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But if Program Products can be boiled down into so many generalizations, which Mc Gurl does successfully, it seems strange that anyone who self-identifies as “creative” would willingly subject herself to such an experiment.To go to school is to be schooled; that seems obvious.It’s the idea of attempting to school art that makes us uncomfortable. (He’s an Iowa grad, I see where he’s coming from.) Elif Batuman reignites the debate in her new article “Get a Real Degree,” by paying special attention to Mc Gurl’s argument that one of the faults of MFA Programs is that it has helped teach technique so well and made so many good writers that we simply can’t read them all.
– Flannery O’Connor Likewise, revere Updike’s prose style but despise those “two scoops of vanilla ice cream.” Bring a flask to class and drink from it in semi-surreptitious manner while discussing above issues with appropriate fervor.(Obviously hadn’t read anything outside college.) Another person said “I don’t have any favorite writers.” The instructor, David Lipsky, pried further. (He wrote two books and died at the age of 19.) I wasn’t too confident about The Program then.But right now, as I am typing this in my luxurious student-loan funded apartment in New York City, I am feeling pretty positive.I feel like I want to reaffirm the experience I’ve had in my Program, (currently ranked #11 in the country according to Seth Abramson), because I want to make sure there’s a voice in defense of this thing I’m in.“Please, don’t write another negative article,” a friend pleaded. Make us feel legitimate.” DOUBT Because maybe you’ve heard: there’s been a lot of talk about how American Fiction is doomed as we know it.Several provocative books have recently come out to spur this conversation along. Last semester, I took a brilliant course—(and I’m being earnest, I might copy some of his syllabus for my undergraduates)—designed by one of my favorite writers, Jonathan Lethem.The theme of the course—though he may disagree with my appellation—was CRAFT 101: FAILED WRITERS.Higher education is the great equalizer; but apparently this isn’t the the goal with art.THE MFA PONZI SCHEME MFA graduates who have left the nest and are now teaching “Creative Writing” at obscure colleges experience another unexpected disillusionment, that perhaps they’re participating in an “MFA Ponzi Scheme” of sorts.Everywhere I go, I’m asked if I think the universities stifle writers.My opinion is that they don’t stifle enough of them.