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January 20, 2005



I hear you. The sad part is that fine schools offering distance education often get thrown into that mix of degree mills. One of the difference makers I've seen is that the good schools have a strict on-campus requirement in addition to the distance hours accumulated (for instance, Franciscan University of Steubenville's MA Theology program.). Still, it can be difficult to find a decent program from a reputable institution that is affordable at this point. Maybe it's just that I haven't found one yet that can accomodate my own schedule or salary. Thanks for the article and the post. More people need to be aware of these fake PhD (and MA, MTS, MDiv too) programs, and the numerous self-accreditation loops out there.


I work at an accredited university that specializes in distance learning and other non-traditional means of delivery. I'm not going to take advantage of the free doctoral degree I can earn due to my employment. This is precisely because of what you mentioned in your post. I've come to learn "Dr." means absolutely nothing in terms of common sense or intelligence, and is often simply used as entitlement to be condescending. I'm glad you mentioned what you did about distance education however, as I found I learned just as much, if not more through my online Master's classes as I did in my traditional undergraduate courses.

Chris St. Jean

As a friend of mine once said, "I never met a PhD who didn't need one [for self-esteem purposes]."

Relatedly, I've always thought it disingenuous for those with honorary doctorates to parade around as if their "degrees" were earned. (Sarah Weddington of Roe v. Wade infamy and MLK's niece Alveda King come to mind.) There's no quality control there, either.


Exactly Chris. I have to resist the temptation to roll my eyes every time someone introduces themselves as "DR. John Doe." Especially since they always seem to emphasize the title. Even more interesting, since I work in a college of education within the university, is that the Ph.D's look down on the Ed.D's. It's truly amazing. Meanwhile the school is a joke and a known diploma mill, something I freely admit, and I simply want to ask "What, couldn't find a position at a real school?"

Eric Giunta

Really, it's not just accredidation that counts; more specifically, you need what's called REGIONAL accredidation.

While I was a postulant of the Society of Saint John Cantius, for example, I went to Magdalen College (in Warner, NH) for a year.

They are accredited by the American Academy of Liberal Education, but do not have regional accredidation from the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.

So not a single darn credit of mine transferred when I left the Society and enrolled at Broward Community College (in Fort Lauderdale, FL).

Which made me question why they even bothered to be accredited by the AALE in the first place; apparently it does jack-nothing for you.

I've never gotten a straight answer as to any of this . . .

Dale Price

I rather like Westminster Theological Seminary's approach to accreditation and distance learning in general (the school does not permit students taking all of their courses off-campus):



By the way Mr. Akin, you do realize of course that this will simply be another example you having to resort to ad hominem attacks because of inferior and substance-lacking debate skills, right?

Jimmy Akin

On the contrary. There is an implicit and fallacious appeal to authority that pervades the arguments of those who falsely style themselves "doctor."

Pointing out that someone else is committing a continual, low-grade variation on the argumentum ad verecundiam fallacy ain't an ad hominem at all.

It's noting the fallacy of another--as well as a service to the community.

That being said, the real reason I posted was to link the story. The rest was just set-up for the link.

Jimmy Akin

Chris St. Jean: I think your friend is being a little hard. Not all Ph.Ds have them for ego-reasons. Some have them because they love their subject and want to push themselves to learn it in depth. Others want a career in academia, and a Ph.D is usually required for that.


I hope you realize I was saying that in sarcastic jest. I've seen the usual suspects respond in that way when this has been pointed out before.

Nearly all faculty positions require a Ph.D or other terminal degree, as you accurately point out. But Chris' comment, admittedly a generalization, is often accurate.

Brian Day

Slightly OT,

I understand the need for accredited schools, especially in higher education. What gets me is the push for accredited *teachers* especially in the K-8 grades.

My wife works as a teacher's aide in the local public school system. As a teacher she could out-teach her last three accredited teachers she was assigned to. She won't be hired as a teacher though as she doesn't have a degree/accredidation. Pity.


Brian Day ... Amen!!

I hear ya brother. My wife is hoping to be a teacher, but because she already has a bachelor's degree (Audiology) that she isn't interested in going further with, she now has to get a Master's in education to teach 3rd and 4th graders. It's insane. So now we'll be forking out the big post graduate bucks in order to get her to earn $20,000 a year teaching children 2 + 2 = 4 and ABC (little exageration there but you know what I mean).

Mark Shea


Bravo! My closest friend sweated blood to get his Ph.D. I will not cheapen his labors by pretending the "degrees" of folks like Svendsen and White (or Sungenis for that matter) from Wilbur Weed Boxtop Diploma Mill should be taken as seriously as the work of a real academic from real school.


Three words in support of the premise of this post: "Dr. Condoleezza Rice"


While I'm certainly not a fan of everything Dr. Rice has done and said, I think she's probably got more real academic qualifications and experience than any of the people Jimmy lists in his post.

Read for yourself, Esquire.




I saw the humor. You sound like Dr. James himself. Most of Dr. James's dialogues seem to end with him telling his opponent how stupid he is compared with Dr. James. He really is a super-pope in his own mind.


Here's a factoid I wasn't aware of:

"After finishing her M.A. in government and international studies from the University of Notre Dame, she [Ms. Rice] returned to the University of Denver’s Graduate School of International Studies to earn her Ph.D. While at GSIS, Rice was mentored by Josef Korbel, the founder of the School and the father of former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright." (my emphasis)



I know of some quite gruelling MA & MS programs through which friends of mine sweated blood, as Mr Shea so aptly put it. Can't even imagine the work many doctorates require! Those folks deserve to show off a bit after earning their lertters. As for those who append a "Dr" to their names for ego purposes . . . well, to quote Thumper, "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all."

I just spent the better part of a year tryin' to convince, subtly & kindly of course, my nephew of attending an accredited college for a higher degree after he gets his BS in computer science this Spring. He wants to make video games (please, pray for him to make good ones!) & was thinking of a non-accredited school for a *degree* in game development. He's finally decided, after checking entry-level MQ's for the software development firms he'd like to work for, that stayin' where he is & getting his MS from UNR (Reno) would be the best thing. Thanks, Lord!

Mia Storm

Tossing two cents into the pot:

I've always been suspicious of those with academic degrees (real or, uhm, virtual) who run around demanding to be called "Doctor." I graduated from the school of thought that views it as tacky to style oneself with the appellation of "Doctor" unless he is a medical doctor. IMHO, academic degrees belong on a resume and in a curriculum vitae, not as part of a signature or social introduction. Besides, in a social setting (as opposed to when one is on the job and must be known to have the requisite expertise in the field), I think it's much more impressive to be discovered by others to have more education than you've bothered to show off.

That said, my alma mater (if you'll pardon the extension of the metaphor) also taught me to call people by whatever courtesy title they request. So, I don't mind using the titles "Dr. White" or "Dr. Svendsen," although I think it's imperative that we point out to the uninformed that those gentlemen's education should not be weighted the same as one should Dr. Rice's.

Brief analogy: Catholics also give Protestant clergymen courtesy of titles such as "Father" and "Bishop" even though we also know that they do not have valid holy orders. If it's possible to make that distinction while still giving Protestant clergy the courtesy of the title they expect, I figure we can do the same for holders of unaccredited degrees.

Noah Nehm


I can see how you would get that impression, but nevertheless be wrong about your conclusion. People with Ph.D.s for reasons other than ego support typically don't go around insisting that they be called "Doctor". I'm willing to bet that you know quite a few people with Ph.D.s without being aware of their degree. Perhaps a bit more accurate is the statement: "I never met a person who insisted on being called Doctor who didn't have ego-esteem needs."

Chris St. Jean

Good points, Noah and Jimmy; I was admittedly being a tad terse.

(In the interest of full disclosure, the quote I cited hits somewhat close to home: I'm a PhD student myself, and I've often questioned my own motives.)


Here is an interesting variation!

In the UK, for example, surgeons are often referred to as "Mr" even though they have a medical degree as well as many years of post-graduate training.


Mia Storm

TJW, that's because, for centuries, in Britain they have made a distinction between physicians and surgeons. Only in the last century or so, have surgeons and physicians been given equal prestige, and there has remained, to some extent, some protocol distinctions between the two.

Tim J.

Hey, I've always wondered - since I have a Master's degree, is it okay to have my students call me "Master"? ;)

Steve Jackson

I agree that people shouldn't call themselves "doctor" unless they have a degree worthy of the title (which means a certain amount of study and an original piece of research).

On the other hand, I think people can get carried away with accreditation. For example, what if some Christians wanted to start a seminary which would be free from government control and faithful to God's Word. It would be a good idea to: (1) not accept any state money (even scholarships); and (2) not be accredited because most accredidation organizations are secular. Should a Christian university be accredited by a non-Christian organization? For example, Notre Dame (Catholic) and Union Theological Seminary (Protestant) are accredited, and would anyone want to learn his theology from these outfits?

Jonathan Prejean

Speak of the devil...

From AOMin.org:
"Today we played a clip from Catholic Answers illustrating Rome's synergism...."

It's a shame I don't have a Th.D., or I might have figured that out on my own! LOL

(Juris) Dr. Prejean ;-)

Circuit Rider

On the other hand, accredidation is often fairly stupid, and completely unrelated to the academic task at hand. My alma Mater was jumping through the hoops when I was there, and much of it was irrelevant, and some accredidation groups even have ideological requirements not observable by Christian schools.

On the gripping hand, there should be some sort of independent, separate accredidation board that doesn't engage in the above problematic behaviors.

Looks like I misspelled according to my local dialect, and it isn't even the right thread.

I wish honorary doctorates were only given out to those who have done the equivalent work outside of academia. Not to politicians and donors. And I wish that the D.Min. could be reduced to the refresher on the M.Div. that it really is.

Circuit Rider

Brian, I totally agree with you on teachers. Seems to me that a teacher having a license is on average a sign of their being -less- suitable as a teacher of children. There are fantastic exceptions, of course.

But the courses are a joke, and mostly are geared towards PC indoctrination, not learning.

Moochie, has he been out of touch the last five years? Unless he lives in India, that isn't the wisest choice of majors these days.

Mia, thing is, M.D.s have about the same level of education as M.Div.s, and less than that of Ph.D.s. (Though not always much. Ph.D. programs are more currying favor and writing an acceptable (politically) paper than additional learning, though that varies with Ph.D. and school)

Jonathan, to a 5-point Calvinist, everyone else is a synergist. It is a perspective issue, and they don't have any when it comes to this.


That's Dr. Evil.

I didn't spend four years in evil medical school to be called mister.

Adam D

James White even starts his show with (paraphrased) "I need to play a clip from a Catholic Answers show ... and apparently Mr. Akin is aware that we do this, because he recently took a terribly unfair potshot at me on his website, but here's that clip ..."

So, now's the time to fess up, Jimmy! The real reason you posted on accreditation was because you can't offer a substantive response to all those Dividing Line broadcasts that you so faithfully tune in to. Isn't it?

Adam D

Oh yeah, and [/sarcasm]

For example, what if some Christians wanted to start a seminary which would be free from government control and faithful to God's Word.

Uncanny that this question (and this thread) should come up. Just yesterday, perusing recent cases going before the Tx. Supreme Court, I noticed one coming up involving a self-styled "seminary" handing out degrees. The State board of education wanted them to register but they did not. So they got fined $173K for handing out degrees without being registered with the board. Interesting issues as to how far the state can go in regulating religious degrees.


From what I've seen of life, credentials don't mean very much. They may guarantee a minimum level of competence in a subject area, but that's about it.

Why hasn't there developed an independent Good Housekeeping seal of approval for various degrees? Student knowledge could be tested.

To overcome objections of "teaching to the test," fairly rigorous and lengthy tests could be developed, and why not various levels of tests?

Independent testing agencies could award certifications like, Mechanical Engineer I or Mechanical Engineer II or Mechanical Engineer III.

Various degrees of testing would be more important in the liberal arts, where competence is more difficult to determine, and where the testing agency's bias would come into play.

For example, I would be more impressed with a BA-III from an orthodox Catholic testing agency than a BA-III from PC testing agency.

Tim Roemer

one thing that discredits Catholic radio ( relevant radio) is that they call Colleen Kelly Mast "Dr.". She does not have an earned doctorate. She has an Honorary Doctorof Humane Letters . People with honorary docs don't get the privledge of calling themselves doctor in their professional work . Radio is professional work. In the small print on her web page, she says she has an honorary PhD. But it isn't a PhD, because its Humane Letters, not philosohphy.
I wish someone would clue in Colleen and her bosses.

James Hunter

Hi, I am a licensed Professional Counselor/Therapist licensed by the Texas State Board of Examiners of Professional Counselors. I also have legitimate degrees in Psychology and counseling & guidance/psychology repsectively BA & MS. I currently have been looking online for a possible distance learning "accredited" Phd/doctorate program in theology. Can anyone point me in the right direction of a credible source? I have looked at a few. For example, Liberty University has a doctorate program and claims to be accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Is this a legitimate offer? Finally by whom should a distance learning program be accredited by in order to have any legitimacy?.. Thanks a bunch. My e mail is jahunter27@aol.com .

p.s. Is there a link or website where I can look up the names of universities to see if they are accredited by a credible educational institution?


First, to Jimmy A., I have enjoyed seeing you on EWTN. Your personal story was very touching.

Second, to James H., yes Liberty U is completly legit and accredited. Other accredited programs incldue Walden, Capella, Nova, and probably the most affordable...Northcentral (www.ncu.edu). NCU's PhD program is regionally accredited and completely available by distance learning.

Third...the whole are of distance education can be difficult. There are legit unaccredited programs. 2 examples would be Bob Jones University and Pensacola Christian College. These schools are known for quality that exceeds many regionally accredited schools. Their grads go on to the best graduate schools and do very well in National Teachers exams, etc. They are the exception rather than the rule. As a side note, Bob Jones U is now pursuing ecognized accreditation so that will soon leave PCC.

Accreditation is not a guarentee of quality but it does ensure some minimum standards. An accrediting agency should be recognized by the US Dept of Education/CHEA. The include the Regional Accreditors (six regional associations) and the national accreditors (ATS, TRACS, APA, ABA, etc). Just because a program in unaccredited does not necessarily mean it is sub par. The ODA, which is pretty tough has recognized some unaccredited docotral programs. For instance...SCUPS. SCUPS is state recognized and their PhD's can sit for Psychology licensure in California (and do pass the exam). Legit program, with obvious limitations.


How can Liberty University possibly be accredited in the sciences? Creationist professors do not a biologist make.

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