Letter of the Day | Don’t confuse master’s degree with the master
THE EDITOR, Madam:
In school, we expect our children to be equipped with the tools for critical thinking. Within this context, learning to spell words and having a knowledge of their origin assists one to not only understand the meaning but how to apply their use.
Recently, letter writer Erica Watson called for the renaming of the “Master’s Degree”, claiming that the word “master” is connected with colonialism and slavery. She says that “We must look for all traces of colonialism and when we find them we must not waste time in removing them. This issue is important, and can be solved with a little diligence and effort, but not in one day, but if we start, we will get to that day” ( The Gleaner, September 23).
Here the writer is confusing the use of a word that has its origin in the Old English word agnere (master) and late Old English mægester meaning “a man having control or authority over a place, along with the word owner (n.) from Middle English ouner – one who owns, one who has legal or rightful title.
On the other hand, a master’s degree (from Latin magister) is an academic degree awarded by universities or colleges upon completion of a course of study demonstrating mastery or a high-order overview of a specific field of study or area of professional practice. This is very different from owner or master.
In understanding the English language, we also need to remember that we are using the alphabet invented by the Romans (not an English alphabet) to speak and read English. It was Albert Einstein who said that “the only thing more dangerous than ignorance is arrogance”. Let us not confuse the masters, and use the tools of critical thinking.
DUDLEY MCLEAN II