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September 11, 2011


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If you do a "close" reading of the P&W methodology section you will see what shifting sand the ranking is based on. Most of what is in the methodology section would be more accurately placed in a separate section called "findings" so that the reader could see clearly that these are the author's interpretation of the data. Most of the statistics derive from a single number, 640, the number of would-be applicants who visited a blog and responded to a poll. Most of what the author says are "demographics" are poll responses, not demographics (age, gender, location, income, etc of the respondents.). The methodology says the responses are "votes" and that those programs receiving the most "votes" are the ones the respondents hold in highest esteem yet there may be no connection between which program one might hold in high esteem and which one an individual is applying to (eg. I may think Houston is the best but b/c I live and work and have family in NYC, it isn't practical for me so it's not on my list of programs I'll be applying to- this isn't captured in the ranking). Every time the author says, "it is reasonable to assume," know that it is also reasonable to assume something other that what follows. Such claims are not backed up with any evidence, anecdotal or otherwise. Most of the programs ranked got fewer than half the number of votes than the top ranked program - there are many many ways to account for this and yet the only explanation given is that it reflects the "esteem" with which potential applicants hold the program but it could reflect many other possibilities. A good deal of the "methodology" section is devoted to history of MFAs and to discrediting other polls - irrelevant in a discussion of methodology. I could go on. The infelicities of the writing style are too numerous to mention. Strip away all of this "filler" and you see that there is very little to the ranking.

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I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark

from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman

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This Way Out

by T.P.Winch

Ringfinger was nervous
Pinky terrified
when they learned
that Hand might succumb
to the rule of Thumb.



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