Creative writing programs are themselves vocational training of a sort, he points out, and most of the people teaching in them are themselves holders of advanced degrees in creative writing. Probably a majority of American writers make a considerable part of their living not by writing, in fact, but by teaching others how to write and how to teach writing.
That there might be a Ponzi element in all this is something Mr. McGurl never considers. He thinks that writing programs are the best thing that ever happened to American fiction, and he pursues his case not on economic grounds — the great number of writers whose careers have been subsidized, in effect, by the university — but aesthetic ones. The programs, he says, have enabled a great flourishing of postwar American fiction, and from the merits of the work he deduces the merits of the system that fostered it.