Wednesday, September 5, 2012

A Degree of Respect, Please

So this morning I was listening to the radio in my car when I heard the DJs on Indi101 mention an article on Fox Business (whose subtitle is "The Power to Prosper"?!) about graduate degrees that don't pay off.  Was I surprised that the first one they mentioned was the M.F.A.?  Can you imagine how tired I am of people talking when it's clear they have no idea what they're talking about?  Just try to imagine.  I'm sure you can get the picture.

Yes, I have an M.F.A., which will now also stand for  series of curse words.  Give me an M.F.A. break!  So the Fox article (are we serious here?) states simply that the investment doesn't necessarily yield higher salaries.  I guess this is where one of our main issues resides - that higher education is about making more money.  (This falls in line with the logic that a university education is essentially glorified job-training.)  If we take that out of the equation, the article loses most of its punch (for me, at least).  I'm not against making money, and there are M.F.A.s out there who make plenty of money, but I'm a writer first and foremost.  I'm always happy to get paid for it.

But these DJs were just plain stupid.  I believe the banter essentially (not verbatim) went something like this:
Beavis:  "Masters of Fine Art - what do you do with that?"
Butthead:  "Fine art stuff."
Beavis:  "Oh yeah, what kind of job can you have with that?"

I'm not sure why they didn't apply this logic to the B.A.  Does that mean that everyone who has one is in art?  Or a bachelor?  I really hope that this does not reflect the kind of education Mohawk College (where Indie101 broadcasts from, often using students as talent) provides.  I'm sure that there has been more than one professor at Mohawk who had an M.F.A.

Unfortunately, I'm not surprised by this lack of information as the Dean of Humanities at McMaster University put out a job ad a little while ago that offered different levels of pay for M.F.A. and Ph.D. candidates.  Are you serious?  Is that even legal?  Newsflash!  The M.F.A. is a terminal degree. (I know - they're trying to suck us into Ph.D. programs but that has more to do with money than what you study and do).  This is the other major issue - the idea that the M.F.A. is a lesser degree.

We are makers, not just academics (yes, I said - not just academics - oooh, I'm on a roll now).  Teaching writing, like I do?  Do you want someone who actually does it in addition to being educated on the subject or someone who has spent some extra years researching writers?  I'm not saying that those with a Ph.D. don't make good writing professors, but frankly, I'd rather have someone engaged with the subject full-on.

I feel a little better now.

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