Whatever its overall merits, this Wall Street Journal op-ed by a recent graduate of a top undergraduate business program offers food for thought and fodder for discussion about what a business education – and what a business ethics course – should seek to impart to its students. A couple of quick thoughts:
(1) The writer discerns the consensus that has emerged in universities in favor of “rounding out” a business education with liberal arts courses (and business ethics courses, whether offered within or outside the business school) emphasizing the ethical failures of business and the reform of capitalist economic institutions. This consensus informs the founding of university-based business schools beginning in the late 19th century, as documented in (for example) Rakesh Khurana’s book From Higher Aims to Hired Hands. Is this the only way to conceive of the liberal arts’ contribution to business education? If not, is it the best way?
(2) It would be interesting to know to what extent this approach informs other professional or quasi-professional courses of study. Are medical students (for example) presented recurrently with the ethical failures of Cecil Jacobson – the infertility physician who (among other misdeeds) told his artificially inseminated patients that donated sperm came from anonymous donors, when in fact he had favored them with his own sperm – the same way business students are presented recurrently with Enron? If so, is there something about professions or quasi-professions that makes the failure/reform approach especially attractive? If not, is there a reason to think that some professions or quasi-professions (say, business) are more ripe for the failure/reform approach than others (say, medicine)? >>>
LINK: My Antibusiness Business Education (by MATTHEW T. TICE for Wall Street Journal)
I am a recent graduate of Bentley University, a small business-oriented college located in Waltham, Mass., just outside Boston. The school typically ranks among the top 25 undergraduate business programs in the country. Like many other business schools, Bentley prides itself on an advanced business curriculum infused with “the richness of a liberal arts education.” Yet rather than providing a solid grounding in the classical humanities—which would be very useful in the business world—many of the nonbusiness courses I took espoused an illiberal attitude toward American capitalism and business in general.
Unfortunately, only 20% of the 122 credits that I needed to graduate went toward satisfying the requirements for my Finance major, while more than half of the courses that I took seemed designed to turn me into a self-loathing Finance major.
What do you think?