nthposition online magazine

Doctorates & doctorettes

by Joe Palmer

[ opinion - july 08 ]

If you are about to invest in some costly higher education degree with an international scope, be aware that it will cost you less and profit you more professionally in Europe than in the US... the collapse of the world order created after 1945 affects first and foremost the establishments and values related to the US, world central pillar currently dissolving under our eyes. - LEAP 2020


When I was a student, my neighbor, a wealthy plumber, asked me when I was going to get my 'doctorette'. He thought only medical doctors were real doctors. He was only partly wrong. See Wikipedia for the some of the meanings of this term.

When Sinclair Lewis refused the Pulitzer Prize in 1926, he wrote: 'All prizes, like all titles, are dangerous. The seekers for prizes tend to labor not for inherent excellence but for alien rewards; they tend to write this, or timorously to avoid writing that, in order to tickle the prejudices of a haphazard committee.' Students do too.

Academia is now all about 'alien rewards', prizes awarded for doing the professors' work for them. Graduate students are sheep following the bellwether of their professors, even when a professor is a crackpot or an ignoramus. Oh? You didn't know? Even when they figure out that they have wasted their time and money, students accept alien rewards in the form of higher degrees, fellowships, and assistant professorships instead of seeking the truth outside the system. They tickle the prejudices of a haphazard committee in hopes of reward, damn right they do. They've got to have that sheepskin so they can forevermore say "No tickee, no washee!" to everyone else. The dean, the bishop of their university, puts his sanction on the graduating specialists along with his imprimatur and branding: "Inspected, Authenticated, Tested, Ordained, and Passed."

Until universities were divided into schools and specialized divisions, there was no such thing as an English or a Physics department. Today, now that there is more to learning than the law and the Bible, the managers have militarized the academy, making it an Abu Ghraib of the mind, and the narrow minded have penalized knowledge, a Guantánamo of scholarship, confining it in special cells where its secrets are learned and no one escapes. Our discreet packaging of knowledge is not just our way of managing and securing our rice bowls, it is also a method of satisfying the powers that be, the boards of directors, the suits who love to see order and decorum, and the professors who like to get paid for pursuing their hobbies.

Only a hundred years ago, it was thought that by putting teachers of similar disciplines together, and teachers of different disciplines in different buildings, the sharing of interests and knowledge would be encouraged. Such was the sure and certain hope of social and cultural evolution and progress through management and supply-side education. By means of this logicalsystem, parents and boosters pay the university $30,000 per semester for room, board and tuition, and the knowledge and wisdom of a top-notch college experience should simply trickle down from there. If parents can afford these schools, students are basically set for life. According to Ridiculopathy.com, students of privilege can safely wait out their awkward late teens while their bonds and T-bills mature or simply bide their time until their first run for Congress.


During the 19th and 20th Centuries, the new enlightened faith in Utopian salvation through the improvement of humankind (!) by means of science, which is exactly what popular culture had become, was so generally widespread that it inspired Whigs, Transcendentalists, Communist Utopians, Libertarians, Eugenicists, Socialists, Nazis, and academics to march ever upwards, Excelsior!

Princeton University led in the establishment of a Department of English in 1904, and its expansion a year later when President Woodrow Wilson, in the course of turning Princeton from a college into a 'real university,' added seven preceptors to the nucleus of a half-dozen English literature professors, to help them teach future ministers, lawyers, and gentlemen how to compose acceptable prose, and to speak properly.

It was only in 1919 that Yale first divided its faculty into academic departments so that specialization would be served. Yale was the first American university (1861) to follow the German innovation of granting doctorates to young scholars as proof of their study and original research, as if the brights who have the smarts must be licensed.

Prussian [German] education was greatly admired and imitated in the United States where it was thought that every child had a citizen's right to basic learning, the democratic ideal. Furthermore, the rigid sorting out of the population in compulsory community schools, 'public' in the USA, made available a pool of literate and numerate workers who could easily be controlled through politics (yes, voting, and all that sham and pretense). There would be no more Paris Communes, Quantrill's Raids, anarchy, or riots.

As German idealist philosopher JG Fichte (1762-1814) wrote: "The schools must fashion the person, and fashion him in such a way that he simply cannot will otherwise than what you wish him to will." In Fichte's thought, which inspired Hegel's, nothing precedes mankind, there are no previous ideas or myths with any validity, and no human nature to contend with. It follows that the improvement, progress, evolution, and perfection of society must be the goal of all. Everything can and will be organized. Sieg Heil! Was ist los in Deutschland? Alles ist in Ordnung.

Every person was supposed to become capable in certain endeavors, from butter and eggs to high finance and physics. Specialization and concentration led to the reduction of competition and to the creation of corporations [and the atom bomb].

Today, corporations like the American Medical Association, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), and the Mafias control huge parts of the economy. Corporate giants such as Wal-Mart, PetroChina, Mobil-Exxon, and Halliburton influence the course of events in countless lives; so does Al-Qa'ida and other corporations, which are soulless clubs with restricted memberships, real Skulls & Bones.

The professoriate is a guild, a closed corporation that admits new members only as they are needed to keep the (union) members fully employed and flourishing. Some potential student-members are given their licenses, that is, their doctorates, as quickly as possible. Others are kept from a higher degree for many years, in some cases until they give up their quest, because their professors do not think they will represent the profession adequately, or in other cases because professors need to keep lucrative students in school in order to justify their salaries.

Our assumption is that if a person holds a doctor's degree, in Latin licentia docendi [1], meaning "license to teach," he is capable of doing something right, and he is capable of teaching others, who will be awarded certificates of competence, masters' degrees, and doctorates as proof of the pudding. Furthermore, business, education, agriculture, engineering schools, and so on, train people to do specific jobs as the economy comes to need them. For example, the field of Information Assurance (IA) is flourishing. Information Assurance is the practice of managing information-related risks. More specifically, IA practitioners seek to protect and defend information. A degree in IA has qualifications and requirements that must be met, so that the students are capable of learning to do whatever is necessary to protect and defend information. Got that?

How did we get into this mess of titles, documents, credentials, warrants, licenses, and permits for doing anything and everything? Is our world so full of phonies we cannot trust anyone without one? Degrees are awarded like prizes, and licenses are given as proof of competence in a thousand fields of endeavor, or at least as proof of nodding acquaintance in an area of knowledge or a line of work. Associate degrees from two-year community colleges and bible schools, certificates of proficiency, diplomas, sheepskins, parchments, documents, and transcripts are proof to employers that the workers they are hiring are specifically competent to do one thing. I mean, really, Master of Science, Master of Education, or Doctor of Philosophy in Family and Consumer Sciences Education, or Food Services and Lodging Management? We used to call them housewives and hotel keepers. One can become certificated these days in Construction, Gerontology, Dietetics, and School Superintending  the building trades, growing old, eating right, and keeping school.

You have to qualify, with certification, to buy a license to keep a hawk in Vermont. What's next, canaries?

I knew a refugee, a Polish nobleman who took a job running a foreign language laboratory in a university because his academic title, 'Lecturer', was prestigious in the immigrant community. He knew that a teaching assistant, teaching fellow, lecturer, instructor, or adjunct in the US is probably a graduate student with an ABD degree (all but dissertation, a professional student) who teaches undergraduates for a pittance, and in the US he or she is not necessarily a respected academic, not a British lecturer (or a reader, fellow, or professor). A lecturer in the United States is someone who speaks from a podium, a harmless drudge.

Do you remember when Fidel Castro Ruz was known as 'Doctor' Castro [doctor of laws], a title of respect, when he was a popular and sympathetic TV figure in the United States in the early days when he was kicking out the Mafia from Cuba? After the Revolución, when he nationalized the big businesses, and became known as 'El Maximum Leader', and 'El Jefe', The Chief (Commandante en Jefe) who was keeping Cuba for himself, he lost the title 'Doctor' in the American press. Euphemism is as common in America as the ten-gallon hat, which has a lot of braid around its brim, Spanish galón.

The university used to be a place, in contrast with home, where when you went there they didn't have to let you in. Nowadays universities advertise on television in order to attract students. In one tiny country in Central America, Costa Rica [2], whose population is four million, there are at least 47 universities. At this rate there could be 3,525 universities in the United States, but according to the Voice of America there are only 2,618four-year accredited colleges and universities there. 47:2,618! The USA is falling behind by 908 universities.

Professors think they steer the course of knowledge, working for governmental agencies, corporations, and their alma maters by keeping up their side in the race for funding. In a more perfect world professors would control knowledge, medical doctors would control drugs, bankers would control money, and artists, musicians, and writers would not have to panhandle and beg, but the world doesn't work that way.

Such is the march of progress that the old ways must give way to politically correct fashions. [3] Some janitors are now resident stationary building engineers, and some inept teachers are now professors in the United States and environs because they became apprentices in the professors' guild. They took on menial work so that their professors could do as they pleased. In this army everyone is a general. So, $o it goes.



1 Licentia docendiijazat attadris! [Back]
2 L'école des Hommes de Garbage awards doctoral degrees by mail order there. [Back]
3 Eine neue Art von Denken ist notwendig, wenn die Menschheit weiterleben will. [A new way of thinking is necessary if people want to live together] - Albert Einstein [Back]