“Is It Time to Retrain Business Schools?”

NY TImes: Is It Time to Retrain Business Schools?

Still, there have been signs that all is not well in business education. A study of cheating among graduate students, published in 2006 in the journal Academy of Management Learning & Education, found that 56 percent of all M.B.A. students cheated regularly — more than in any other discipline. The authors attributed that to “perceived peer behavior” — in other words, students believed everyone else was doing it.

As the country reels in the wake of Bernie Madoff and the effects of other questionable characters, this news of M.B.A. cheaters can hardly be comforting. The rest of the Times article asks what business schools can do about this (and also how they can train students better in handling real-life economic crises, whether based in ethical lapses or other conditions).

Now compare Colossians 3:1-5:

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.

This is speaking to followers of Christ. Some of it is in what is called “positional” language: that Christians through a radical identification with Jesus Christ, and his substitionary death for us, have joined with him positionally already in his death and resurrection. Though it is not an experienced fact in our lives yet in ordinary-language terms, it is as good as if it was, for the promise is that secure.

I say that for the sake of clearing away any minor confusion that might arise for some readers. That’s not the main point I wanted to make, however.

God’s word sees ethical lapses as much more, and going much deeper, than an educational matter. It’s a matter of idolatry: worshiping a false god, the god of greed, or of getting ahead, or of “what everyone else is doing.” Followers of Christ understand how ephemeral and deceptive these gods and goals are, that there is a much longer view to take. Gathering the most impressive titles or toys is nothing compared to the real value of appearing with Christ in glory.

Changing B-schools’ curriculum to focus more on ethics isn’t a bad idea; that’s not what I’m saying. It might help with some behaviors. Still the only ultimate answer is at the level of the heart, where Christ alone can make the deep changes that sweep away “what is earthly” in us.

Jesus Christ is about changing hearts, with lives changing from the inside out as a result. Now, does this fit the real world? Probably (see here and here, for example), though not with total consistency, which may have something to do with spiritual maturity and depth of commitment. I’ve had opportunity to observe this very close up. For several years I was a Human Resource director with Campus Crusade for Christ, a nearly half-billion dollar mission organization. I could count on one hand—without using the thumb, pinkie, ring finger or middle finger—the number of employee theft or fraud situations I had to deal with in that role. Now I’m a member of a Campus Crusade team that includes our internal auditors. If there’s any “funny business” going on in any employee’s or department’s books, we’re likely to find out about it first. What I discovered in my HR job still holds true: we’re not perfect, but still there’s a whole lot of integrity in this mission.

I was studying for my Master’s degree in Industrial and Organizational Psychology while I was working in Human Resources. (Chances are you’ve never heard of I/O Psych; suffice it for now to say that it’s an HR-related field.) I told a professor that I would have to miss an upcoming class because I was part of a group traveling to Atlanta to shut down one of our departments.

He said, “you’re going to gather all their keys, ID’s, and passwords there, right?” I told him, no, actually, we hadn’t discussed doing that; we were planning to make it less abrupt for them than that.

“But what about sabotage and theft?” he asked.

“You know,” I answered, “in all our planning for this, which we’ve been working on for six weeks, we’ve worked on every angle we could think of: how to lessen the impact on the staff, how to transition them to other roles or ease their out-placement, how we could use some of them to help build other departments. But not once have we even thought about them pulling anything like that on us. That’s not the kind of people we have.”

Several weeks later I was able to give my prof the full follow-up: our staff members’ integrity held up to the challenge. They handled it well and honestly. (That kind of thing happened more than once with similar outcomes; this was not the only time I was involved with a major reorganization of this nature.)

Though I know of exceptions to this rule, yet I have real-life experience with the rule itself, and I have found it to be true: Where people are fully committed to following Christ, it really does make a difference in their ethical behavior. Our country and our world could use a large dose of that.

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