21 August 2010

To PhD Or Not To PhD

I was minding my own business surfing through Roger Ebert's website, when I stumbled (do surfer's stumble?) across the following letter:

Q. I have watched and read your reviews for years with great honor.  I disagree so strongly with your review of "Eat Pray Love" that it makes me sick.  You just don't get it, and many others like you don't get it. You do not know at all what it is like being a woman in this day and age (or previously) who did not want to be defined by a man or married off to one. If you think Stephen in the movie was an OK husband, you are out to lunch.  He was horrible!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (except on paper to people who do not need emotional sustenance). David was the narcissist from hell that  many of us have fallen for… do you not get that??????????? Many of the males of the species are frankly overrated and the women's movement has proven this (or frankly not sufficiently). I hope your wife will bring you up to speed. (Jeanine Carlson, Ph.D., Licensed Clinical Psychologist)

Earning a PhD is quite an achievement; something of which to be proud.  Certainly, it is as much worthy of advertising as being an adult male (Mr.), adult female (Ms.), married female (Mrs.), physician (Dr.) or lawyer (Esq.), but for some reason people who attach PhD to their casual signatures seem to be mentally unbalanced at rates higher than that of the general population.  It's a useful signifier, but I'm not quite sure what it means.  As with much social science, causation is ambiguous and it might just be that psychologists are both nuts and very proud of their degrees.  Just in case, and assuming I do eventually earn my degree, I think I'll still sign my name without adding PhD, unless there's some good reason to do so.


erp said...

In my day, only Ph.D's in the social "sciences" asked to be addressed as doctor -- a type of reverse snobbery, I guess.

Susan's Husband said...

"Earning a PhD is quite an achievement; something of which to be proud."

Occasionally, but not as a general rule in my opinion.

Brit said...

It does take a lot of self-discipline and hard work to earn a PhD, and it seems a shame if those who have done that work can't have something visible to show for it.

But on the other hand, calling yourself 'Doctor' outside of the campus when you're not a medical doctor is a 100% failsafe cast-iron guarantee that you're an unbearable prick.

Peter said...

It's like that old Waylon Jennings song says: "Mothers, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Clinical Psychologists".

As any family law lawyer will tell you, the memebers of the caring professions can be quite mad when it comes to their own personal lives. But I suspect this woman has convinced herself that her cheery views on men are not the bitter fruits of bad choices made by a troubled soul, but rather a value-free, systematic conclusion of evidence-based research.

zmkc said...

My husband was trying to persuade one of our children, fairly lightheartedly, about something and, in the face of her recalcitrance, said, 'I am a doctor after all,' to which she replied, with withering contempt, 'Yeah, but you're not the injecting kind.' (The only award I have ever respected is the CDM - from Cadbury's ad campaign in the sixties, in which people could award themselves a Cadbury's Dairy Milk or CDM and then their name would appear in a list in the paper, just like the Honours list. A brilliant exploitation of/or satire about people's love of titles - I could never work out which.)

Harry Eagar said...

Well, I AM enshrined on the International Frisbee Association Wall of Fame, but I don't tell strangers.

Peter said...

We guessed a long time ago, Harry.

Georgette said...

I don't think this woman "gets it". The author of the book allegedly cheated on that first "horrible" husband; gave him house, home, and everything else; then received a $200K advance to travel and write her book, which I couldn't finish - whiney, self-absorbed, and kinda boring.

Apparently possessing a PhD means you can use extra exclamation points and question marks.

Males are overrated? And she's writing to a man to tell him this?

If anything is overrated, it was Elizabeth Gilbert and her book. I'm really disappointed with the New York Times for praising her so.

Barry Meislin said...

Well one can only be relieved that she is, at least, licensed.

(And, one hopes, leashed....)

As for "It's a useful signifier, but I'm not quite sure what it means", this is a most profound truth, from which, somewhat curiously (or perhaps not), Doctors of Divinity seem also to suffer not a little.

(Though the symptoms usually dissipate when they graduate to DDD.)