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Should Business Classes Teach Ethics?

Updated on April 26, 2013
Acting ethically can improve your business relations.
Acting ethically can improve your business relations. | Source

A documentary named “Inside Job” portrayed some Columbia teachers as taking money from businesses but not reporting the funds or ties to the organizations.

After the documentary aired, Korn — author of the Wall Street Journal article "Business Education: Columbia's Business Dean on Disclosure, Leading, Ethics" — met with the Columbia Business School’s dean, Glen Hubbard, to discuss the necessity and impact of ethics in the business classroom. Although Korn and Hubbard discussed the school’s new policies requiring better disclosure from teachers, the interview also touched on the way the school taught students ethics. And how often ethics should be integrated into the business classroom.

Dean Hubbard suggested that students frequently “marginalize” stand-alone ethics classes, and learn ethics better when the concepts permeate all the coursework and are integrated into courses such as marketing, operations and finance (Korn, paragraph 17). Thus, offering ethics classes alone might lead to low student enrollment and result in disengaged students.

Interestingly, Hubbard notes that ethics relates with the way a student will be a leader in the future. When teachers discuss the subject of ethics in a natural way students are more likely to take the concept into consideration, and are more likely to follow the example as set by the teacher, by acting ethically.

Effective leaders must “be able to make decisions when [they] don’t have all the information, because in the real world you never do” and then “persuade other people to go along with the decision” they have made (paragraph 15).

Although Hubbard’s secular slant does not consider religious implications, he does note that successful leaders must “analyze, decide [and] lead” (paragraph 15). Hubbard further notes that the analyzing portion of leadership is the easiest, and that deciding and leading are more difficult. In short, discussing the concept of being an effective and ethical leader is a lot easier than actually acting that way.

Traditional Christian teachers can agree with Hubbard’s theory that ethics should not be relegated to only one class in the curriculum, because ethical behavior is an overarching philosophy. Traditional teachers recognize that ethics is not right because it is “good,” but rather because it is required of God. As Micah 6:8 notes, God wants man to “do justly, and to love mercy.”

Teachers can influence their students to work ethically by discussing the ramifications of unethical behavior, and by explaining that acting ethically is the right thing to do. When teachers demonstrate how they acted ethically in difficult circumstances, it encourages students to act in the same manner. So should business classes teach ethics? This writer says a resounding YES!

Video on Business Ethics

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Korn, M. (2011, July 7). Business education: Columbia's business dean on disclosure, leading, ethics. Wall Street Journal(Eastern Edition), p. B.6. Retrieved July 27, 2011, from ABI/INFORM Global. (Document ID: 2392464871).


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