Response to an essay
https://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/gradhacker/how-i-learned-flourish-online-grad-program Katie, it's nice to see that you are responding to comments on your piece. I found this essay quite irksome, and I want to share why. Your opener, with its images of the Harvard Quad and the like, pedestalizes a rose-colored image of higher education that many in the readership of IHE do not share. To say Boston's universities "charmed" you is cloying. Next, you create an arbitrary contrast between college life and "real life." Again, many of us who work (or in my case, have worked) in higher education find this an artificial separation -- we live and work in colleges and universities and we are real, and what we do is real. As a matter of fact, I no longer teach because working as an adjunct was *too* real, so I had to get a job with health insurance and retirement and predictable hours. If I'm now working in the "real world," then that includes getting paid twice as much and working half as hard as in my adjunct instructor position. Next, why do you name-drop ASU's Michael Crow? He has been criticized in IHE for proposing that writing instructors carry course loads with 125 composition students per semester. It seems Crow wants to turn ASU into the University of Phoenix. You do not seem to have affiliation with ASU, but you take on academic administrator buzzwords like "excellence" without irony. Do not carry water for hacks. Or perhaps you can use your MFA as a copy editor at ASU? I take personal offense at your argument that "I had to pay rent, buy groceries, and continue chipping away at my college loans. I couldn’t afford to quit my job and flit off to an isolated graduate program somewhere in the woods." Here you make a straw man argument against residential graduate programs, which are not only the vast majority of programs but can also be life-altering. Instead of being out in the "woods," residential programs bring students out of their comfort zones. In my own case I got to live in a region of the country very different from that of my upbringing. Additionally, for what purpose do you straw-man non-online programs? They exist on roughly equal footing as is; I can only think that you are trying to justify a weak argument ("I had to do online so I could pay bills") for your own reasons. At nearly 1700 words, your piece is actually two essays: one where you attempt to justify online graduate programs and one where you offer practical advice on how to make the most of said programs. I wasn't irked by the second part as much, but why offer such a long, would-be comprehensive essay on the GradHacker blog? The essay feels like you are writing for yourself and not your audience. Further, when you write, "It is a taste of the real world. It is career training," were you talking about the MFA in nonfiction you earned? If careerism was your purpose, you could have chosen a professional degree instead of a humanities one. Sadly, your piece irks throughout. You write, "It simply takes a more mature approach than just showing up to a class in pjs and bonding with whomever sits nearby." This sentence positions you as "mature" and traditional students as "showing up to class in pjs [sic]" and "bonding" willy-nilly. Hard to turn an essay on successful strategies for online courses into an opportunity for slut-shaming, but somehow you did it. Your willingness to trade in stereotypes says much; the unfair stereotype of online students would be someone typing on a laptop in pajamas at home, but you turn that on its head. Kudos. Let me add the insinuations you've got in the following sentence (which you may not realize you have): "Successful people [like me; look at me and my success] can’t take a hiatus from life [like those losers who went to residential grad programs] every time they need to learn a new skill [because "skill-building" is the purpose of graduate school in my view, not scholarship and research]." In sum, Ms. Kapro, given that your MFA is in nonfiction writing -- which should be your métier, as it were -- and this essay is what you created, what then did you learn in online, or low-residency, graduate school? I taught writing for years, and the most difficult-to-reach students had skills (there's that word of yours) but an inability to see outside themselves -- to see their limitations as well as the needs of their audience. In this essay you make many unfair assumptions. Good writing is not about writing something; it's about having something to say.