Watch “The Big Bang Theory” and you’ll certainly pick up on some great running gags, such as “Bazinga,” the Penny knock and the infamous “Soft Kitty” song, but there is one tongue in cheek joke that is not very funny at all. It’s downright offensive.
Big Bang Theory revolves around (pun intended) the lives of four young scientists and their attempts to navigate life in Pasadena as self-proclaimed nerds and hopefully find love. Three of the characters — Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons), Leonard Hofstadter (Johnny Galecki) and Raj Koothrappali (Kanul Nayyar) – hold doctorates in various forms of physics, while the fourth of their group, Howard Wolowitz (Simon Helberg), earned a master’s degree in engineering.
Wolowitz’s character is continually mocked for not holding a doctorate degree, despite his insistence that engineers do not need Ph.D’s. In professional circumstances, it is overexaggerated that he is only “Mr. Wolowitz.” And while this seems quite humorous, especially with the insistence of a laugh track, it is actually a sincere problem.
Judging someone’s ability based on their title or the number of degrees he or she holds is dangerous. Education is important, and those who work hard to earn advanced degrees deserve respect, but these accomplishments do not give anyone the right to treat people with lower levels of higher education poorly or view them as lesser contributors to society.
But in the collegiate world, this is an all too often occurrence.
Many universities like Baylor have become more and more selective with who they hire as the pool of Ph.D. candidates has become greater and greater. Over the past 100 years, the average annual number of Ph.D.’s awarded has risen by nearly 77 percent, according to the National Science Foundation. Between the 1950s and now, the average number of doctorates awarded has more than doubled from 16,284 annually to 41,998.
This growth is good and bad. It’s good because that means there are more highly educated people in society who can help combat major issues — curing cancer, writing books that shape culture and fixing global poverty.
Nowadays, most college professors hold a doctoral degree. Certainly, teachers should be well-qualified to coach students who might one day enter their field of study. But is this insistence on professors earning a doctorate and getting on tenure track lessening the value and voice of those who have not chosen the same path?
Many professors who do not have doctorates are here because they put in long hours and climbed the ladder in their careers. Now, having conquered significant parts of the mountain, they enter academia to guide students along. They have the equivalent of a Ph.D. in career experience. Despite their accomplishments, some are never viewed as equals by their colleagues because they lack the appropriate letters after their name.
Judging anyone by their accomplishments is wrong, but judging someone because they’re not of the same level of education is childish and petty.
Professors should set appropriate examples for students, and not respecting their colleagues for trivial reasons does not do this.
We’re all on the same team. Let’s remember to treat every faculty member with deserved respect, Dr. Cooper and Mr. Wolowitz alike.