Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Crocodile Lip Service

According to a New York Times article by Kelley Holland called Is It Time to Retrain B-Schools?, we are asked to believe that MBA students will receive an ethical basis for performing their duties. I'm skeptical.
The master’s of business administration, a gateway credential throughout corporate America, is especially coveted on Wall Street; in recent years, top business schools have routinely sent more than 40 percent of their graduates into the world of finance.

But with the economy in disarray and so many financial firms in free fall, analysts, and even educators themselves, are wondering if the way business students are taught may have contributed to the most serious economic crisis in decades.

“It is so obvious that something big has failed,” said Ángel Cabrera, dean of the Thunderbird School of Global Management in Glendale, Ariz. “We can look the other way, but come on. The C.E.O.’s of those companies, those are people we used to brag about. We cannot say, ‘Well, it wasn’t our fault’ when there is such a systemic, widespread failure of leadership.”

Critics of business education have many complaints. Some say the schools have become too scientific, too detached from real-world issues. Others say students are taught to come up with hasty solutions to complicated problems. Another group contends that schools give students a limited and distorted view of their role — that they graduate with a focus on maximizing shareholder value and only a limited understanding of ethical and social considerations essential to business leadership.

Such shortcomings may have left business school graduates inadequately prepared to make the decisions that, taken together, might have helped mitigate the financial crisis, critics say.

“There are extraordinary things taking place in business education, and a lot that is very promising,” said Judith F. Samuelson, executive director of the Business and Society Program at the Aspen Institute. “But what’s the central theorem of business education? It’s wanting.”

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