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mfas and academics (and congrats to kelly!)

updated thu 8 jun 06


Kathy McDonald on wed 7 jun 06


In your elegant and metaphorical way
you have managed to sum up all of the
perspectives so well.

I applaud your decision and know from
personal experience that the row
you've chosen to hoe is a difficult one.

I enrolled in a post graduate degree in my early 40's
when my kids were just hittin' puberty.
It involved travel, sometimes absences
from home, and a lot of sacrifice on my husband's

Did I miss much??,,,yes and no.. I missed soccer games
I missed dance recitals....I missed first kisses.
I missed broken bones that happened when I was too far
away to tend to them. I tried to make up for that when I got
It's tough.

The kids became much more independent and so did my husband.

I gained a lot too, tenure at my job, better financial
security, and much more free time to immerse myself in
clay and my family during summer and term breaks.

Looking was that personal sacrifice on the part
of my family that allowed me to pursue my clay work as
passionately as I did... without the financial security
of my "day job" I would not have been able to take as
many expensive workshops and summer studies as I did,
or to acquire the kind of studio equipment that I have now.
Also the sabbaticals that allowed for full time focus
on art and education.

I am now 54 and approaching retirement....I will continue to
pots...decent pots....I cannot teach at an institution
I do not have an MFA. I am a tad frustrated because I always
thought my experience with clay (about 25 yrs) and other
qualifications would allow that. They need teachers... but
in order
to meet the university grant commission standards they need
to hire MFA'd teachers.

So...if teaching clay and art is what you want,,,YOU GO
get that degree!
The best!

Kathy McDonald

-----Original Message-----
From: Clayart [mailto:CLAYART@LSV.CERAMICS.ORG]On Behalf Of
Sent: Tuesday, June 06, 2006 11:19 PM
Subject: MFAs and academics

MFAs in general: it shouldn't surprise people that academics
respect and
uphold the degrees they award. There are no Hondas in the
parking lot at the Toledo Jeep plant. Tony the high school
teacher can't
have uncertified homeschoolers getting equal billing. In the
it doesn't matter how many life skills you have, if you're
not a
General, you don't get to lead.

Of course degrees are the coin of the realm in academia.
It's the whole
point. Nobody HAS to go there, and there are a million paths
outside the
University/college world that judge by the skills you have
or pots you
make and not the letters behind your name. Nobody makes you
go to
college. (I've watched kids homeschool themselves through 12
grades and
keep right on self educating, taking the world by storm with
a four year
jump on their college-bound pals).

If I am not a Baptist, I am not going to go sit in a Baptist
church and
complain that they aren't respecting my beliefs. I have no
right to
criticize the way they do things -- I simply don't belong

If I believe (and I do not) that academia is an enclave of
overpaid sellouts who sit in an ivory tower and lord it over
the great
unwashed, then why in the world would I want any part of it,
or care how
I measure up to that particular yardstick?

I am not offended when the MFA profs like Vince preach the
gospel of how
the challenge of earning the degree transformed their lives.
They found
something good and want others to find it too, like the
young men in
suits who show up on my doorstep with Bibles and The Good
Word. I am
never rude or offended. Something transformed their lives
and they want
to share, just like Vince. That doesn't obligate me to need
it. I'm
pretty comfortable in my own beliefs, so none of that
threatens me,
especially -- but I don't invite them to dinner, either.
I've found my
own way, thanks.

Elizabeth, you know I agree with you about innovative
methods of
education, self-educating and working outside the
established system,
because we've been doing it for seven years at my house,
despite the
financial sacrifices and inconvenience. I also agree that it
would be
ridiculous for you to chuck that baby in storage to drive an
distance and do an MFA. The resume of educational experience
you trucked
out makes me wonder why you would even be tempted.

But I think you need to make up your mind: are you the
skilled, self
sufficient potter, who has no need for the ivory tower's
stamp of
approval? Or the melodramatic, fragile seedling, trampled by
opinions and thus abandoning any dreams of advancing your

I respect Vince, and see no need for you two to agree... but
you're a
strong woman. Why you need his permission, encouragement or
to make your choices is beyond me. If somebody calling the
on-line MFA a
"lame-assed" option can make you throw your hands in the air
and quit,
I'd have to assume that either a) you didn't want that itchy
MFA suit to
begin with, or b) your criticism of academia has a hint of
sour grapes.

Babies don't keep. In about a week he will be taller than
you, with boat
sized tennis shoes and a paper route. My little red haired
baby came up
the hall tonight to show me he's growing hair under his

Patience is a virgin ;0) There will be time again to do, or
not do, time
when your hands and hours are your own.

Kelly in Ohio

"Love many, trust few.
Always paddle your own canoe."

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