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“Dr.” Jill Biden Is Fine with Me.

December 18, 2020

On January 20, 2021, Jill Biden will become the first First Lady to also hold a doctoral degree in education. In Jill Biden’s case, hers is a Doctor of Education in Education Leadership from the University of Delaware.

Biden is headed for the White House, and given her newly-heightened profile, I am not surprised that someone rose to the ugly occasion of trying to cheapen her educational achievement, not because Biden herself was using her title to market herself or some ed-reform product, nor because she was using the title to leverage some other personal gain, but just because an opportunity to show oneself to be a horse’s posterior presented itself. 

Jill Biden is widely known as an educator; therefore, her use of the title, “Dr.,” is reasonably associated with that well-known context, even on Twitter. There is no “MD” confusion, and therefore, no problem.

As for her dissertation, I read it. Given the criticism levied against Biden for her Ed.D., I wanted to gauge the effort she had to expend in writing her dissertation and whether her work might be considered a useful contribution to her field (i.e., whether someone might use the findings to inform either practice or future research). After examining her work, I see her effort on its pages, and I believe what she has to offer does indeed contribute to the knowledge base of student experience at the community college level.

It is true that Biden’s dissertation is not centered upon hypothesis testing. However, I do not assume that it must be. Her work is more practical. Not all research is centered on the scientific method. As I was working on my dissertation gauging the utility of two types of coefficients for understanding exactly which outcome variables were responsible for driving the significance of a multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) (sounds fancy, doesn’t it?), a friend was working on his Doctor of Arts (D.A.) in cello performance. I used to tease him that his dissertation was not real because it lacked statistics.

I hold a Ph.D. in applied statistics and research methods. In reading Jill Biden’s dissertation, I did not assume that her work could not add to the knowledge base in her area if it did not resemble my dissertation (quite the festival of numbers), and that is as it should be.

In my time working on my doctorate, I was well aware of several biases: Ed.D. programs were not as “good” as Ph.D. programs; qualitative research was not as good as quantitative, and even that applied statistics (putting stats to practical usage) was not as good as the more theoretical statistics (in which formulas remain untainted by attempts at real-world application). So many ways to try to build up ourselves and diminish others.

That was twenty years ago, and I am happy to say that none of those efforts to rank the value of a doctorate matter to me.

What matters most is that when I say my Ph.D. is in statistics, it scares people. (Smile.)

Dr. Jill Biden is fine with me.

Dr. Jill Biden

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7 Comments
  1. Ellen Lubic permalink

    Both Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton earned Juris Doctorates one from Harvard and one from Yale. Jill Biden is not the first First Lady to have a doctorate, but she is the first to have and Ed.D

  2. Laura H.Chapman permalink

    Thanks for commenting on this matter and taking the time to read Jill Biden’s dissertation. I think you probably encountered that delightful book, How to Lie with Statistics. I have not checked, but I am sure you could do a new and wonderfully witty version. Case material is abundant on the “What Works Clearinghouse website, and the adventures of Gates and others in education.

    • Christine Langhoff permalink

      Our Laura casting some well deserved shade here!

  3. speduktr permalink

    I hope Laura gave you an idea for another book. The way people throw around even simple stats such a book could be highly useful. FYI: You are right. Your PhD in Statistics is scary as H***!

  4. Really nice posting, Mercedes!

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