Ask Avant is a series in which award-nominated internet persona Avant Garcia helps everyday people by imparting wisdom from the Council of Hedgehogs. Today's advisee is Queen Mob's own John North from somewhere or other.
@QueenMobs I was considering a MFA’in MFA at NYU but I think I might prefer a MFA’in Phd at Columbia
— John North (@_JohnNorth_) February 5, 2015
It’s worth noting that there’s been a lot of talk and a lot of writing about whether or not MFAs or PhDs or any degree whatsoever provides any value to the degree-holder or to the world-at-large. In full disclosure, I haven’t read any of those thinkpieces or really even thought about it that much because honestly, I don’t care what other people think about that kind of thing. I really only care about one thing: helping out the people who sometimes tweet at me, whether they were actually looking for my help or not.
(Before we go on, I also must admit that I myself hold a MFA, and if I show up to class, I will eventually have a PhD, so please keep in mind that I’m already in the pocket of Big Academia).
So it comes down to this, then: what does getting a degree mean to you? Honestly, I don’t know. I don’t fucking know you, and I certainly can’t tell you how to spend the next 3-7 years of your fucking life. That said, let me tell you exactly what would happen should you pursue any of these three scenarios.
1. You get a MFA.
Most people will either ask you what a MFA is or else they’ll hate you for getting one and tell you that you’re what’s wrong with literature today. You’ll learn some things about writing and craft, and you’ll make connections and friends and someday somehow stumble into being an advice columnist for a weird, post-HTML Giant lit zine.
You’ll go into massive debt and get a part-time teaching job at a community college where none of your students can remember your name.
Sometime after that, you’ll die of something horrible.
2. You get a PhD.
Most people will respect this, and you’ll let that go to your head. A mid-level state college will hire you to teach Major British Writers, and you’ll think that you’ve finally made it. Now you can just teach and work on that book about Wordsworth and bask in all the glory from your fawning fan club of students. They’ll think you’re a hip teacher because you say “fuck” in class; you’ll get so caught up in lectures that you’ll be preaching about Alexander Pope like he was Christ himself. In one sense, it will be good that you enjoy your work, but there will be quiet moments when you’re alone in your tiny classroom and you’ll realize, in the grand scheme of things, none of this matters at all.
You’ll have a cancer scare at some point, but nothing will come of it. You’ll still die, though.
3. You do nothing.
You feel generally content with your life, but you continue to wonder whether or not you should’ve gone back to school. You die peacefully, but still in a strange and slightly comical way.
Best of luck in all your future endeavors.
If you need advice, tweet your questions to @Queenmobs or @AvantGarcia.