Dr. Oprah Winfrey

Discussion in 'General Distance Learning Discussions' started by RAM PhD, May 31, 2013.

  1. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

    You can decide you don't like it, but the fact remains that their is no difference between doctorates awarded by honorary means and those that are "earned."

    John Bear relates the story of how doctorate-granting got started in the U.S. at Harvard College. The faculty (of 3) decided they wanted to begin offering the doctorate, but no one had one. (It takes a doctor to make a doctor.) No U.S. school offered it, and UK schools weren't going to award one to these Colonials who'd left the Anglican Church. So two of the faculty awarded themselves honorary doctorates and then bestowed upon the third an earned doctorate. And with that, graduate education in the U.S. began.

    Thankfully, schools now award honorary doctorates with titles unique from earned doctorates, but this was not always so. And in either case, honorary or earned, the result is the same: the title of "doctor."

    (Again, most people have the sense not to use that title, but it is nonetheless bestowed upon them.)
  2. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member


    Okay, the facts. The show was watched by as many as 40 million people daily.

    About 12 million families are headed up by a single mother, 10% of which are receiving monetary public assistance. This assistance, however, does not elevate them from poverty and 2/3 remain "food insecure." But I guess they make a convenient target.
  3. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

    How many people introduce themselves as "Doctor" having earned one? Almost never, and I meet them every day.
  4. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

    That's awesome.
  5. SteveFoerster

    SteveFoerster Resident Gadfly Staff Member

    Whoops, you forgot to call her "uppity".
  6. Boethius

    Boethius Member

    Clearly, there are two points being made in this thread: one about Oprah and the other about honorary doctorates. I addressed the one about Oprah above.

    About doctorates, whether honorary or earned, I think either recipient who expect to be called "doctor," unless in a formal function or introduction, is being obnoxious and full of himself. That level of achievement should be recognized but not forced upon. I have much more respect for people who have doctorates that introduce themselves by their first names.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 1, 2013
  7. novadar

    novadar Member

    I love this! They resolved their conundrum quite well.
  8. John Bear

    John Bear Senior Member

    RobbCD: If you don't like it, ignore it.

    John: What I find hard to ignore are the considerable number of people who use the title "Doctor" in business, science, or academia based on an honorary doctorate. From Booker T. Washington to Polaroid inventor/founder Edwin Land to Billy Graham, it has been regularly done for a long time.

    Just for fun, as it were, here are some folks with honorary doctorates from regionally accredited schools, taken from the "Honorary Doctorates" chapter of my book, Bears' Guide:
    Doctor Whoopi Goldberg, Doctor Barbra Streisand, Doctor Mike Tyson, Doctor Michael Jackson, Doctor B. B. King, Doctor Mister Rogers, Doctor Captain Kangaroo, Doctor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Doctor Jane Fonda, etc. etc. etc.
  9. Kizmet

    Kizmet Moderator

    I guess that I don't understand the controversy. Someone accomplishes some good thing(s) and the school wants to acknowledge those accomplishments. The honored person will undoubedly help in some way to raise money for the school. If, thereafter, the person refers to themselves in some way as "Doctor" then so what? Where is the harm?
  10. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

    Refer to them as "Doctor"? Kinda cool.

    Referring to themselves as "Doctor"? Not at all.

    I think there is a need to separate two concepts. First, the awarding of honorary doctorates. Kinda weird and a bit inappropriate, given that it is also a form of recognizing accomplishment in higher education.

    Second, the title of "Doctor." Unfortunate or not, it is bestowed honorarily. I think it is quaint to refer to someone as "Doctor" based on their honorary degree. But I also think it is unseemly to refer to one's self as such. But then, I also feel it's weird to call myself "Doctor." I just leave it to others. And if they don't? I don't care.
  11. distancedoc2007

    distancedoc2007 New Member

    I dunno. The last thing I care about is anybody else's doctorate, earned, unearned, honorary, accredited, non-accredited...
  12. sanantone

    sanantone Well-Known Member

    I haven't followed who is usually awarded an honorary doctorate. Are they usually accomplished people or those who were born into money? Relating to what I said before, I don't think the wealthy who donated a lot of money to a college really need a resume booster.
  13. John Bear

    John Bear Senior Member

    sanantone: "I haven't followed who is usually awarded an honorary doctorate.""

    John: About 50,000 are given a year. Very roughly, 1/4 to celebrities or people well-known in their field, 1/4 to donors, half to academics. How big a donation does it take, I hear you asking. The only time I was asked to "broker" one -- a very wealthy South African businessman hankered after one from a regionally accredited US school. When we all had a meeting, it was suggested by the school that a $50,000 donation to their building fund would be looked on favorably. But they said that the degree would not be given on campus, because Nancy Reagan was getting an honorary at their ceremony, and they didn't want to embarrass her with a controversial South African on the stage. They asked the guy how many passengers his 4-engine jet, in which he had flown over, could hold. 56, he said. They proposed that he fly 40 faculty and staff to Johannesburg and they would put on a private award ceremony for him. He politely declined.
  14. RAM PhD

    RAM PhD Member

    I have no problem with persons being honored for achievements, rewarded for monetary contributions, or honoring an academic for his/her contribution to their field of research--if the nomenclature of the honor/reward is non-academic. To reference an honor/reward as a "doctorate," even if the prefix "honorary" is present, is confusing at best and somewhat deceptive at worst (deceptive in terms of those who use the title "Dr" based on an honorary doctorate alone).
  15. SteveFoerster

    SteveFoerster Resident Gadfly Staff Member

    The problem isn't with honorary degrees, the problem is with people assigning disproportionate weight to the opinion of people who call themselves "Dr."
  16. RAM PhD

    RAM PhD Member

    The problem is academic nomenclature being used to describe/define something that isn't academic.
  17. SurfDoctor

    SurfDoctor Moderator

    Does anyone else see the parallel to a degree mill here? You pay lots of money and get a degree that you did not really earn. Of course, Harvard is the polar opposite of a degree mill, but, in some ways, the situation is similar.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 4, 2013
  18. SteveFoerster

    SteveFoerster Resident Gadfly Staff Member

    I just don't see the problem. If it were a new thing, might see the objection, but the earliest known one was in 1470 and it's been a common practice since the 16th century. It's a little tough to say that honorary degrees are treading on illegitimate ground when they've been around since before Columbus set sail across the Atlantic.
  19. FJD

    FJD Member

    Are you also upset that the Queen bestows Knighthood on those who have not proven themselves "worthy according to rules of chivalrous behaviour, such as 'faithfulness to his Saviour and his Sovereign', generosity, self-denial, bravery and skill at arms?" It's a largely symbolic honor, much like a doctor, Honoris Causa, or "for the sake of honor."

    Notice that many U.S. institutions confer honorary doctorates that are not offered through traditional study. For example, the L.L.D., while considered a "higher doctorate" in the UK and elsewhere, is only an honorary title in the U.S., to differentiate them from earned degrees.

    Legum Doctor - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

    The Monarchy Today > Queen and public > Honours > Knighthoods
  20. RAM PhD

    RAM PhD Member

    Not quite an apples-for-apples analogy, but genocide has been around much longer than the 16th century, but it doesn't make it any more palatable.

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