Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Need For Titles

I was in seeing a cardiologist this morning and as I was putting my shirt back on after having an EKG done I was looking at the poster on the wall of the heart. It had drawings of all the chambers and shots of the heart from different angles and with different cut aways so you could see different things. Then at the bottom was all the copyright information.

What struck me was that there were two artists who did the drawings in consultation with someone at some university listed. The scientist had PhD listed after his name, but the artists had MFA listed after their names. Was that necessary? Why was that there? Did it make a difference that the artists had a master in fine arts? Would a bachelor's degree not have been enough? Was it their decision to have it included, or did the publisher put it on there in order to give them more importance and weight? Would it have been strange if they were listed without anything, but the other name still had Ph.D. after the name?

I know some clergy who list M.Div. after their names. In my experience this has appeared to be done for one of two reasons. The first is that they are young clergy and so they hope that by listing the degree it will give them some degree of status and acceptability they might not otherwise have. The second is that it is done by people in denominations who do not require an advanced degree and so they want people to know that they do indeed have a degree in theology. Both sort of have at the core the need for respect that such a degree entails.

I am not immune to this desire. I hang my diplomas on the wall in my office so that people will see them. I put Rev. in front of my name, which in many ways does the same thing as putting something after my name. It is a title that brings with it, or at least used to, a degree of respect and respectability.

Would I respect the other person involved in the poster as someone who can seriously add something if they did not have a Ph.D.? I honestly have to say no, that in that case I want to see an advanced degree. So why not then give the same respect to the artists, who also have advanced degrees? Is art somehow less than medicine or science? The need for titles or at least respectability is inherent in us I think, but all titles are certainly not the same as society goes. I could have M.A., M.Div, Th.M., after my name but it will never get the same respect as if I simply had MD, or Ph.D. The same as my degree from Harvard gains more respect than my degree from Boston University, which has more respect than someone who attends a smaller, unknown school.

Do people seeing this poster trust it more or does it make them more sure of its accuracy because they are MFAs? Or does it give them a level or professionalism we, and maybe others in the medical community, need in order to give them the respect they deserve as masters of their craft and as people who know what they are doing?

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