Have Respect for Ph.Ds: Heroes of Academia

Submitted by Dr. Hollis ‘’Chalkdust’’ Liverpool, ORTT

For years I have longed to write an article on what it means to hold a doctorate from an accredited university, but neglected so to do, since I too hold one from the University of Michigan, currently ranked as No. 22 among universities of the world. However, when during the last election campaign, I heard campaigners referring to our Prime Minister as Rowley, Growley, Rothweiller, the Bull dog, Keith, Bald Head, Black man, Oreo and Blank man, I felt that such names were totally rude, crude and disrespectful, for a person who holds a doctorate from the world of accredited universities.

The young aspirants to parliamentary office who refer to Dr. Rowley in such a degrading manner don’t seem to know that to hold a doctorate means that the holder is the product of extensive, original research and has contributed handsomely to his/her field of education. Moreover, most of these rude and crude campaigners have never written an academic paper, far more for a dissertation. A Ph.D. means, in Latin, a Doctor of philosophy and is the highest accredited title awarded by universities the world over. Holding a Ph.D., means that the holder has demonstrated competence and mastery of his/her subject matter, and has been supervised by a team of specialized consultants in his/her field of research. Philosophy comes from the Greek terms Philo and Sophia meaning the ‘’love of wisdom’’ and, as a discipline, it comprises at its core, logic, aesthetics, ethics, metaphysics, and Lloyd Best’s favourite subject: epistemology (the nature and scope of knowledge). It therefore means that Dr. Rowley has studied, profusely, fundamental problems connected with geography and geology, such as those connected with reality, existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Patrick Manning held a bachelor’s degree from UWI; he studied geology. Dr Rowley holds a doctorate in geology; he is a geologist. Note the difference.

Now, for the records, how does a person acquire such a doctoral award? First, universities at their lowest level, after the completion of certificates, diplomas and associate degrees, award undergraduate or bachelor’s degrees: (B.A. and B.S.). These require four years of study and approximately 120 credit hours of work. Associate degrees/diplomas are usually awarded by community colleges after a two-year study and, on the ladder of education, holders are seen generally as having reached a level just below an accredited bachelor’s degree. It must be noted that MDs in medicine and JDs in law are all undergraduate degrees, even though we have the tendency to call such holders, doctors.

After gaining a bachelor’s degree, a student may opt for a master’s degree which is gained after at least two years of further study and the writing of an original research project or thesis. Such students may specialize in particular areas of study and thus gain specialized awards such as an M.A.; MBA; M.Ed.; or MS.

Should a student want to further his/her study, he or she may go on to do doctoral work for at least four to eight more years-some schools demand six to ten years-and gain the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) award or the Doctor of Education (Ed.D.). This latter degree (Ed.D.) is usually a practitioner’s degree and focuses on how theory can be applied to solving problems. It is accepted by most universities and institutions as being a little lower than the Ph.D., which is research-oriented and emphasises the testing of theories and the discovery of new and original knowledge. Both doctoral awards, however, are granted to persons who are expected to become future leaders in their fields of teaching, doctoral supervision, and professors at university level.

One of the reasons why Ph.Ds are usually given more acclaim than Ed.Ds and the degree is seen as the most prestigious of all is the fact that holders of such degrees have to write and defend their dissertations. (A few Ed.Ds such as those in Canada have to also write dissertations). A dissertation is the highest and mightiest form of writing for any writer in this whole wide world, a fact that many of the institutions and companies who award prizes annually to writers and poets in Trinbago do not know. To write a dissertation requires the mastery of research methods, the review of all the literature on the subject, the methodology that is appropriate for researching the subject and knowledge and application of the issues of validity and reliability that are linked to the approaches used in the research. Reliability refers to the consistency of a measure and validity refers to its accuracy. Small wonder that only 15% of postgraduates in the world of academia move on to do doctoral work which calls for a comprehensive examination before writing a dissertation in most universities. Hence many doctoral students who do not complete their studies are called ABDs, meaning, folks with ‘’All But Dissertations.’’

Besides one’s own dissertation, doctoral students must study the theories of others. While I was studying at Michigan, for example, I was made to study and discuss in class the dissertation of Dr. Eric Williams’ ‘’Capitalism and Slavery,’’ it being recognized by the university as a masterpiece in historical content, literature review, scientific research- methods, meticulous documentation and good, grammatical writing style. Coming from Trinidad and Tobago, I had an advantage over all the doctoral students, for most of them had never heard of Dr. Williams. I thus became the specialized model at the school for thesis writing, and I was highly acclaimed by the university for I had not only seen and discussed matters of interest with Dr. Eric Williams, but had the temerity to attack him in song. My supervisors wanted to find out, therefore, who I was and what educational degree had given me the authority to attack a writer of such a superb dissertation. But therein lies the power of the calypso, which I shall write about in the future.

Today, any doctoral student at Michigan, Harvard, Yale, Stanford, and Oxford must, as part of the programme, study the work of Dr. Eric Williams. Therein lies one of the reasons why in the field of the Humanities these universities (Stanford, MIT, Harvard, CIT (California) and Oxford) are ranked as the top five universities of the world. In addition, doctoral students at such universities have to first pass an Ethics examination, whereby their values as students are tested to see whether they are fit and proper persons to carry the accolade of a Ph.D., from these noble institutions. I had to undergo such an examination at Michigan; it has set me apart educationally from lower-levelled universities such as those that sell degrees to students. It is a fact, Mr Editor, that many degree mills exist in the world today and they sell doctoral degrees to many, including one or two of our own politicians, some of whom ended up in Parliament. Imagine the Speaker having to call these merchants ‘’Doctah.’’ It leads me to remember that one evening years ago in Barbados, the MC in a calypso show, seemingly searching for humour, asked me if I found my doctorate in a garbage bag. On the very next day, Madam Mia Mottley, now Prime Minister, as well as the Nation and Advocate newspapers called upon him to apologize to me on their front pages. Joke is joke but Ph.D is no joke. Barbadians understand the hard and steep climb to attain it; many Trinis do not.

The result of that ethics test at top universities can be simply stated as follows: Woe beyond to the student who in that ethics exam refers to Dr. Eric Williams as Bill, Eric, or Williams; without possessing the value of recognizing Ph.Ds, their applications for doctoral degrees would be immediately rescinded. In a similar way, we must demand that the said woe should be bestowed upon Trinbago’s parliamentarians and would-be politicians, some of whom can’t pass O’ level CSEC, but refer to Dr. Rowley as Rowley, Keith, Blank man, Bald Head and Stink Mouth, when in fact Drs. Williams and Rowley are recognized and known in the world of academia as progenitors of doctoral dissertations.

33 thoughts on “Have Respect for Ph.Ds: Heroes of Academia

  1. Dr. Hollis, Sir. Arthur Lewis topped his class at the London School of Economics in the 1940s, and some decades later he shared the Nobel Prize in economics in 1979 with another person, and he never felt or saw the need to put his academic credentials on public displace.

  2. @Dompey

    Who cares???
    All of his/her peers …. and many others!!!

    Dr. Liverpool gives us a glimpse of the years of study & hard work requires to obtain a Ph.D.

    I would love him to write an explanation of the title “PROFESSOR” for us ….. not the “US” version …. ie: the true academic professor…… as our media appears confused between the differences of “Professor”, “Honorary Professor”, “Professor Emeritus”, and other variants.

    We, in Barbados, currently refer to one of our “Consultants” as “Professor” when he is really only an Honorary Professor with an undergraduate degree!!!

  3. well done Dr Liverpool aka Chalkdust, one of my all time calypsonians. i dont put too much stock in education if it amounts to doctus cum libro, but i do recognise its place in this world especially today when a social media opinion is sometimes viewed as valuable as one from a learnt person

  4. I don’t know why this article boils my blood?

    Dr. Hollis
    ” I felt that such names were rude and crude and disrespectful, for a person who hold a doctorate from a world accredited universities”

    Well too bad for you Sir, because it is share intellectual arrogance, to assumed that just because a person has attended a school of National Reputation, that he or she shouldn’t be called by names that are appropriate or acceptable even though they are in the public eye.
    Now when one allows their education to be their be at all they are devoid of all sense of intellectual humility, because have allowed their intellectual arrogance to cloud their vision of reality.

  5. KS

    I don’t know that man, but from what he has written here, he seems to be a very intellectually arrogant peron who obviously believes that just because someone holds a degree from a School of National Acclaimed, that a certain level of respect is due to him or her. Now what has holding a degree from a School of National Reputation to do with one’s Character sense Morality?

  6. @Dompey

    Apologies, Sir… if I implied that holding a degree from a School of National Reputation assumed “Character sense Morality” ….. I simply answered your question on “Who cares” and commented on “study & hard work”. Where is the arrogance???

  7. The essay is the biggest joke in a long time on the BU platform.The author lives is his typical Barbadian bubble, where school and university grades count, but real life is forgotten.

    The US universities are nothing else than paper mills. In the USA, admission to the so-called elite universities is based on aspects such as parental donations or diversity (i.e. membership of allegedly disadvantaged minorities with simultaneous racial discrimination of students of Asian origin), not on performance.

    The US universities are only at the top of the rankings because the Americans and the British make such rankings, which means that the schemes are optimized for US and UK universities. This means that English as a language is massively preferred, as are Anglo-American university structures.

    If the USA has such great universities, why does this hellhole fall into the abyss through Corona, why do many cities look like the Third World and why are minorities there treated worse than animals??? Just asking.

    • What is the purpose in rubbishing every person and institution? Because some people abuse a system or that there is abuse – does it mean there is no value to be had. Some of us allow ourselves to be mired in a continual swell of negativity.

  8. The author lives is his typical Barbadian bubble, where school and university grades count, but real life is forgotten. {Quote}


    Wait, you trying to tell we that because Hollis Urban Lester Liverpool talking bout PhD and them sorts uh things, he suffering from the Barbados Condition?

    How the hell Chalky could be living in a typical Barbadian bubble when he born in Chaguaramas, Trinidad? Wuh Tron, the man is a Trini.

    So then that mean he got to be suffering from the Trinidad & Tobago Condition?

  9. A nation in crisis and all we can talk about is who is Fascist or who has a PhD. Says it all. {Quote}

    Jackass, because you feel the nation in crisis that mean the people on BU got to talk bout it every single day?

    Cheese on, man. If you really think it was that important, NOTHING WON’T STOP you from talking bout it and IGNORING what other people saying.

    You is just one lonely, miserable, foolish old man.

  10. @ Robert August 28, 2020 8:58 AM

    Thankx for the hint.

    I guess, he got somehow infected by the Bajan condition … LOL.

  11. The lugubrious Hal Austin! Never a moment of levity.

    Some days I tune out and watch comedy all day.

    Soldiers in battle have time off. They would all go mad without it

  12. @ David Bu
    As my dear mother would say:”Rightly serve you”.
    A few Blogs back I asked ,rhetorically whether Chalkdust’s opinion was a frame of reference for Barbadians.I prefer to believe this particular article is fake and that a man who claims to have earned a PhD from any reputable university would keyboard this upload.

  13. TronAugust 28, 2020 9:29 AM

    @ Robert August 28, 2020 8:58 AM

    Thankx for the hint.

    I guess, he got somehow infected by the Bajan condition … LOL.


    Maybe he wasn’t wearing his mask.

  14. Though I do not agree with the idea that we should treat academics more respectfully because of their professional qualifications, I do believe we should not seek to disparage them because they study and teach rather than do. There is a need for both and actually some people study, teach AND do.

    We should treat them with as much respect as they treat us.

    Does Dr. Rowley treat his opponents and his electorate with respect? Does he listen and consider their opinions and experiences? If he talks down to people because they have no doctorate then he should expect a backlash. And indeed he would be an idiot.

    I really did not get the point of this article. What was he saying?

    Certainly we should seriously consider the professional qualifications of speakers in areas that they have studied and we have not. But certainly we have all come across educated idiots and also those whose enlightenment has permeated only narrow areas of their brain. They are often idiots in all other areas.

    Academics are as rainbow spectrumed as the rest of us. We should wait to observe their true colours and treat them accordingly.

  15. @ David BU at 10 :50 AM

    Your assumption is correct. If one goes through a PhD program and does not realize that he knows a lot about very little, the process towards achieving the PhD has failed him . Education should teach humility; not give one a sense of entitlement.

    • @Vincent

      Context important. The issue here is that Chalkdust in the article has a difficulty separating the rhetoric associated with cut and thrust of politics and everyday living.

  16. @ David Bu
    I believe you are confirming that the post is not fake. I must confess I am disappointed , devastatingly so.

  17. The lugubrious Hal Austin! Never a moment of levity. {Quote}

    The miserable silly man feel he got the right to control the narrative on BU. People should only talk bout things that he want to talk bout.

  18. @DonnaAugust 28, 2020 10:04 AM “Soldiers in battle have time off. They would all go mad without it”

    Some of us think that our British friend has already gone mad.

  19. Notwithstanding his phd, Dr. Keith Rowley is still Rowley, he is still Keith, he is still daddy to his children. And since he has the sexiest bald head in the Caribbean if I was him I would not complain at all if the women called me bald head. Lol!

  20. September 5th 2020

    The Editor,

    Dr Chalkdust articles on “Have respect for Ph.Ds.”

    I read with great interest the two-part series by Dr Hollis “Chalkdust” Liverpool entitled “Have respect for PhDs – heroes of academia” published in one of the daily newspapers (Newsday Sept 4-5, 2020)

    In his articles, Dr Liverpool emphasised the rigorous process of earning a Ph.D., namely taking courses in research methods and theories in the respective fields of study, writing exams and writing a dissertation with a chapter each on methodology, theoretical framework and literature review.

    Dr Liverpool is the Head of Department in the Academy of Arts, Letters, Culture and Public Affairs (ALCPA) at The University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT).

    Can Dr Liverpool say why at least three, maybe more, students in his Academy did not take any course and write any exam, yet was granted a Ph.D.? Worse, their Ph.D. dissertations do not even have a page, far less a chapter, on methodology, theoretical framework and literature review.

    One graduate from UTT did his dissertation on Indian movies. He graduated with a Ph.D. in Cultural Studies in the Academy without having any MA or MPhil degree (in any field).

    This matter is of public interest because UTT is our only national university, funded by taxpayers, which claims to be internationally accredited.

    The public eagerly awaits Dr Liverpool’s reply on this national issue.

    Fatimah Mohammed

  21. Gonsalves: Let’s do it again as a Labour family

    KINGSTOWN – St Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves has told supporters of the ruling Unity Labour Party (ULP) to be prepared to vote the party into office for an unprecedented fifth consecutive term, downplaying any right within the organisation as it prepares for the election he said will be held later this year.
    “This is a family; we may have our grumbles and our frustrations. But when you’re on your marks, you leave the frustration and the grumbles. We stay together because we have done much. And we have many, many more rivers to cross in the interest of St Vincent and the Grenadines to lift our country higher,” Gonsalves told supporters.
    In the last general election, the ULP won by a one-seat majority as had been the case in the previous poll when it won by an 8-7 margin and Gonsalves, who has been head of the government since March 2001, remained confident of victory in the upcoming poll.
    “We got to do it together as a Labour family. It’s love. And where we have setbacks, we turn them into advances. This is not the time anymore to grumble about this or that. This is a time to celebrate our progress and to lift our country higher for ourselves,
    our children and our grandchildren to take it to higher heights.
    “This is a bit of nostalgia for me because this is the last time I will preside at a national council meeting where candidates for general elections have been selected,” the 74-year-old leader said, adding “we have to make sure that in these elections, we don’t stumble at all”.
    “And if anybody stumbles, someone must be there to hold us up and take us forward to victory . . . ,” he added.

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