The writing community has been lighting up with sarcasm over the news that James Frey has been going to MFA classrooms, trying to sign up innocent young writers to his new get rich scheme in which they do their writing as work for hire, and get paid $250, plus the promise of "maybe some more dollars later if I sell it to the movies." James Frey, of course, is the writer who is most famous for the revelation that his lurid best-selling "memoir" A Million Little Pieces was shown to be mostly made up. Not a problem if he were a fiction writer, of course-- but the book was sold as an amazing true story.
John Scalzi is amazed that any considers this at all, and suggests that it's a deadly flaw in the MFA program-- the MFA programs pretend to concentrate on art, and doesn't suggest that students give a moment's attention to business. So, basically, in terms of their business accumen, MFA students are all sheep ready to be sheered by the first hustler to come along.
Scalzi's suggestion-- in An Open Letter to MFA Writing Programs (and Their Students) is pretty simple: look, guys, teach your students a little bit about the business of writing.
Elise Blackwell, of the MFA program at the University of South Carolina, makes a pretty weak defense of the MFA program, writing in The Chronicle of Higher Education. Her proposition is that the goal of MFA programs is “not to grow hothouse flowers, but to protect writers for two or three short years so that they [can] write a book without distraction.” (Yow. So, basically, the point of a MFA program is that you spend a bunch of money primarily so you have a good excuse for why you don't have a job?)