Oh, you have GOT to be kidding! The LA Times has published a piece on Jill Tracy Jacobs Biden, adjunct professor of English at Northern Virginia Community College. After serving as an instructor of English comp and remedial writing at Delaware Technical & Community College for fifteen years on the strength of a Master's degree, she returned to school to obtain her PhD in Education (according to HuffPo). I cite this because she is commonly described as having a 'doctorate in Education' which is not infrequently cover for the Ed.D as opposed to the Ph.D. Admittedly there are those with Ph.D. degrees who consider an Ed.D. degree to be inferior but I think we academic doctors can stick together on this one.
I think this is totally awesome that a college professor is our current Second Lady (ok, ok, gag but that's what we call it). I like college education. It is a GoodThing. And I like and respect those that choose to do it for a profession. So I'm quite happy to call Professor Doctor Biden by her titles and hand out a little smackaroo to any who gainsay her right to be so respected.
Yes, that's right, in the US if you have an appointment that includes the word professor, then you are rightfully called "Professor", particularly when it comes to being addressed by students. And if you have an academic doctoral degree you are also rightfully called "Doctor". Period. Of course, we might be a little casual about things in our business. If "Professor" is a more-respected title, well, I think some that deserved the title get called "Doctor" a heck of a lot more than "Professor" by those outside of the classroom. And many of us who are formally able to claim both titles really, really (really) prefer to go by our first name.
But some idiot quoted in the LA Times piece is annoying when he asserts that we should not call Dr. Biden by her title.
"My feeling is if you can't heal the sick, we don't call you doctor," said Bill Walsh, copy desk chief for the Washington Post's A section and the author of two language books.
Well the thing is, buddy, you don't get to make that call. The academic community has made that call for you and you are in error. Remember how tradition dictates that Reps and Senators and Judges and whatnot are referred to as Honorable this and Right Reverend that and what have you? You know that tradition attributed, perhaps falsely to George Washington who supposedly said "Plain Mr. President will do"? Well you don't get to start with "Gee, I think we should call him His Respected High Excellency President of the Free World Obama" now, do you? No you do not.
And similarly, you don't get to decide what the appropriate honorific is for Dr. Biden.
Oh, and lest we forget? Another reason I pay attention when some idiot outside of the Academy is getting interested in who we call Doctor? Well, 'cause it is a little bit of an ongoing respect problem when it comes to women with doctoral degrees. I don't want to draw any conclusions about our style meister from WaPo but as Mike at the QA pointed out, WaPo has no problem calling Kissinger or MLK Jr "Doctor".
[h/t: Questionable Authority]
Update 2/3/09: This site claims EdD. Newsblog of Chronicle of Higher Ed says "Ms. Biden", whoops. AHA! This document listing personnel from Delaware Technical & Community College claims Ed.D. so I'll take that as authoritative.