Alas, I have a dilemma I'd like to share. I'm currently studying public relations and creative writing at the University of Miami. To make a long story short, my writing professors hate commercial fiction, love literary fiction, and I have no idea why. I never thought it was a crime to try and be an entertaining writer. In fact, if studying PR has taught me anything, it's that you better be entertaining and likable as much as you possibly can. And yet, my instructor (who actually wrote a novel herself) seems to think that prose and language trumps all.
Is this pretty much commonplace within academia? Your experience in the MFA program seems to confirm my suspicions, and yet your day-to-day descriptions of your job paint a very different picture. Correct me if I'm wrong, but an easy-to-read commercial novel is more likely to get published than a literary novel, right? So why on earth do professors keep shoving literary fiction down our throats?
It certainly doesn't appear to be helping anybody; in fact I think it's actually irresponsible in a way. If it comes down to it, who would be more attractive to an agent and/or publisher: the kid with a business background who writes supernatural thrillers (read: me) or the kid with the traditional MFA training who writes about... whatever it is literary novelists write about? As of right now I'm taking what my professor says with a grain of salt. I know that might sound arrogant, but every bone in my body is telling me to keep going on my own track -- finish my novel, finish my degree in PR, and use the business acumen I've developed to help me land a deal.
Many, many great literary masterpieces have come from writers who took MFA programs. Like ... all right, I can't think of any off the top of my head. Or at all. In fact, after 2 1/2 years in an MFA program, I've only read one piece by a fellow writer that was potentially publishable or even likable, but this is probably an anomaly. Some of the teachers were published once, like in 1976 and never went into a second printing and I've never heard of their work, but that's probably also an anomaly. Oh, and that was also true of the MFA program professors who taught my undergraduate writing programs at Brown, but again: anomaly. Every single encounter I've had with college or graduate level writing has to be one long line of coincidences that all the people I encountered wrote incomprehensible things or boring, pretentious, and plot-less stories. Man, imagine the odds of that?
Or it could be the other thing you mentioned, that MFA programs suck. Tough call there.