often let my students call me Donna, if they ask. But if I were at an academic conference, I would want to use my professional title. And why not? Nothing pretentious about it. Nothing fraudulent or fake. Like Jill Biden, I worked hard for that degree (took me nine years before I finished), and I'm proud of what I accomplished. Lots of folks told me I was "too old." But I proved them wrong. And I see no harm in using the title that reflects all the research I did, and all the effort I put into it writing my dissertation (which was 365 pages long). 

So, my advice to Megyn Kelly is learn some manners. Jill Biden is not asking for anything unreasonable. She's simply asking to be called by her academic title. If that makes her happy, why should anyone be upset about it? She has a real degree from a real university. So do I. So do many folks with Ed.D and PhD degrees. We aren't claiming to be medical doctors. We're just saying that our accomplishments are valid, and deserving of respect. And Megyn, if you can't be proud of us, could you at least try to be courteous? We earned our degrees, so please call us by our title if that's what we want.



  1. I was working on a PhD in computer science. If I'd completed, I would be a Dr. It would be just as real as any other PhD, ED, MD, etc. Megyn is wrong.

  2. I was treated by a Medical Doctor who had his MD granted with just a high school degree and medical school at Harvard, a scholastic level usually said to be a Bachelor's dredge. Far less education than other Doctors with PhD degrees like you! Eventually just like lawyers who also had a high school education then just law school. Many of the MDs and lawyers who were still practicing in the 1970s didn't have an advanced doctorate scholastic degree.