I have written quite a bit about the dangers of the MFA as currently conceived: in response to Chad Harbach’s controversial Slate.com piece, on Ani Shivani’s skewering in the HuffPost, and my take on Lev Raphael’s confession about his fellow MFA students that Raphael himself wasn’t too happy about.
But I write mostly about the dangers to the market as a whole.
Yesterday, author Rahul Kanakia—whom you can read at Clarkesworld Magazine, the Diverse Energies anthology, et al.—posted a brief analysis on the dangers of graduate work in general to the individual (“Why you should never, ever get an MFA“) but in a way that demonstrates neatly the pyramid dynamic I see developing in publishing and the MFA system:
Another way to think about it is this: the supply of professorships is not increasing. There was a time, during the 40s and 50s (with the GI bill) and again during the 70s (when women and minorities started entering college in greater numbers) when colleges had to increase in size very fast. The supply of professorships was HUGE. That is not the case anymore. At best, the number of professorships will stay the same. More realistically, it is going to shrink. Basically you will only get a professorship if someone dies. Now, each professor advises maybe 40 or 50 students over the course of his or her career; and only the single best student is going to advance into his (or someone else’s) chair.
In a profession that seems particularly prone to positive thinking, head-in-the-sand optimism, it is refreshing to see a writer stating an uncomfortable truth so boldly and clearly. You can’t sustain an economy based on recruiting people to be recruiters of people who recruit. Eventually, you run out of
suckers, I mean students to justify new professors.