- Read the article titled, “Why Aren’t Business Ethics Classes Making Businesses More Ethical?”,Next, respond to the following questions. The Wall Street Journal recently announced that ethics courses are useless because ethics cannot be taught. Although few people would turn to the Wall Street Journal as a learned expert on the teaching of ethics, the issue raised by the newspaper is a serious one: Can ethics be taught? Do business ethics classes have value in the workplace? Defend your position.
Recently, the Wall Street Journal ran a story, “Does an ‘A’ in Ethics Have Any Value?” (Feb. 6, 2013) that examines the success business schools are having teaching ethics. Dr. Scott Rae, who teaches business ethics here in the Crowell School of Business, responds to that article.
The recent article by Melissa Korn in the Wall Street Journal is encouraging because it recognizes the efforts of more business schools to integrate ethics throughout their curriculum. She recognizes the long standing debate over how to do that–with specialists in specialized courses, or with professors taking responsibility themselves for the ethical dimension of their respective disciplines.
It is also encouraging to see recognition that students need regular discussion of ethics throughout their time in school, as opposed to one time in a course when they get it. It’s also encouraging to hear profs in other business schools recognize that what they are doing is not working to prevent the scandals and “perp walks” that still occur in the corporate world. However, there may be a good reason why it’s not working. And that’s because universities committed to philosophical relativism can’t teach ethics. They can teach strategy, procedures and decision making, but their overall worldview does not allow for absolute values that are necessary to undergird morality.
Chuck Colson recognized this years ago when he was invited to Harvard Business School to speak on “Why Harvard Can’t Teach Ethics.” You can read his speech at colsoncenter.org. He made precisely this point and got little in the way of challenging questions from the students. This is why Christian universities, like Biola, are well positioned to teach a substantive business ethic for students that can give specific direction and a compelling rationale for ethical behavior, all informed by a Christian worldview. Though it may be that simply getting a good grade in ethics does not necessarily translate to ethical behavior in the marketplace, I like the chances of that better in a Christian university than in universities committed to a postmodern view of truth and morality.