I read Jill Biden's doctoral dissertation and everyone can stop calling her "Doctor" now.

Dec 18th

I came at this from a different place than most people. I know individuals who have an Ed.D. in education. They are generally respected in the field and the honorific "doctor" is often used within the academic setting.

So I did not jump aboard the "Jill Biden isn't a real doctor" train right away.

Sure, I understood and thoroughly enjoyed the Adam Carolla joke, "When the flight attendant comes over the intercom and asks if there is a doctor on board and you don't raise your hand, you're not a doctor," but I don't like making fun of someone's education and having some direct familiarity with education circles, I understood why she might take offense at the fun people were having at her expense.

And then I read her dissertation.

There have already been some cutting critiques.

Kyle Smith, writing for The National Review, wrote what can only be called a "snark de force" titled "Jill Biden's Doctorate Is Garbage Because Her Dissertation Is Garbage" including this passage:

"It is not a demonstration of expertise in its specific topic or its broad field. It is a gasping, wheezing, frail little Disney forest creature that begs you to notice the effort it makes to be the thing it is imitating while failing so pathetically that any witnesses to its ineptitude must feel compelled, out of manners alone, to drag it to the nearest podium and give it a participation trophy.

Cathartic?

Yes, but not particularly helpful in understanding why exactly it's so bad.

Perhaps realizing that, he wrote a follow up piece, titled, "Jill Biden's Garbage Dissertation, Explained" in which he pretty much picked up where he left off.

"To call Jill Biden's dissertation thin gruel is an insult to gruel. Whatever meager substance puddled in Bob Cratchit's miserable bowl at mealtime was a bountiful feast compared with this paper."

(To be fair, that second piece includes some good information.)

Still, not enough. I always picture myself standing at some social gathering (remember those?) and repeating something like that and being challenged on why and realizing I have... nothing.

Not that that has ever happened. More than once.

So I read it myself.

As we go through this I want you to keep in mind that this is a doctoral dissertation. She had months to prepare it. It's only 137 pages long, and as Smith above noted 48 of those are reprints of surveys she prepared and transcripts of group chats. I would knock another 7 off for title page, acknowledgements, etc.

In other words, there were really only 82 pages she had to get right.

Look, I'm the king of typos, but I'm churning out copy all day, not working months on a single piece, and I'm certainly not working on my doctorate unless it's a doctorate in Snarkology.

I broke this up into four sections, General, spelling, grammar, and math.

General

Page 1

"The needs of the student population are often undeserved, resulting in a student drop-out rate of almost one third."

This is not something a spell-check would catch. (Not that she used one, more on that later.) "Undeserved," is a real word, it's just not the one she meant, comically so.

That was the second sentence from the first page of the main body of the work.

Page 34

Marsh (2004) found that "counseling center directors and chief student affairs officers have documented (or just agree) that the level of serious mental health problems among college students has increased dramatically over the past decade"

"Have documented or just agree?"

She has access to the collective global knowledge since the beginning of time, and she chooses "just agree" as the gold standard of research?

Page 35

Stress, anxiety, and depression set in when the student succumbs to feeling overwhelmed. The first sacrifice has to be school; hence, student retention rates skyrocket if there are no safeguards in place to help students cope with all they are trying to handle.

Another bit of sloppiness in which she says the opposite of what she intended.

Part of the process at most universities including Delaware is the requirement that you defend your work in front of a panel.

That must have been fun, assuming administration officials at the University of Delaware dared say anything negative to the wife of the senior Senator of Delaware.

Page 35

Physical well-being ties in closely with mental well-being. Needing a band aid or a few aspirin is not the only reason for a Wellness Center on campus. Many students are dealing with problems such as drug and alcohol related issues, pregnancy, STDs, obesity, smoking, and HIV/AIDS to name a few.

Students need a place on campus to address these problems and find solutions.

Okay. But she immediately followed that, as in the very next sentence, with this.

"Some colleges are taking their fitness centers a step further as increasingly, colleges are spending millions of dollars on lavish recreation centers that cater not solely to athletes, but to the everyday student and member of the university community" (Gym Dandy, 2002)

What? You just said that students are dealing with serious medical conditions and you start talking about a gym?

Got syphilis? Hit the treadmill!

Much of the dissertation reads like that. You find yourself going back paragraphs trying to figure out what she meant.

Spelling

Again, I don't claim perfection, but I have personally prepared important documents, with similar page counts, and haven't had a tenth these many errors.

Page 4

Responding to the current social and economic morés of the new millennium,...

You don't need the accent. Not unless you are really affected.

Page 27

(Upcraft, Gardner, & Barefoot, 2003, p. 312).

Page 28

(Upcroft, Gardner, & Barefoot, 2003, p. 243)

One of them must be right! That, or he legally had his name changed somewhere between page 243 and 312.

Page 43

slcoholism

Somebody may have been hitting the slcohol a bit too hard when she prepared that section.

Page 49

actvities

Page 59

He had been teaching a liason program between Mt. Pleasant and Delaware Tech,...

Page 68

The dropout percents follow:

You could say I'm being picky here, but "percentages" is what it should be, certainly in a work like this.

Page 81

The diverted dream. New York: Oxford Univeristy Press. Brotherton, P. (2001, October).

Page 84

Student faculty interaction. (2004). Retrived May 11, 2006, from...

Page 94

Threee quarters = 0 One half = 16% One third = 17%...

Grammar

I had to limit this to some verb conjugation issues as the hyphen abuse is legion.

P. 22

Bryant and Crockett (2005) argues...

P. 25

Many faculty already feel that in...

P. 29

Effective writing and communication has major importance...

Yes it have!

Er, has.

Now I'm confused!

P. 32

...work with those individuals and their doctor as they progresses to graduation...

Math

Page 2

Three quarters of the class will be Caucasian; one quarter of the class will be African American; one seat will hold a Latino; and the remaining seats will be filled with students of Asian descent or non-resident aliens. At

Okay, so three quarters will be Caucasian, and one quarter will be African American.

What about all the other quarters?

She's got you covered!

Page 47

"Of the 159 students surveyed, 55 receive financial aid; 41 pay their own tuition bills; 45 students' parents pay; 3 spouses pay; 9 receive scholarships; and 9 others receive funds through the GI Bill, vocational rehabilitation programs, or grants. Thus, only one-quarter of the students are able to finance their education themselves."

The first problem with this is that her conclusion does not follow her data.

Just because people have scholarships or take out loans or avail themselves of available financing opportunities does not mean they are not "able to finance their education themselves." This would not escape the confines of a Freshman college class.

The second problem is the data doesn't follow the data.

Oops.

There are perfectly good explanations as to why this might be. Students may have indicated more than one financing source. We don't know because it either never occurred to her that it was important to mention, or she never bothered to add up the numbers. In either case, it alters the analysis.

She did note in the introduction that, "The totality of each numbered question may/may not equal 159 as not every student answered every question," but that would result in too few responses, not too many.

Why is any of this important?

There are people who worked and sacrificed for their doctorate in education, who took it seriously, as something more than an ornament. That Jill Biden could turn in this sloppy term paper and receive the same title is an academic crime.

More importantly, she is going to have the ear of the incoming president. She will almost certainly take a particular interest in education and be in a position of power to influence policy both directly and indirectly..

And rest assured, she will use her "doctorate," as a weapon to quiet opponents.

You can read the entire thing here yourself if you like.


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