Creative Writing Produces Scholars Despite Debt to Income Ratios

Creative Writing Produces Scholars Despite Debt to Income Ratios

By, Afua Serwah Osei-Bonsu

Writing is described as a “North American growth industry” (Whetter 1).  In 1975, there may have been “75 programs in creative writing, today there are ~854.” Each program is said to be additionally a source of income and support for writers (Wilson 2).  Daryl Whetter describes creative writing programs as the “cash cow of the humanities”(Whetter 1).  Despite the problem of debt to income ratios when weighing out a creative writing degree, creative writing has value, because it realizes new thought, critical thinking and consequently, produces free thinkers and scholars.

My source one is from Human Brain Mapping:  Neural Correlates of Creative Writing, an MRI Study by Carolin Shah et al.  The source was first published in December of 2011.  The source attempts to look at creative writing from a scientific perspective where 28 research subjects attempt to write a creative story while having an MRI.  The researchers arrived at a “cognitive process theory of “writing involving planning, translating, and reviewing”(Shah 2).  The source looks at what could be considered latent creativity, what regions of the brain were impacted by what task and the principal investigation had to do with “creativity applying and story generation task” (Shah 3).  This source is arguing what are “creativity relevant neural functions” and perhaps what is creativity?  Then, further, what is creative writing from the perspective of a controlled qualitative study?  The findings indicate that creative writing activated motor associated areas, predominantly the right hand and “language processing and cognitive areas” (Shah 14).  In this study, creative writing was compared to copying.  Copying revealed areas “associated with memory retrieval, semantic integration, free association and spontaneous cognition. The study also analyzed various “creative thinking processes” (Shah 20).  The source presented a well done controlled qualitative study that appears to be a precise investigation.  I believe the source presented valuable research, methodically, with parallels and sound conclusions.  This is the first source in my paper-a first brick source- that will help me to build my argument beginning with a scientific or coded assessment of what is creativity before I can prove why it has value.

Creative writing is indicative of critical thinking.  This source is a recent newspaper article coming from The Guardian, “Write to Freedom,” by Caspar Walsh.  The source is dated April 22, 2009.  The source chronicles “Leeman,” a previously incarcerated youth who pursues “Write to Freedom” outside prison.  “Write to Freedom” they argue is essentially a rehabilitation program, likely involving critical thinking and to make a long-term investment against crime.  Ultimately, there is a parallel between writing and anti-crime. They seem to feel that writing will create the context for no crime. How will it create the context for no crime?  Aptitude, critical thinking, personal investment in the individual, introspection, viable diversion, seeking of alternative powers, knowing “what they can achieve and how they can change themselves” (Walsh 3). This source is likely an experiment by a non-profit supported by the British government.  The Guardian is a reputable source.  The purpose of this article may be to advance the nation, infusing a problem with alternatives, skills, and education.  The source is relevant to my argument in that it says something about the potency of a creative writing program and how it may have multilevel use and consequently alot of value to foster change within an individual and nation.  Write to Freedom is in its trial stages and writer Walsh wrote that with “all efforts, it’s not a quick fix to reduce crime, but rather a long-term investment to support rehabilitation” (Walsh, 2).

Source three is from Globe and Mail, published in Toronto, Canada, on March 17, 2018, titled “Turning the Page,” by Marsha Lederman.  This appears to be a newspaper article that includes career highlights and biographical information for Alix Ohlin, a newly appointed Chair for the University of British Columbia. Marsha Lederman goes even further to detail a creative writing career with her description of Alix Ohlin as detailed in a list format:

“educated internationally, respected and well-reviewed, a CV includes publication in the New Yorker and Best American Short Stories, has short stories, collections and novels, the bonus is a woman in a field or school dominated by 74% females, Magna Cum Laude Harvard, MFA from Michener Center for the Writers at the University of Texas, shortlisted Scotia Bank Award, Giller Prize and Rogers Writers Trust, Fiction Prize, Mordecai Writer in Residence, started as an associate professor, candidate for “chair,” wishes to fortify schools prestige (possibly with own image), celebrated novelist”(Lederman, 1).

She talks about the shortlist of writing or competitors for a chair position as coming from “Brown University or Purdue University” (Lederman 1). The school hopes she will be a popular thesis advisor (Lederman 1).   It seems this source is arguing about fitness for the role of Chair in a creative writing department.  The school uses Ohlin’s background to set the tone for the school and build on the school’s prestige.  The source is using evidence like publications, associate professorship, awards, or shortlisted, international education, even writing pedigree etc.  It’s clear that the school may be sending a public message with Ohlin’s appointment to Chair, which in some convoluted way also proves my thesis, what is the value of a creative writing degree.  When they hire her, publicize her, all that she is, is all that they are too.  Ohlin, in the end, raises “the bar” for their future staff.  I feel that the source does a wonderful job of showing off a successful career trajectory.  I think this source is very helpful in supporting my argument’s point 3, where the point showcases free thinkers and scholars.  In point three, I develop the paper to include the pieces of evidence that are all current, one from 2009, another from 2018.  This article supports my thesis in that it offers yet another way to think about creative writing in terms of value by showing range or career trajectory you can illustrate a point.  The source appears current, relevant, an authority, accurate and unbiased but with their own unique vision.

Creative writers ultimately become free thinkers and scholars.  One headline reads “Tracy K. Smith, director of the creative writing program at Princeton University was named a U.S. Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry 2017-2018 by the Library of Congress” (Tracy K. Smith 1).  A creative writing or scholar’s career is exemplified by the example of  Jane Smiley.  Smiley’s career highlights can be listed as:  English faculty at Iowa State University, Pulitzer Prize-winning author, writer of an academic farce, professional creative writer, that will join or work with a California Poet Laureate (Vendituoli, 1).  This article supports my thesis in that it offers yet another way to think about creative writing in terms of value by showing range or career trajectory you can illustrate a point.

In “Nailing the importance of writing programs” published by the Chronicle of Higher education, Jennifer Howard is quoted about her article the “Professionalism of Poetry.” Of paramount importance to creative writers is their affiliation and station at one of the nations if not world’s most prestigious universities.  Howard cites “game changers” and lastly (an independent poet’s) “inability to understand (issues she was addressing) for lack of affiliation to a university.” Howard also lists movements and long-lasting literary groups such as:  “Romantics, Imagists, Modernists, Beats, Confessionals, or Language Poets.” This information comes from the Chronicle of Higher education, one the “nation’s largest newsrooms dedicated to colleges and universities.” (Nailing the Importance 2)  This article supports point three, in that it looks at career trajectory and relevancy, thus subsequently proving value.

Another article that supports the career trajectory of a scholar details how in “MFA-Land a prospective writer will first experience pressure to publish short stories in literary quarterlies, followed by a race to publish their thesis and finally the necessity to publish more stories all the while teaching a fresh crop of literary hopefuls” (Wilson 3).  The above details the trajectory of creative writing and how ultimately writers become free thinkers and scholars and very often teachers with posts at universities.

Debt to income ratios dominate choices made about university education and consequently, creative writing.  Governments generally, “reward technical and occupational skills,” with “highest paid salaries in the health professions and related programs” (Schneider 3).  For liberal arts, it is said, that “value emerges in the long run” and it takes “longer to launch careers” (Schneider, 4). In an article about “Does Education Pay?” by Mark Schneider, who debates what he describes as the “most important investment,” using research conducted by College Measures and funded by the Lumina Foundation (Schneider 1). The study looks at the labor market returns and debt to income ratios across five states where liberal arts scored in the high 30’s as one of the lowest incomes (Schneider 1).  An antidote to the predicament of debt to income ratios is detailed in Peter Monaghan’s article about a writing professor’s contribution to solicit a benefactor for the writing program at the University of Michigan (Monaghan 1).  The school admits 22 students a year as a result, into what is now a fully-funded program (Monaghan 1).  In response to high debt to income ratios, Nicholas Delbanco has provided a solution and model which many universities in the future may follow.  Where incomes are low, schools may solicit benefactors, and eliminate student debt.  Where students could exhaust $100, 000 in debt earning an MFA which may have a projected $38,000 salary in Creative Writing according to the College Measures study (Schneider 2).  The University of Michigan is pioneering solutions for fully funded degrees (Monaghan 1).  Students can look forward to the possibility of reducing and even eliminating debt with a little ingenuity.  Professor Delbanco calculated what would be the cost of debt elimination originally aiming for $5 million from the Zell Family Foundation for the English Department at the University of Michigan (Monaghan 1). Now the MFA at University of Michigan receives more than $60 million per year in contributions from the Zell Family Foundation (Monaghan 1).    Debt elimination can be calculated and is not insurmountable.

Where source one is  arguing what are “creativity relevant neural functions” and perhaps what is creativity?  Then, further, what is creative writing from the perspective of a controlled qualitative study?  Source two argued critical thinking as to what they seem to feel that writing will create: the context for no crime. Then ultimately, how will it create the context for no crime?  Aptitude, critical thinking, personal investment in the individual, introspection, viable diversion, seeking of alternative powers, knowing “what they can achieve and how they can change themselves” (Walsh 3). Point three contrasted scientific, and critical thinking points with examples of relevant career trajectories and looked at the their “range” which ultimately was suggestive of scholarship.  Despite high debt to income ratios, creative writing has value because it involves new thought, critical thinking and results in free thinkers and scholars.

Works Cited

“A Tale of Two Literary Cultures.” The Wilson Quarterly, vol. 35, no. 2, 2011, p. 79+. Gale In Context: Opposing Viewpoints, https://link-gale-com.ezproxy.snhu.edu/apps/doc/A255086168/OVIC?u=nhc_main&sid=OVIC&xid=1665d87e. Accessed 2 Aug. 2020.

“Author! Author!” Herizons, vol. 22, no. 3, Winter 2009, p. 13. Gale In Context: Opposing Viewpoints, https://link-gale-com.ezproxy.snhu.edu/apps/doc/A192588982/OVIC?u=nhc_main&sid=OVIC&xid=ef2b824b. Accessed 2 Aug. 2020.

Monaghan, Peter. “A Writing Professor’s Contribution: So Many Words, So Little Debt.” The Chronicle of Higher Education, vol. 61, no. 17, 9 Jan. 2015. Gale In Context: Opposing Viewpoints, https://link-gale-com.ezproxy.snhu.edu/apps/doc/A400006929/OVIC?u=nhc_main&sid=OVIC&xid=02c1e99b. Accessed 2 Aug. 2020.

“Nailing the Importance of Writing Programs.” The Chronicle of Higher Education, vol. 55, no. 42, 24 July 2009. Gale In Context: Opposing Viewpoints, https://link-gale-com.ezproxy.snhu.edu/apps/doc/A204147532/OVIC?u=nhc_main&sid=OVIC&xid=ddcc39e9. Accessed 2 Aug. 2020.

Schneider, Mark. “Does education pay? Yes and no. It depends on what, where, and how long one studies–but the outcomes do not align with conventional wisdom.” Issues in Science and Technology, vol. 30, no. 1, 2013, p. 33+. Gale In Context: Opposing Viewpoints, https://link-gale-com.ezproxy.snhu.edu/apps/doc/A350786748/OVIC?u=nhc_main&sid=OVIC&xid=3f60f144. Accessed 2 Aug. 2020.

Shah, Carolin, et al. “Neural Correlates of Creative Writing: An FMRI Study.” Human

Brain Mapping, vol. 34, no. 5, May 2013, pp. 1088–1101. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1002/hbm.21493.

Society: SocietyGuardian.co.uk: Free thinking.” Guardian [London, England], 22 Apr. 2009, p. 2. Gale OneFile: News, https://link-gale-com.ezproxy.snhu.edu/apps/doc/A198281616/STND?u=nhc_main&sid=STND&xid=37b777e4. Accessed 2 Aug. 2020.

“Tracy K. Smith, director of the creative-writing program at Princeton University, was named U.S. Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry for 2017-18.” The Chronicle of Higher Education, vol. 64, no. 14, 1 Dec. 2017, p. A51. Gale In Context: Opposing Viewpoints, https://link-gale-com.ezproxy.snhu.edu/apps/doc/A518741205/OVIC?u=nhc_main&sid=OVIC&xid=30330e93. Accessed 2 Aug. 2020.

“TURNING THE PAGE; As controversy and questions continue to hang over UBC’s revered creative-writing program, the challenge the faculty now faces is how to move forward and fortify the school’s prestige. The solution starts with a new chair: celebrated novelist Alix Ohlin.” Globe & Mail [Toronto, Canada], 17 Mar. 2018, p. R5. Gale In Context: Opposing Viewpoints, https://link-gale-com.ezproxy.snhu.edu/apps/doc/A531286964/OVIC?u=nhc_main&sid=OVIC&xid=572ac5c9. Accessed 2 Aug. 2020.

Vendituoli, Monica. “Jane Smiley, Author of the Academic Novel ‘Moo,’ Returns to Teaching.” The Chronicle of Higher Education, vol. 60, no. 39, 20 June 2014. Gale In Context: Opposing Viewpoints, https://link-gale-com.ezproxy.snhu.edu/apps/doc/A372960186/OVIC?u=nhc_main&sid=OVIC&xid=4cd87183. Accessed 2 Aug. 2020.

Walsh, Caspar.  “ Write to freedom-young-offenders.” The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/society/joepublic/2009/apr/21/write-to-freedom-young-offendersTop of Form

Whetter, Darryl. “Class conflict: creative writing programs are cash cows, but some can actually be valuable.” This Magazine, vol. 43, no. 1, July-Aug. 2009, p. 41. Gale In Context: Opposing Viewpoints, https://link-gale-com.ezproxy.snhu.edu/apps/doc/A203658807/OVIC?u=nhc_main&sid=OVIC&xid=dbb2ab0c. Accessed 2 Aug. 2020.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.