"Doctor" - MDs vs PhDs

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous' started by Pavonis, May 8, 2013.

  1. Sigokat

    Sigokat Commander Red Shirt

    When I first got to my unit here in Afghanistan (in my career field we deploy as individuals to already established offices/centers) there was a female that they put me in the office with who had a Doctorate. She INSISTED everyone call her Doctor and if you didn't she took it as a slight or offense.

    Fine. She earned the degree (it wasin Public Administration), but what got to me was while she wanted that level of professionalism she always referred to me as "Major K" because for her my last name was too hard to pronouce (and for the record its not hard to pronounce, its pronouced exactly as it is spelled). And sometimes she would call me "Captain K" and when I would correct her error the excuse was "Oh we used to have a Capatin K here before you got here." Well, if you would call me by my full name you wouldn't have that problem!!

    So to me its respect is a two way street. Just as she worked hard for her Doctorate, I've worked just as hard for my accomplishments and earning the rank of Major.
     
  2. Tora Ziyal

    Tora Ziyal Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I find it interesting to watch how and to whom different cultures show respect.

    When I taught GED, everyone -- students and teachers -- went by first names. But the African American teachers always addressed the few older students (older than the teachers themselves, I mean) as Miss Firstname.

    When I worked in an ESL program, elderly Korean students would bow to me, the much younger teacher, when they were leaving the classroom. Apparently, to them, my role trumped their age.
     
  3. Pavonis

    Pavonis Commodore Commodore

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    Well, that's nice for you, but is it realistic? Spouses, friends, neighbors aren't under your authority. Even if you deigned to allow your subjects or students call you by your first name, you're still in a position of authority over them. Pretending that you're all friends by calling each other by your first names will make asserting authority more difficult when it is time to do so. At least, that's my thinking.

    My peers, my friends, and my family call me by my first name. My students are not in any of those categories. I am not their friend, and won't pretend to be. I'll be friendly, but I won't be their friend. As such, I need some way to distinguish myself from them.

    If I pretend to be their friend by letting them call me by my first name, the students may get the impression that I'm willing to cut them some slack, let assignments come in late, give them "extra credit" when their grades are low, and generally be their pal and help them out. I used to do so when I was a grad student teaching assistant, because the students were my friends.

    Well, the fact is I'm outnumbered now. I won't be able to give the same laboratory exercise multiple times for the students that missed it or messed it up. I won't be able to tutor them one-on-one into the early morning to make sure they understand the material on the next exam. They have to understand that I'm the professor, and they're the students, and that there is a distance between us. Right now the best way I can think of is to not let them use my first name, but instead address me as Dr. P, or Professor P. Maybe after I'm comfortably settled in my department and more familiar with the student body in general, I'll change.

    These undergrads will have likely been calling their teachers "Mr./Mrs./Miss Lastname" for their whole lives. Calling me Professor or Doctor shouldn't be a shock for them. Besides, I'll be doing so in a completely professional situation, as I doubt I'll be seeing any of these students in social situations. When I'm on campus, I'm in a professional situation, and I won't be going to parties off-campus, so I don't expect to run into these kids in social situations.

    Of course colleagues should be addressing each other by first names; I've always done so. But would you expect the service members under your authority to be so familiar with you?
     
  4. Kestra

    Kestra Admiral Premium Member

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    Yeah, it's not always strictly about age. For example my brother-in-law is actually younger than me, but since he is married to my older sister, he's supposed to be treated as though he is older than me as well. I tend to use titles with anyone in a professional role unless explicitly told not to. It just feels more respectful to me.
     
  5. Stoo

    Stoo Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    That sounds reasonable to me. We were never matey or on first name terms with any of the lecturers and tutors when I was at uni. That would have been just weird. (I guess it can be different in the world of postgrad studies).
     
  6. scotpens

    scotpens Vice Admiral Admiral

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    In the US, addressing a woman as "Miss Firstname" seems to be a particularly Southern thing.
     
  7. B.J.

    B.J. Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I have to ask, how do you address your older siblings?

    I can't disagree there. All of the teachers in my youngest's daycare are addressed as Miss Firstname. Also, our family is really close to another family, and the level of familiarity is such that it doesn't seem quite right for the kids to address the others' parents as Mrs. Lastname, so we go with Miss Firstname. Seems to me that it's closer to how you'd address an Aunt or Uncle, except they're not relatives.
     
  8. Jolly Old Krampus

    Jolly Old Krampus Vice Admiral Admiral

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    While I can understand that you prefer to be addressed as Professor or Dr., I think you're placing way too much emphasis on authority and title here. I mean I can understand certain individuals being addressed as Reverend Jackson, Pope Francis, Mr. President, or Your Majesty. Calling prestige to oneself by insisting on formal titles can seem pretentious and self-important.

    A long time ago, I used to work for a manager with a Ph.D., but he didn't demand that people call him "Dr. Smith," though most referred to him as "Mr. Smith." Where I work, supervisors, division managers, department directors, even the freakin' General Manager, are addressed by their first name. It doesn't matter if they've got a bachelor's or a doctorate.
     
  9. Pavonis

    Pavonis Commodore Commodore

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    Perhaps I am. We'll see what happens when I start teaching.

    And yet, "pretentious" has been used repeatedly in the thread to describe the use of titles, but pretentious means "attempting to impress by affecting greater importance, talent, culture, etc., than is actually possessed", and that is not what I'm doing. I actually do possess more importance and talent than the students I'm teaching. That's why I'm the teacher.

    If one student doesn't show up for the class, I'll still hold a lecture for the rest of them. If I don't show up for class, though, there is no lecture. My absence counts for more than any one student's absence. They'd all have to skip class for it to have the same impact as my absence.

    I understand physics; the students do not. That's why they're taking the class from me and not the other way around. Therefore I'm pretty important, as far the students are concerned. So I don't think pretentious is quite the right word.
     
  10. RoJoHen

    RoJoHen Awesome Premium Member

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    Underlined for emphasis...

    This is the part I have a problem with. Just because we use first names doesn't mean we're friends. I'm not pretending anything. I can be your boss or teacher or authority figure without needing to be addressed by title. I don't think your authority is diminished by allowing students to call you by your first name.

    You will have inherent authority just by standing up in front of the classroom. The students know you're their teacher, regardless of what they call you.

    Now, I'm not saying you shouldn't use a title. I just think you're completely overestimating your title's importance with regard to social interaction. You're a human being; what do you want to be called?
     
  11. RoJoHen

    RoJoHen Awesome Premium Member

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    Yes, obviously the professor is a very important part of taking a class. But what does this have to do with their title? You could insist that your students call you Senorita Buttface; you're still the one in charge of their grades.

    For what it's worth, though, the college professors that I had that tried to exude a little less authority were the ones that were better teachers. Some professors try too hard to distance themselves, and those are the ones that I had a hard time learning from. They seemed more interested in their own knowledge of the material than in helping us learn about it. There is something to be said for occasionally bringing yourself down to your students' level.
     
  12. JoeZhang

    JoeZhang Vice Admiral Admiral

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    To be honest, it sounds like you would be happier as a school teacher than an academic, your passive aggressive commentary here sounds like you need a level of structure and control that is beyond any university I have worked in - I also like the implied claim that you know everything and your students know nothing - wish I could say the same.
     
  13. Pavonis

    Pavonis Commodore Commodore

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    Well, we'll see what unfolds. I am an academic. I've spent most of my career at a lab bench, doing research with only a bit of teaching on the side. We'll see how my first semester of intensive teaching (with research on the side) goes.

    When it comes to teaching at a university level, don't students want confident professors who know the subject well rather than grad student TAs who were just recently students in the same course themselves? Should I pretend to be insecure to put the students at ease? I do know more about physics then they do. It's not an insult to them, it's just a fact. Teaching isn't about me bragging how much I know about, it's about passing my understanding on to them. If I didn't know the subject, why would I be teaching it? And if the students knew the subject as well as I do, why would they be taking the class?
     
  14. RoJoHen

    RoJoHen Awesome Premium Member

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    Confidence is fine. Just don't be cocky about it.

    Unfortunately, I've found that a lot of college professors are absolutely terrible teachers. They may be experts in their field, but they have absolutely no idea how to explain things to others. One of my absolute best teachers in college was my Statistics professor. She was incredibly intelligent, but she understood that most of the students in her class had never done anything with Statistics before. She always had multiple ways of explaining the same thing; if one example didn't click with her students, she had another example ready to go. She didn't lecture; she taught.
     
  15. Pavonis

    Pavonis Commodore Commodore

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    Unfortunately, university professors are not taught to teach. As grad students, we have to teach, but learn how on the fly. When research is the primary responsibility, teaching is a side activity.

    Fortunately, my interview included a demo lecture, and I'm told the students liked my approach to the material and the numerous examples and concept reinforcements I included in the lecture. So that gives me some confidence that I won't be a terrible professor.
     
  16. Jolly Old Krampus

    Jolly Old Krampus Vice Admiral Admiral

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    QFT

    I call our finance director Eric as he prefers to be called, and our general manager is addressed as Alex. It doesn't matter if I'm an accountant or a janitor. Nobody's going to get penalized for saying "Mr. Johnson"or "Ms. Riley," but it's not required of us. That's how casual it is in my workplace, and I'm sure that's the culture in other companies.

    Pavonis, I obviously picked the wrong word. I didn't mean "pretentious." I meant overbearing. Pompous. Vain. Grandiose. Ostentatious. ;) But, whatever floats your boat, Dr. P.
     
    Last edited: May 9, 2013
  17. Gov Kodos

    Gov Kodos Admiral Admiral

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    Well, Pavonis, it's a shame those professors were never grad students themselves. They'd be ideal teachers today, like yourself.
     
  18. Spot's Meow

    Spot's Meow Spot's Meow Premium Member

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    Part of this is generational. I know you are around the same age as me RoJoHen, and our age group tends to be very informal and egalitarian. We don't really "believe" in hierarchies and formalities. Not to say that we're all disrespectful, we just show respect in other ways and based on other factors rather than a position or title.


    This is a very good point. The students will know you are the professor. They will inherantly understand that you are in a position of authority. You don't need to "assert" it by trying to create a distance between you through titles. That distance already exists the minute you walk to the front of the classroom. Now, there are things you can do to degrade that level of respect over time, but that has little to do with what the students call you.

    Of course students want professors with experience and authority on the subject matter, but at the same time they want a professor that can speak to their level, that is personable, human, and understanding of the difficult situations that many students may be in. They want a professor who clearly has a passion for their subject matter and can make any dull subject seem lively and exciting by channeling that passion, one who can improve those inevitable tedious lectures by injecting some humor and happiness into the room. They want someone that is most of all approachable. This will be a very important point on your student evaluations!! They need to feel comfortable coming to your office and sharing their "stupid" questions with you without thinking that you may be looking down on them for knowing less about the subject.

    If you are all of these things, they will respect you. Title is completely irrelevant. There is no need to create a distance between you. They DON'T want a professor who is perceived as intimidating or arrogant.


    I work as a staff member at a university, in an office that works primarily with professors and handles all of their merit and promotion packages. There are two main types of academics that I encounter. There are those who are very concerned with titles and formality, and are offended if addressed in the wrong manner. Because of these folks, we have to be very careful about we address academics in correspondence, and even have a chart we use that outlines what each academic title has "earned" the right to be called (e.g. "Professor" and even the word "faculty" belong to certain groups only). These academics are also often very condescending to staff, because clearly we must be below them on the social hierarchy for failing to earn advanced degrees and for taking jobs doing office work. Staff is a dirty word to them. If that’s how they treat us, I can only imagine how condescending they are to their students. Actually I don’t have to imagine, because I read student evaluations all the time that discuss how the professor was not approachable and did not appear to care about their students.

    Then there are those academics who care very little about title and actually treat us as equals. They are friendly and personable. They don’t try to assert a level of authority through formalities but instead try to maintain a level of kindness and understanding through compassion and humility. These are good people, and they are very good professors. I love reading these evaluations because the students rave about how much they have learned and how much passion for the subject has now been instilled in them. These are often the professors that don't mind if students call them by their first name.

    Which type of professor do you think students, staff, and colleagues respect more?
     
  19. Pavonis

    Pavonis Commodore Commodore

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    You can but can I expect the same from students that are barely out of their teens? Can I expect students that use my first name in class to understand that I'm not their buddy and that they shouldn't try to cajole me into giving them the answers, or that I'm not available at all hours of the night to answer their questions?

    Maybe standing in front of the room will be enough, but I'm not confident yet that it will be. If it is, then my approach will change accordingly. But I'm worried that students who were raised as friends with their parents and received trophies just for participating will not automatically see me as an authority figure, but as a pal who'll let them slide through the class so their self-esteem won't be bruised.

    But the class room isn't a social interaction, though, it's a professional one. And unfortunately there's no middle ground between first name familiarity and a title. If there were, what would it be?


    I'm not sure those words are any more accurate than "pretentious" was, since they're basically synonyms. If you're saying I should be less confident in myself, I'm not sure why I should be, but if you think it'll help the students, I might give it a crack.
     
  20. Shaytan

    Shaytan Vice Admiral Admiral

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    You will be very surprised. Maybe even disappointed.

    Mr X or Mrs Y is nice, it's polite and still formal without sounding pretentious.