Can Business Education and the Business Schools Advance Sustainability and the Common Good?
Unleashing the Power of Passion & Purpose
Kamran Mofid PhD (ECON)
Preface: Still Chasing the Dream!
If, you, like me, are also interested in bigger questions, like the ones noted below, then, this paper should be of interest to you.
What is education? What is knowledge? What is wisdom? What is a university? What is the source of true happiness and wellbeing? What is the good life? What is the purpose of economic life? What does it mean to be a human being living on a spaceship with finite resources? Is “sustainability” a buzz word? Is it simply in fashion to talk about a sustainable future, a sustainable education? How can the global financial system become more responsive and just? What paths can be recommended to shift the current destructive global political-economic order from one of unrestrained economic growth, profit maximisation and cost minimisation, targets and bonuses to one that embraces material wealth creation, yet also preserves and enhances social and ecological well-being and increases human happiness and contentment? How should we deal with individual and institutionalized greed? What are the requirements of a virtuous economy? What role should universities play in building an integrity-based model of business education? What should be the role of the youth? How might the training of young executives be directed with the intention of supplying insights into the nature of globalisation from its economic, technological and spiritual perspectives, to build supporting relationships among the participants that will lead toward action for the common good within their chosen careers? What needs to happen next for sustainability to become more integrated into the ethos of business schools? What distinct roles should students, business leaders and business schools themselves take in advancing this trend? Who is leading this agenda and what elements of best practice can be shared from their example?
Education is the foundation for a good and fulfilling life, setting the individual on a path of personal fulfilment, economic security and societal contribution. Today the world of knowledge and competence is in a constant state of flux. The same can be said for the universe of visions, aspirations, and dreams. For many centuries it had been considered that education in general and universities in particular were responsible for the moral and social development of students and for bringing together diverse groups for the common good. Is this still the case?
What is the main role and function of a "good" education? To equip students with marketable skills to help countries compete in a global, information-based workplace? Has this overwhelmed other historically important purposes of education, and thus, short- changing us all and in particular the students?
If there is a shared national purpose for education, should it be oriented only toward enhancing the narrow vision of a country's economic success? Should education be answerable only to a narrowly defined economic bottom line, or do we need to discover a more comprehensive, inclusive bottom line, given the catastrophic crises that we are witnessing all around us? Are the interests of the individuals and selective groups overwhelming the common good that the education system is meant to support? Should our cherished educational values be all up for sale to the highest bidder? Should private sector management become the model for our mainly publicly-funded education system? Should the language and terminology of for profit- only business model, such as “downsizing”, “outsourcing”, “restructuring”, ”marketisation”, “privatisation” and “deregulating”, amongst others, be allowed to become the values of education, when teaching and learning is nothing short of a vocation and sacrament?
The current global crises has given us a golden opportunity to ask ourselves some fundamental questions on the role of education in general and the economic, business, finance, marketing and management education in particular and to search for possible answers to these crises. Soul- searching and self-criticism should not be seen as a source of weakness, but as a source of strength, humility and the search for wisdom.
However, the topic which I wish to address here is vast; all I can reasonably hope to do is paint a picture with very broad brushstrokes. I wish to argue that the marketplace is not just an economic sphere, ‘it is a region of the human spirit’. Many economic and business decisions impact on the environment, as it is now being more widely recognised, but they also raise important moral questions which call into question what it is to be a human being. I will argue that decision-makers (contrary to what is practised today) need also to concern themselves with the world of the heart and spirit.
Although self-interest is an important source of human motivation, driving the decisions we make in the marketplace every day, those decisions nevertheless have a moral, ethical and spiritual dimension, because each decision we make affects not only ourselves but others too. I firmly believe that these values must also be at the heart of our education system, our universities and the business schools.
I also wish you to note that, this brief synopsis is not addressed to the learned, or to those who regard a practical problem merely as something to be talked about. No profound philosophy or deep erudition will be found in the following pages. I have aimed only at putting together some remarks which are inspired by what I hope is common sense, and mostly further inspired by the wisdom of those before me. I have learnt much from the wisdom of others, which I wish to share a bit of with you. All that I claim for the recipes offered to the reader is that they are as such confirmed by my own experience, observation, and most importantly, by my enriched life journey, both personally and professionally. On this basis I venture to hope that some among those thinking about the same and other related issues may find this contribution helpful.
It is my hope that with this personal and professional reflection, I can humbly begin an open dialogue with all concerned colleagues, friends, students and others, so that together we can prescribe a working solution. Moreover, I wish to present my thoughts in an easy-to-read manner and I hope to succeed in telling all as if I am reading you a story. I see my role as a story-teller in a heart-to-heart dialogue and conversation with the reader, nothing less, nothing more. We are facing some major crises. For me, the answers lie in simplicity. No need to complicate matters more. It is time to be contemplative and take action for social justice, for which a sustainable education for the common good is an essential part.
Introduction and a bit of Background
I wish to begin, as food for thought, by recalling at some length, the passionate and committed words of Chris Hedges’ article” Why the United States Is destroying its Education System?”, which was posted at truthdig.com on April 11, 2011; very relevant to our discussion and indeed to this study:
“A nation that destroys its systems of education, degrades its public information, guts its public libraries and turns its airwaves into vehicles for cheap, mindless amusement becomes deaf, dumb and blind. It prizes test scores above critical thinking and literacy. It celebrates rote vocational training and the singular, amoral skill of making money. It churns out stunted human products, lacking the capacity and vocabulary to challenge the assumptions and structures of the corporate state. It funnels them into a caste system of drones and systems managers. It transforms a democratic state into a feudal system of corporate masters and serfs.
Teachers, their unions under attack, are becoming as replaceable as minimum-wage employees at Burger King. We spurn real teachers—those with the capacity to inspire children to think, those who help the young discover their gifts and potential—and replace them with instructors who teach to narrow, standardized tests. These instructors obey. They teach children to obey. And that is the point…
Passing bubble tests celebrates and rewards a peculiar form of analytical intelligence. This kind of intelligence is prized by money managers and corporations. They don’t want employees to ask uncomfortable questions or examine existing structures and assumptions. They want them to serve the system. These tests produce men and women who are just literate and numerate enough to perform basic functions and service jobs. The tests elevate those with the financial means to prepare for them. They reward those who obey the rules, memorize the formulas and pay deference to authority. Rebels, artists, independent thinkers, eccentrics and iconoclasts—those who march to the beat of their own drum—are weeded out…
… To truly teach is to instil the values and knowledge which promote the common good and protect a society from the folly of historical amnesia. The utilitarian, corporate ideology embraced by the system of standardized tests and leadership academies has no time for the nuances and moral ambiguities inherent in a liberal arts education. Corporatism is about the cult of the self. It is about personal enrichment and profit as the sole aim of human existence. And those who do not conform are pushed aside…
… The truly educated become conscious. They become self-aware. They do not lie to themselves. They do not pretend that fraud is moral or that corporate greed is good. They do not claim that the demands of the marketplace can morally justify the hunger of children or denial of medical care to the sick. They do not throw 6 million families from their homes as the cost of doing business. Thought is a dialogue with one’s inner self. Those who think ask questions, questions those in authority do not want asked. They remember who we are, where we come from and where we should go. They remain eternally sceptical and distrustful of power. And they know that this moral independence is the only protection from the radical evil that results from collective unconsciousness. The capacity to think is the only bulwark against any centralized authority that seeks to impose mindless obedience. There is a huge difference, as Socrates understood, between teaching people what to think and teaching them how to think. Those who are endowed with a moral conscience refuse to commit crimes, even those sanctioned by the corporate state, because they do not in the end want to live with criminals—themselves. “It is better to be at odds with the whole world than, being one, to be at odds with myself,” Socrates said”.
Wow! What a damming report! However, I must admit that I was not surprised to read the above. For me, what Hedges has said about the US, mirrors, word-by-word, the case of the destruction of education in many other parts of the world. This, therefore, makes the task of this paper more urgent, more needed and indeed very timely. As I said at the begging, the Hedges’ remarks were a food for thought, to wet our appetite for what is to come! Let us proceed.
Recently Leo Hickman, a features journalist and editor at the Guardian newspaper, posted an article that truly captured my imagination. Due to its important relevance to this paper, I wish to share it with you.
The posting was under the title of “MBA course: 'blind pursuit of profit is destroying the planet': Marbella University offers 'Green MBA' highlighting 'lies, deceit and hype' of business world.”
Hickman begings by inviting us to play a little game first. He asks us to read the following quote and then try to guess who said it:
“Lies, cheat, deceit, distortion, hype, and a blind pursuit of profit have poisoned the business world. The price of this has been the destruction of the planet, its ecosystems and the alienation of humans from their soul and genuine inner needs. Pollution, contamination, climate change, poverty, rising sea level, unemployment, financial crisis, social unrest, war, and a general lack of trust has taken over as a result.”
Strong stuff. I'm fairly confident, Hickman carries on, that you currently have the image of an angry environmental campaigner in your head. Or, perhaps, a far-left politician waving their fist at the world's multiple injustices.
Well, these are both wrong, Hickman notes: the right answer is these words come from the press release of a new MBA course now being offered at Marbella University in southern Spain. Yes, an MBA course: that rarefied habitat that has long been the butt of jokes due to the air of self-importance and unworldliness nurtured within.
Hickman then continues by noting that perhaps this common perception is unfair, but MBA courses are not usually associated with environmental tub-thumping. Rather, they are often seen as little more than finishing schools for the "corporate leaders" who will go on to pillage the earth in the name of "shareholder dividends" and "quarterly results". So it comes as something of a shock to see an MBA course being advertised in such a way.
For those still rubbing their eyes in amazement, here's some more from the press release, which Hickman invites us to reflect upon:
“The world needs new managers and CEOs; new MBAs. The state of humanity and the planet clearly shows: politics has failed, corporations have failed, and most disturbingly even education has failed.
Humanity and the world need new leaders and experts to resolve the global problems… The state of humanity and the planet clearly shows: most Masters programs are unusable, elitist, soulless products, made by people that don't understand anything about human beings and the values of being human!"
Given the above observations, both by Hickman and Hedges, I now wish to draw your attention to In the comments made by Prof. Peggy Cunningham, director of the School of Business Adminstration at Dalhousie University, Halifax, Canada. A pioneering academic in corporate social responsibility, Cunningham is leading the initiative to build a new kind of business school around the core concept of responsible leadership. In a wide-ranging intervew with the Globe and Mail, Cunningham noted that:
…” We certainly have to reassess capitalism and reassess markets, and some of the things we want to do at Dalhousie touches on those things. If there was ever a time for change, that time is now because we can see the burning platform and what the traditional models have created. It may not be where any of us want to be, but I think we have an opportunity to rethink some of those models.”
In an answer to a question if the MBAs are the problem, Cunningham replies, “They certainly are. Something that hasn't been in the discussion - in newspapers, business magazines or whatever - is the liability of business schools in thinking about the products we have created.
I have a colleague in a very large bank in Australia. She was doing work on responsible leadership with a group of us who are senior people in business schools. She looked us in the eye and said: "You have graduated a generation of monsters." It brought home that business schools have to take a very hard look at themselves to see the kind of people we are graduating and take our responsibility very much to heart in terms of the models we use to graduate these people.”
According to Cunningham, there is something with the business models within the business schools that have led to the creation of these ‘monsters’:
“It's been too much focus on individualism - not only of individual success but individualism of one business pitted against another. Also there are businesses and individuals who don't believe they are embedded in a wider social system and are accountable to this wider system. Competitive models and individualistic models have taken us a very long way. But we have forgotten some of the grounding that we are part of a much larger whole and we have to be accountable to that whole…
Many people say greed is good… but I don't think those models are sustainable any longer. If what it takes to make one person rich is to make two-thirds of the rest of the world poor, I don't think that's a sustainable model. It's a big wakeup call. When we look at issues of sustainability, we have to look at not only our own sustainability but that of our society.”… Cunningham observes.
This now brings me to the following item which I wish to share with you. Recently the Guardian newspaper had organised a live discussion on “The Role of business schools in advancing sustainability”. The Guardian wisely began the discussion by highlighting some of the issues and challenges, which I have, at some length, noted below:
“The complicated nature of sustainability is often discussed in the context of the complex and evolving set of skills that future leaders require. Historically, as manufacturing increased, business leaders needed to create competitive advantage by delivering economies of scale. More recently, leaders with finance backgrounds have enjoyed success, as economic growth has been achieved through mergers and acquisitions. Chief executives of the future will require an understanding of the ways in which whole systems interconnect and have an impact on entire value chains if they are to respond to resource constraints and climate change appropriately.
Businesses looking to recruit new talent are increasingly looking for skills that work for sustainability in those they choose to employ; they often suggest that business schools should do more to promote sustainability in their research, teaching and practice.
There is also increasing pressure from students themselves for sustainability to be integrated into business courses. This has led to a general trend away from bolt-on modules and towards sustainability becoming more embedded into the ethos of business school teaching.
Businesses themselves have a clear role in encouraging this trend by specifying that sustainability skills are important to their core operations and that, therefore, they expect prospective employees to be well versed in this area.
While the trend towards greater integration of sustainability into the core of business education is undoubtedly positive, there is considerable progress still to be made. Many graduates are continuing to enter the business arena with a single-minded belief in economic growth, (aggressive competition, market-efficiency and such like) as the most important, perhaps the only, measure(s) of success. This preoccupation feeds the cycle of short-termism on which business operations are precariously balanced.”
Given the above so far, then, what needs to happen next for sustainability to become more integrated into the ethos of business schools? What distinct roles should students, business leaders and business schools themselves take in advancing this trend? Who is leading this agenda and what elements of best practice can be shared from their example? Is “sustainability” a buzz word? Is it simply in fashion to talk about a sustainable, education, a sustainable future and more?
To answer these and other questions, which I had asked right at the very beginning of this paper, I wish to suggest that, indeed some serious reflection is in order. Not to stand back and question what has happened and why, would be to compound failure with failure: failure of vision with failure of responsibility. If nothing else these current crises of education, finance, social injustice and environmental devastation present us with a unique opportunity to address the shortcomings of our profession with total honesty and humility. Only then it may be possible to explore how a value-led business education for the common good might look like and how it may become possible.
Now let me begin by quoting this beautiful poem by T.S. Eliot:
- Where is the life we have lost in living?
- Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
- Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?
This poem is very telling and very relevant. It shows the state of paralysis and confusion. It shows the reasons: we are lost and confused. It compels us to ask some fundamentally important questions, in our search for the bigger picture, for wisdom.
Given the above, therefore, it seems to me that our first task should be to reflect on the following three questions?
What is a university? What is education? What is wisdom? I firmly believe that without knowing the answers to these questions, then, nothing else can be tackled.
What is a university? A S Bayatt in one of her books, Frederica novels provides us with a good working definition of what a university is and what its aims should be. “A university must be universal: open to support inquiries concerning human understanding of medicine, law, the sciences, mathematics, the humanities. Open, too, in that it should recruit anyone for study; anyone who has the ability to benefit both themselves and the subjects in which they wish to be immersed.”
However, in the words of Peter Scott, Professor of higher education studies at the Institute of Education and a former editor of the Times Higher Education Supplement:
“For the past generation, a university education has been seen more and more in instrumental terms. In the eyes of most members of the establishment – politicians of all parties, mandarins and quangocrats, and (the more boss-like) vice-chancellors – higher education's success seems to stand or fall on its capacity to turn out flexible entrepreneurs, professional workers and technical experts. Enlightenment, civilisation, emancipation, critical inquiry – such words seem to have dropped out of the dictionary of higher education policy making. If the words of the establishment are to be believed, modern higher education is not much more than the human resources, training and organisational development arm of UK plc.”
Moreover, these days, the governments, young people themselves and their parents, amongst others are less likely to ask the philosophical question we opened with. Not so much “What is a university?” or “What is education?” as “What’s the cost to the taxpayer?”, “What’s the bottomline?”, “How much will it cost to go there?”, followed by “How much money will I earn when I’ve got my degree?”.
To continue the above concerns, one can further ask: What about the university as a place for students to expand their minds and their horizons in ways that society believes to be valuable? Given that all it seems is about the money, means that the students are led to think of themselves as narrowly focused consumers, searching for "value for money” among different forms of employment-directed training. It is all about the money! What about the Wisdom! Are universities any longer concerned with building of virtue, character and citizenship, or are they only interested in the botomline, factory like mass production and output at lowest unit costs?
At this point, in order to further and deepen our discussion on the age-old debate around the percieved purpose of higher education, I wish to recall-at some length- an article by Tamson Pietsch, “Teaching styles in HE: to inform or enlighten?”:
“When University College London was founded in the 1820s, the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge ridiculed it as a "lecture-bazaar": an institution that imparted information but not wisdom.
In doing so Coleridge called the opening shots in what would become a fierce debate about the nature and purpose of universities in the 19th century. Should they be institutions that offered a commodity: imparting useful knowledge that could be turned by those who acquired it to commercial and economic advantage? Or were they learning communities: places where people came together to learn lessons that were as much about how to live as they were about how to perform a task?
Oxford and Cambridge were very much the latter. In their residential colleges students and their teachers lived together, receiving personal instruction in the classical tradition in one-on-one tutorials. But until 1871 they were closed institutions – restricted to the wealthy elite and to members of the Church of England – and were highly resistant to new forms of scientific and technological knowledge.
The system of lectures and assessment by examination established in London was a response to this. Able to be adapted and delivered at minimum expense to small or large audiences on a wide variety of subjects – at a time when books and residence were costly – the new system opened up higher education, and not just to students from outside the established church. But it also had its disadvantages. As the university reformers of the late 19th century came to realise, placing all the emphasis upon examinations imposed a deadening uniformity and hampered originality. As Sir Lyon Playfair argued in 1873, while a teaching university produces an ‘educated man … an Examining Board can only be assured that it has produced a crammed man’.”
However, this tension between education as information and education as enlightenment is not just a feature of 19th-century university politics. It remains fundamental to all higher education today, as we noted in our discussions above.
Now, this brings me to ask: what happened to WISDOM? Where is the place of wisdom in education and at universities?
But, first let us see, what is wisdom?
Although a man may be book-learned,
if he does not apply in his behaviour what he knows,
He is as the blind man, who,
even with a lamp in his hand, cannot see the road.
-Stanza 169 of 'The Tree of Wisdom' of Nag-ajura, ca 100BC
In the wise words of Bertrand Russell writing in 1954 on “Knowledge and Wisdom” most people would agree that, although our age far surpasses all previous ages in knowledge, there has been no correlative increase in wisdom. But agreement ceases as soon as we attempt to define `wisdom' and consider means of promoting it. It is not only in public ways, but in private life equally, that wisdom is needed. It is needed in the choice of ends to be pursued and in emancipation from personal prejudice.
Russell sees fear as the main source of superstition, and one of the main sources of cruelty. To conquer fear, Russell reminds us, is the beginning of wisdom, in the pursuit of truth as in the endeavour after a worthy manner of life.
According to Russell, the essence of wisdom is emancipation, as far as possible, from the tyranny of the here and now. The world needs wisdom as it has never needed it before; and if knowledge continues to increase, the world will need wisdom in the future even more than it does now.
Nicholas Maxwell, a contemporary philosopher, advocates that academia ought to alter its focus from the acquisition of knowledge to seeking and promoting wisdom, which he defines as the capacity to realize what is of value in life, for oneself and others.
Maxwell notes that, we need a revolution in the aims and methods of academic inquiry. Instead of giving priority to the search for knowledge, academia needs to devote itself to seeking and promoting wisdom by rational means, wisdom being the capacity to realize what is of value in life, for oneself and others, wisdom thus including knowledge but much else besides. A basic task ought to be to help humanity learn how to create a better world.
Acquiring scientific knowledge dissociated from a more basic concern for wisdom, as we do at present, is dangerously and damagingly irrational, Maxwell notes.
Natural science, according to Maxwell, has been extraordinarily successful in increasing knowledge. This has been of great benefit to humanity. But new knowledge and technological know-how increase our power to act which, without wisdom, may cause human suffering and death as well as human benefit. All our modern global problems have arisen in this way: global warming, the lethal character of modern war and terrorism, vast inequalities of wealth and power round the globe, rapid increase in population, rapid extinction of other species, and much more.
All these have been made possible by modern science dissociated from the rational pursuit of wisdom. If we are to avoid in this century the horrors of the last one - wars, death camps, dictatorships, poverty, environmental damage - we urgently need to learn how to acquire more wisdom, which in turn means that our institutions of learning become devoted to that end.
The revolution we need would change every branch and aspect of academic inquiry. A basic intellectual task of academic inquiry would be to articulate our problems of living (personal, social and global) and propose and critically assess possible solutions, possible actions. This would be the task of social inquiry and the humanities. Tackling problems of knowledge would be secondary. Social inquiry would be at the heart of the academic enterprise, intellectually more fundamental than natural science.
On a rather more long-term basis, social inquiry would be concerned to help humanity build cooperatively rational methods of problem-solving into the fabric of social and political life, so that we may gradually acquire the capacity to resolve our conflicts and problems of living in more cooperatively rational ways than at present. Natural science would change to include three domains of discussion: evidence, theory, and aims - the latter including discussion of metaphysics, values and politics. Academic inquiry as a whole would become a kind of people's civil service, doing openly for the public what actual civil services are supposed to do in secret for governments. Academia would actively seek to educate the public by means of discussion and debate, and would not just study the public.
These changes are not arbitrary. They all come from demanding that academia cure its current structural irrationality, so that reason - the authentic article - may be devoted to promoting human welfare, Maxwell notes.
Maxwell firmly believes that, indeed, wisdom can be learnt and taught in schools and universities. Wisdom is surely the proper fundamental objective for the whole of the academic enterprise: to help humanity learn how to nurture and create a wiser world.
But how do we go about creating a kind of education, research and scholarship that really will help us learn wisdom?
In Maxwell’s words, it should be possible for us to develop and assess rival philosophies of life as part of social life, somewhat as theories are developed and assessed within science. Such a hierarchical methodology provides a framework within which competing views about what our aims and methods in life should be – competing religious, political and moral views – may be cooperatively assessed and tested against broadly agreed, unspecific aims (high up in the hierarchy of aims) and the experience of personal and social life. There is the possibility of cooperatively and progressively improving such philosophies of life (views about what is of value in life and how it is to be achieved) much as theories are cooperatively and progressively improved in science.
Maxwell then suggest that our aim should be to pursue wisdom-inquiry, because of its greater rigour, has intellectual standards that are, in important respects, different from those of knowledge-inquiry. Whereas knowledge-inquiry demands that emotions and desires, values, human ideals and aspirations, philosophies of life be excluded from the intellectual domain of inquiry, wisdom-inquiry requires that they be included. In order to discover what is of value in life it is essential that we attend to our feelings and desires. But not everything we desire is desirable, and not everything that feels good is good. Feelings, desires and values need to be subjected to critical scrutiny. And of course feelings, desires and values must not be permitted to influence judgements of factual truth and falsity.
Wisdom-inquiry, Maxwell reminds us, embodies a synthesis of traditional Rationalism and Romanticism. It includes elements from both, and it improves on both. It incorporates Romantic ideals of integrity, having to do with motivational and emotional honesty, honesty about desires and aims; and at the same time it incorporates traditional Rationalist ideals of integrity, having to do with respect for objective fact, knowledge, and valid argument. Traditional Rationalism takes its inspiration from science and method; Romanticism takes its inspiration from art, from imagination, and from passion. Wisdom-inquiry holds art to have a fundamental rational role in inquiry, in revealing what is of value, and unmasking false values; but science, too, is of fundamental importance. What we need, for wisdom, is interplay of sceptical rationality and emotion, interplay of mind and heart, so that we may develop mindful hearts and heartfelt minds.
The revolution we require, Maxwell argues – intellectual, institutional and cultural – if it ever comes about will be comparable in its long-term impact to that of the Renaissance, the scientific revolution, or the Enlightenment. The outcome will be traditions and institutions of learning rationally designed to help us realize what is of value in life. There are a few scattered signs that this intellectual revolution, from knowledge to wisdom, is already under way. It will need, however, much wider cooperative support – from scientists, scholars, students, research councils, university administrators, vice chancellors, teachers, the media and the general public – if it is to become anything more than what it is at present, a fragmentary and often impotent movement of protest and opposition, often at odds with itself, exercising little influence on the main body of academic work. I can hardly imagine any more important work for anyone associated with academia than, in teaching, learning and research, to help promote this revolution, Maxwell concludes, which I very much support.
To bring about and to realise the revolution that he calls for. Maxwell then suggests that we need to change, whilst recommending the following path and steps:
1. There needs to be a change in the basic intellectual aim of inquiry, so that it becomes, not just the search for knowledge, but the search for and promotion of wisdom — wisdom being the capacity to realize what is of value in life, for oneself and others, thus including knowledge, understanding and technological know-how, but much else besides.
2. There needs to be a change in the nature of academic problems, so that problems of living are included, as well as problems of knowledge. Furthermore, problems of living need to be treated as intellectually more fundamental than problems of knowledge.
3. There needs to be a change in the nature of academic ideas, so that proposals for action are included as well as claims to knowledge. Furthermore, proposals for action need to be treated as intellectually more fundamental than claims to knowledge.
4. There needs to be a change in what constitutes intellectual progress, so that progress-in-ideas-relevant-to-achieving-a-more-civilized-world is included as well as progress in knowledge, the former being indeed intellectually fundamental.
5. There needs to be a change in the idea as to where inquiry, at its most fundamental, is located. It is not esoteric theoretical physics, but rather the thinking we engage in as we seek to achieve what is of value in life.
6. There needs to be a dramatic change in the nature of social inquiry (reflecting points 1 to 5). Economics, politics, sociology, and so on, are not, fundamentally, sciences, and do not, fundamentally, have the task of improving knowledge about social phenomena. Instead, their task is threefold. First, it is to articulate problems of living, and propose and critically assess possible solutions, possible actions or policies, from the standpoint of their capacity, if implemented, to promote wiser ways of living. Second, it is to promote such cooperatively rational tackling of problems of living throughout the social world. And third, at a more basic and long-term level, it is to help build the hierarchical structure of aims and methods of aim-oriented rationality into personal, institutional and global life, thus creating frameworks within which progressive improvement of personal and social life aims-and-methods becomes possible. These three tasks are undertaken in order to promote cooperative tackling of problems of living - but also in order to enhance empathic or "personalistic" understanding between people as something of value in its own right. Acquiring knowledge of social phenomena is a subordinate activity, engaged in to facilitate the above three fundamental pursuits.
7. Natural science needs to change, so that it includes at least three levels of discussion: evidence, theory, and research aims. Discussion of aims needs to bring together scientific, metaphysical and evaluative consideration in an attempt to discover the most desirable and realizable research aims.
8. There needs to be a change in the priorities of scientific research, so that there is less military research, and more research responding to the problems of those whose needs are the greatest.
9. There needs to be a dramatic change in the relationship between social inquiry and natural science, so that social inquiry becomes intellectually more fundamental from the standpoint of tackling problems of living, promoting wisdom.
10. The way in which academic inquiry as a whole is related to the rest of the human world needs to change dramatically. Instead of being intellectually dissociated from the rest of society, academic inquiry needs to be communicating with, learning from, teaching and arguing with the rest of society - in such a way as to promote cooperative rationality and social wisdom. Academia needs to have just sufficient power to retain its independence from the pressures of government, industry, the military, and public opinion, but no more. Academia becomes a kind of civil service for the public, doing openly and independently what actual civil services are supposed to do in secret for governments.
11. There needs to be a change in the role that political and religious ideas, works of art, expressions of feelings, desires and values have within rational inquiry. Instead of being excluded, they need to be explicitly included and critically assessed, as possible indications and revelations of what is of value, and as unmasking of fraudulent values in satire and parody, vital ingredients of wisdom.
12. There need to be changes in education so that, for example, seminars devoted to the cooperative, imaginative and critical discussion of problems of living are at the heart of all education from five-year-olds onwards. Politics, which cannot be taught by knowledge-inquiry, becomes central to wisdom-inquiry, political creeds and actions being subjected to imaginative and critical scrutiny.
13. There need to be changes in the aims, priorities and character of pure science and scholarship, so that it is the curiosity, the seeing and searching, the knowing and understanding of individual persons that ultimately matters, the more impersonal, esoteric, purely intellectual aspects of science and scholarship being means to this end. Social inquiry needs to give intellectual priority to helping empathic understanding between people to flourish (as indicated in 6 above).
14. There need to be changes in the way mathematics is understood, pursued and taught. Mathematics is not a branch of knowledge at all. Rather, it is concerned to explore problematic possibilities, and to develop, systematize and unify problem-solving methods.
15. Literature needs to be put close to the heart of rational inquiry, in that it explores imaginatively our most profound problems of living and aids personalistic understanding in life by enhancing our ability to enter imaginatively into the problems and lives of others.
16. Philosophy needs to change so that it ceases to be just another specialized discipline and becomes instead that aspect of inquiry as a whole that is concerned with our most general and fundamental problems - those problems that cut across all disciplinary boundaries. Philosophy needs to become again what it was for Socrates: the attempt to devote reason to the growth of wisdom in life.
Having noted the above and especially the lack of wisdom in most that we do, leads me to think and ask why? Has, for example, our dominant economic model-the feral capitalism- has anything to do with this? Let us see.
As it has been observed, in the Western world, according to many observers, capitalism has progressively turned everything into something that could be bought or sold, and thus measuring value only by the bottom line. Slowly but surely such measures are now also being applied to the personal, cultural, social, and familial and more values at the core of society. Even time, as Benjamin Franklin told us, is money, a doctrine which horrified Max Weber in his searing indictment of the capitalist mentality as an "iron cage" without "spirit".
Here the wise words of the Bishop of Manchester speaking on the BBC Radio 4 on 14th of August 2011 at the time of the riots in England rings true:
..."I hope there'll be at least some recognition of the serious and relentless erosion of public value… The result of their disappearing is a moral deficit in private and public life that has spawned acquisitiveness and dishonesty... people of all ages and backgrounds have become "confused about the difference between right and wrong...The result is a me-first, ultra-consumerist culture, in which the quest for possession of things overrides a caring concern for others, and the key commandments become don't get caught and don't grass...This week we've had an unpleasant glimpse of the default position to which society inevitably returns when its moral imperatives are forgotten."
Given the above, it is noteworthy to see that the ways in which the great professional vocations of the West - lawyers, journalists, academics, doctors and more - have all been co-opted and corrupted by bottom line thinking. It seems that, money and "efficiency" are the values by which we stand, not law, truth or well-being, for example. Students are imagined as "customers", citizens as "shareholders". Professional associations worry about the risk to their bottom line rather than furthering the values they exist to represent. Graduates of elite Western universities are sent off to corporations like News International to be inspired by bosses such as Rupert and James Murdoch! There they learn to shut up, obey, and collaborate in the dark work of exploitation for profit, for which they will be well rewarded, at least financially speaking, whilst corrupting the nations and peoples.
Thanks in part to the grip of corporate power on the media and on political parties, few today in the West can imagine any other politics than those of big money. In the US, and increasingly also in Europe, the income differential between the poor and the wealthy already resembles that of banana republics. The downtrodden are asked to bear the burden of a financial crisis created by bankers.
Neo-liberalism has only accelerated these processes at the heart of capitalist society, destroying the so-called Western values and "social cohesion". Moreover, this is a threat that emanates from within, not without. Witness the riots in England that thanks to the feral capitalism and neo-liberalism has become one the most unequal and unjust countries in the western world, coupled by its moral, ethical and spiritual decline.
However, let me make it abundantly clear, the same vales of the feral capitalism not only has corrupted those at the bottom, but more seriously has absolutely corrupted those at the top and indeed the very top. Here the words of Peter Oborne writing in the Daily Telegraph rings so true- The moral decay of our society is as bad at the top as the bottom:
“…Indeed, I believe that the criminality in our streets cannot be dissociated from the moral disintegration in the highest ranks of modern British society. The last two decades have seen a terrifying decline in standards among the British governing elite. It has become acceptable for our politicians to lie and to cheat. An almost universal culture of selfishness and greed has grown up. It is not just the feral youth of Tottenham who have forgotten they have duties as well as rights. So have the feral rich of Chelsea and Kensington….
Our politicians –… – are just as bad. They have shown themselves prepared to ignore common decency and, in some cases, to break the law. David Cameron is happy to have some of the worst offenders in his Cabinet. Take the example of Francis Maude, who is charged with tackling public sector waste – which trade unions say is a euphemism for waging war on low‑paid workers. Yet Mr Maude made tens of thousands of pounds by breaching the spirit, though not the law, surrounding MPs’ allowances…
The Prime Minister showed no sign that he understood that something stank about yesterday’s Commons debate. He spoke of morality, but only as something which applies to the very poor: “We will restore a stronger sense of morality and responsibility – in every town, in every street and in every estate.” He appeared not to grasp that this should apply to the rich and powerful as well.”…
Oborne’s sentiments and words are echoed also by other observers. For example, Charles Moore, the influential former editor of the Daily Telegraph in an article-“I’m starting to think that the left might actually be right” suggests that the "free market" which has dominated the economy for the past three decades in fact accords freedom only to a super-rich mobile elite, able to shift its resources at will to maximise its interests. Meanwhile, the constraints and disciplines of the market condemn the rest of us to a hard slog in increasingly insecure circumstances.”
Furthermore, Douglas Carswell, one of the more right-wing Conservative Members of Parliament has noted that "the free market all too often turns out not to be a free market at all, but a corporatist racket for the few". Whilst the historian Dominic Dandbrook has castigated the capitalist system's inability to deliver on its most fundamental promise: equality of opportunity.
All the observations noted above, I believe eloquently demonstrate the double standards of the political classes and the elites, and indeed of the dominant economic/business model of capitalism.
Now let me discuss the double standard and hypocrisy at our universities, and the business schools that keep pushing the bankrupt philosophy of classical economic models that assumes that humans are rational actors who always seek to maximise their individual gains, amongst other falsehood.
Here to assist me in this task is Prof. Scott, whom I had noted before, whose words ring so true.
In an article, “Time to tackle double standards in education” he notes that:
“Hypocrisy has always been seen as a particularly English vice – the limitless ability to condone behaviour in private but attack it in public. But hypocrisy is not confined to bad behaviour; it can also run like a rotten vein through public policy. Sadly, higher education is not an exception.”
Let me share the following example with you to highlight and explain further this hypocrisy and double standards better.
Let me begin by noting the following letter from Lord Kalms to the Times, very revealing indeed:
The Times, 8 March 2011
Sir, Around 1991 I offered the London School of Economics a grant of £1 million to set up a Chair in Business Ethics. John Ashworth, at that time the Director of the LSE, encouraged the idea but had to write to me to say, regretfully, that the faculty had rejected the offer as it saw no correlation between ethics and economics. Quite.
House of Lords
What a sorry state of affairs, I must say! Shame on those at the LSE, and all others like them elsewhere, bringing Economics and the institute into such disrepute, not to mention business and the world of education, and in the process so destructively short-changing their students.
Lest we forget, it was the same establishment, the London School of Economics that turned down the funding offered to set up a Chair in Business Ethics, which later on accepted millions from the Gaddafi family and “sold” a PhD to his son!
You see, when one gives up on morality, ethics and more, for sure, one sinks to nadir of decadence. At this point, I wish to emphasise that indeed the LSE is not the only culprit. Take a look at some other “prestigious” British universities, all a washed with money from all sorts of “dictators” and other no-good-doers. For an example of what’s happening at some of the “Ivey League” universities in the US, I very highly recommend you to see The Inside Job, if you have not done already. It is very telling!!
So far, I believe, I have highlighted, elaborated and discussed many important issues. Now let me see what more comes to mind that might be of assistance to us in order to advance the cause of value-led business education and business schools for the common good.
1. Begin a Journey of self-discovery to Wisdom
A necessary step in this journey of self-discovery is to discover, promote and live for the common good. The principle of the common good reminds us that we are all really responsible for each other - we are our brothers' and sisters' keepers - and must work for social conditions which ensure that every person and every group in society is able to meet their needs and realize their potential. It follows that every group in society must take into account the rights and aspirations of other groups, and the well-being of the whole human family.
In this journey to wisdom, the business schools should actively teach and offer modules on critical thinking- to enable the students on how to unpick complex arguments and develop assertions that are not their own. These modules should take the students through how they can consider arguments from a variety of moral, ethical, philosophical and spiritual standpoints in a logical way.
The business schools must not be, and must not be seen to be, a place to celebrate the Anglo-Saxon model of business only, the market-knows-best, profit maximisation, cost minimisation, aggressive competition, privatisation, deregulation, self-regulation, free trade and more.
Instead, the students must be taught not only about wealth creation, but also about why, how and for what reason that wealth is created. The class rooms should be the place where the students are also very strongly encouraged to think critically about values such as empathy, sympathy, respect, dignity, love and compassion for all things and for all people.
This cannot be overemphasised. Values are the missing ingredients and thus, need to be introduced. Let me highlight this by sharing the gist of a new study with you. A study conducted not by an academic activist, but by a City broker at the heart of London’s financial centre, where wealth creation is at the top of agenda!
Alex Hawkes writing in the Guardian has provided a good, short summary of this study, which I quote below:
“UK riots were product of consumerism and will hit economy”: Analyst's report points to 'deeply flawed social ethos' and calls for a shift of emphasis 'from material to non-material values'”.
The recent riots in London and other big cities were the product of an "out-of-control consumerist ethos" which will have profound impacts for the UK economy, a leading City broker has said, notes Hawkes.
The report by the global head of research at Tullett Prebon, Tim Morgan, is part of a series in which the brokerage analyses bigger issues for the UK. It details recommendations to resolve what it sees as a political and economic malaise: new role models, policies to encourage savings, the channelling of private investment into creating rather than inflating assets, and greater public investment.
It warns: "We conclude that the rioting reflects a deeply flawed economic and social ethos… recklessly borrowed consumption, the breakdown both of top-end accountability and of trust in institutions, and severe failings by governments over more than two decades." The study pinpoints the philosophy behind the riots as consumerism.
Hawkes continues: “A typical internet user sees a hundred adverts an hour, the report says, and the underlying message many receive is: "Here's the ideal. You can't have it." Accompanying this is an inflation of government and private debt, a key theme of Morgan's other work.”…
“The economy has been subjected to repeated 'boom and bust' cycles, above all in property. The overall pattern has been that an over-consuming west has borrowed and spent the surpluses of the increasingly productive and under-consuming East…The dominant ethos of 'I buy, therefore I am' needs to be challenged by a shift of emphasis from material to non-material values…
The government, too, needs to consume less, and invest more. Government spending has increased by more than 50% in real terms over the last decade, but public investment has languished. Saving needs to be encouraged, and private investment needs to be channelled into asset creation, not asset inflation."
If the above is not a very good reason to compel us to begin the journey to wisdom, then, I wonder what could be?
2. Now is the Time for a Revolution in Economic Thought
The focus of economics, business, finance and management and more should be on the benefit and bounty that the economy produces, on how to let this bounty increase, and how to share the benefits justly among the people for the common good, removing the obstacles that hinder this process. Above all else the purpose of the economy should be to provide basic human needs as well as the means of establishing, maintaining, and nurturing human relationships while dealing justly with future generations (sustainability) and ethically with all life on earth (ecological balance).
Moreover, economic investigation should be accompanied by research into subjects such as anthropology, philosophy, politics, ecology, environmental ethics, and theology, to give insight into our own human mystery, as no economic theory or no economist can say who we are, where have we come from or where we are going to. All human beings and all species must be respected as part of the web of life and not relegated to narrow short term economic interests, commodification, or exploitation, as has been the case for the past few centuries.
In addition, the so called modern world (both East and West) has much to learn from the spiritual and cultural values of the worlds many indigenous peoples, both past and present. There exists much wisdom among indigenous communities, containing lessons in sharing, equality and justice which can help draw ‘modern' people into engagement with the deeper realities of their own dominant religions. Also, people who live close to the earth, who possess an earth-based spirituality typically view themselves as part of nature, part of the earth, part of a community of species as well as being part of the human community.
In a nut-shell, I believe that we should change our narrow economic obsessive and human centric language, terminology and values, to more inclusive ones, if we value sustainability and the common good.
3- Now is the Time for a new definition of the “Bottom Line” and other specifics in a New Way to Teach Economics
We should acknowledge that the new bottom line must not be all about economic and monetary targets, profit maximisation and cost minimisation, but it should involve spiritual, social and environmental consideration. When practiced under these values, then, the business is real, viable, sustainable, efficient and profitable.
Therefore, the New Bottom Line that we should tell the students now could read as follow:
“"Corporations, government policies, our educational, legal and health care practices, every institution, law, social policy and even our private behaviour should be judged 'rational', 'efficient', or 'productive' not only to the extent that they maximize money and power (The Old Bottom Line) but ALSO to the extent that they maximize love and caring, kindness and generosity, ethical and ecological behaviour, and contribute to our capacity to respond with awe, wonder and radical amazement at the grandeur and mystery of the universe and all being."
Thus, in my view, economics and business education should be built upon the following key pillars:
*It should be built on the belief that leadership is based upon a deep understanding of the self and of the core values that drive one’s actions. Thus effective leadership requires the development of a compelling personal vision that engages others by offering meaning, dignity, and purpose. The ultimate aim of leadership is the building of more humane relationships, organizations, and societies. Effective leaders need to develop the critical imagination required to embrace individual, organizational, and global change from a stance of hope and courage.
*The education path must attempt to provide a learning community in which students can develop the personal qualities of self-knowledge, self-acceptance, a restless curiosity, a desire for truth, a mature concern for others, respect for human dignity, and a thirst for justice. The Programme of study must promote academic excellence and facilitates the strengthening of conceptual, scholarly, and professional competencies for use in leadership roles that serve others. The defining of the common good, in the context of personal, organisational, and global leadership, should be an important goal of this education and training.
*It should address the need for collaborative forms of leadership in a shared-power world. There is an increasing need for interdependent and interrelated solutions to the complex ecological, political, cultural, health, and economic problems facing the people of our planet. These solutions must honour the voices of all global citizens and stakeholders from individuals to small groups to global organizations. These solutions will involve various mixtures of government (global, national, and local), private enterprise, NGO’s, as well as labour and environmental organizations.
Al in all, in a world of rising uncertainty — no matter where we live — the key question before all of us is this: How can the debate on global issues become more inclusive and better informed? How can people develop a better understanding of what connects — and divides — nations, societies and cultures in today's world?—and finally how best our universities should contribute towards the realisation of this vision and goals?
4- Now is the Time to Change our fixation with GDP Growth
As I had mentioned earlier, many graduates of the business schools are continuing to enter the business arena with a single-minded belief in economic growth as the most important measure of success. This, what they have been taught, is not true and indeed is a harmful assumption that must be challenged and changed if we wish in all honesty to address sustainability.
As James Meadway, senior economist at the New Economics Foundation, writing in the Guardian “How did the world get do fixated on GDP?” has noted, gross domestic product was not always with us. Created in the 1930s, and despite the warnings of its pioneer, it rapidly assumed centre stage in economic policymaking. Growth could now be measured targeted through policy. For the right, it would be a simple gauge of national economic virility. For the left, it offered the more subtle appeal of an end to disputes over the distribution of wealth. Growth would deliver the public goods – secure employment and a functioning welfare state.
That consensus has now held for 50 years or more. Yet mounting evidence suggests that GDP growth does not register many of the things people actually care about. It is a record of some aspects of economic life, but it fails to capture wider social needs and demands. Health, quality of life and inequality play no part in its measurement.
Meadway notes that, there is a growing consensus that rising GDP since the mid-1970s in the US and the UK, for wxample, has become disconnected from reported measures of wellbeing. We know that falling GDP produces misery, as unemployment rises and incomes collapse. But the reverse does not apply. Higher output does not necessarily mean happier people. Even growth's blunt promise of material prosperity is failing. GDP in the UK increased by 11% from 2003 to 2008. Over the same period, median real incomes stagnated. The economy boomed, but few shared in its rewards. Living standards were maintained through unsustainable debt. As we crawl back into recession, the majority will find those rewards still harder to come by – even if a minority continue to grow fat.
Thus, Meadway argues that the old consensus needs breaking. We need to fixate less on growth alone. A genuine rebalancing, however, cannot come from maintaining status quo. Action is needed now. Economic policy must be broadened towards meaningful goals – creating secure, well-paid jobs; minimising environmental damage.
Many sentiments and observations, noted above, by Meadway, are also echoed by many others. For example, George Monbiot has remarked that”Once our needs had been met, continued economic growth did most people few favours. During the second half of the growth frenzy, unemployment rose, inequality rose, social mobility declined, the poor lost amenities (such as housing) while the rich enhanced theirs. In 2004, at the height of the longest boom the UK has ever experienced, the Nuffield Foundation published this extraordinary finding: "Rises in mental health problems seem to be associated with improvements in economic conditions."
… Governments cannot afford to bail out the banks again. Quantitative easing can no longer help, nor can currency depreciation. Italy and Spain will be forced, in effect, to default, and Germany won't pay out any more. The successful capitalist reached this striking conclusion: "Karl Marx, it seems, was partly right in arguing that globalisation, financial intermediation run amok, and redistribution of income and wealth from labour to capital could lead capitalism to self-destruct."
Monbiot then notes that, “Nor can the current economic system address the environmental crisis. Its advocates promised that economic growth and environmental damage could be decoupled: better technology and efficiency would allow us to use fewer resources even while increasing economic output. Nothing remotely like it has happened. In some cases there has been a decline in resource intensity, which means a lower use of materials per dollar of economic output but higher overall consumption. In some cases – such as iron ore, bauxite and cement – even this hasn't happened: resource use per dollar has risen.”
Monbiot invites us to take a serious look at Prof. Tim Jackson’s book, Prosperity Without Growth, whose time has come.
The book “points out that the financial crisis was caused not by isolated malpractice but by the systematic deregulation of the banks by governments, in order to stimulate economic growth by issuing more debt. Growth and the need to encourage it is the problem, and in the rich world it no longer bears any relationship to prosperity.
Jackson accepts that material wellbeing is a crucial component of prosperity, and that growth is essential to the wellbeing of the poorest nations. But in countries such as the UK, continued growth and the policies which promote it undermine prosperity, which he defines as freedom from adversity or affliction. This means, among other blessings, health, happiness, good relationships, strong communities, confidence about the future, a sense of meaning and purpose.
Monbiot then asks: But how do you escape from growth without tanking the economy – and our prosperity? Under the current system, you can't: when growth stops, it collapses. So Jackson has begun developing a macroeconomic model which would allow economic output to be stabilised. He experiments with raising the ratio of investment to consumption, changing the nature and conditions of investment and shifting the balance from private to public spending, while staying within tight constraints on the use of resources. He finds that the redistribution of both income and employment (through shorter working hours) is essential to the project. So is re-regulation of the banks, enhanced taxation of resources and pollution and measures to discourage manic consumption, such as tighter restrictions on advertising.”
I very much hope that the business schools will hear this call for action, rise to the challenge and make sure their graduates are not under any false assumption that what matters most is the growth of economy, regardless.
5- Now is the Time for an “MBA Educators’ Oath”
In the post- financial and economic crises and meltdown, the issue of ethics and corporate social responsibility has taken on greater urgency and relevance. Business schools have an important part to play in this domain. Ethics is fundamental to coping with many of the challenges that will face corporate executives in the future, not least the impact of globalisation, which will throw up a number of leadership dilemmas. However, based on current evidence, the record of the business schools by and large is not a good one. Thus, the big question is: What can be done about it?
I firmly believe that, this will not come about, so long as we do not have a “Hippocratic Oath” for those teaching at the business schools. Ethics, morality, spirituality, and their incorporation into teaching, is too important to be left to a system not accountable to certain checks and balances, as well as points of reference and accountability.
As we all know, today, business education is much more scientific than it was in its early years. It has been made more rigorous by the rising influence of statistics, mathematics, IT and economics. I believe in analytics. Most organizations need more analytics. That goes without saying.
But, and indeed, as the current and persisting crises clearly demonstrate, it is a folly to pretend that analytics are a substitute for values and vision. Indeed, an over-reliance on analytics leaves managers poorly prepared to lead in moments when statistics obscure the full human dimensions of a choice.
The issue is not that MBA programmes haven't taught leadership and ethics and corporate social responsibility. They indeed have. But most do it poorly. As it has been noted by many observers, it seems that leadership courses tend to emphasize such things as social influence and public speaking, while ethics courses often focus on legal aspects. The moral, spiritual, cultural, religious and civilisational aspects of ethics are by and large ignored. This leaves the connection between values, leadership and action much underdeveloped, least understood and most confusing to the students. Leadership entails thinking beyond the day's crises to focus on the longer term, grasping the impact of decisions on broader constituencies, and sensing a responsibility that goes far beyond the immediate result of a decision, a responsibility far beyond profit maximisation, cost minimisation and the highest returns to the shareholders, for example. True leadership involves not merely grasping the larger ramifications of business decisions, not merely considering the greater good of society, but of possessing values whereby the common good is seminal and truly cared about.
MBA students are too often unaware of the essence of ethical leadership, too unaware of the cultural and spiritual dimensions of ethics, too unappreciative of the role of institutions and structures which govern, manage, and enable markets. For example, in workshops at a leading business school, students were asked to list the qualities that a successful business leader should possess. While vision and business acumen are invariably among the first qualities listed, honesty and responsibility for others emerge only after considerable discussion. Meanwhile, when asked about the characteristics they most value in human beings, compassion, generosity, kindness, sympathy, empathy, integrity, responsibility and the common good always appear at the bottom of the list. Likewise in leading business schools students are unable to trace the connection between ethics and culture, between well functioning markets and the larger social-political system.
In addition, an MBA education needs to be grounded in a realistic view of when markets work well and when they do not. Standard economics teaches that markets fail to be efficient in the cases of externalities, public goods, asymmetrical information, and a lack of competition. Even when efficient, markets are not able to provide an adequate social safety net nor are they able to provide for social or economic justice. Markets can not work except in a legal, political, social, and ethical context.
In order to deal with the cases of market failure as well as issues of social and economic injustice, institutions and structures are created at the local, national, and global levels, to govern, manage, and enable the market, without which not only could markets not hope to work well, they likely could not even exist. What it means to be human, to live a good life, to find happiness, are not questions that can be answered by the market alone, or even by economics or business alone. MBA education must be infused with the values and sensibilities of human culture, philosophical and moral principles, as well as with a keen appreciation for the role of government and civil society.
We need to better prepare our students for a value-led leadership. This requires creating a deeper understanding of the difficult decisions they will face, often under enormous pressure. We must make them aware that these decisions will challenge their values, and that, consequently, they need to clarify the values they stand for. We need to make sure they engage in a continuing dialogue with their peers, faculty and alumni, and learn to hold themselves and their group accountable for the commitments, as well as the decisions they make.
In the final analysis, the solution to ethical challenges in business must be a shared responsibility between the students and the faculty. The students have shown us the way: they have presented us with their oath. It is high time we declare to them our own oath also. As educators we must assume more responsibility by providing better, not less, leadership development. Only then might our graduates take an oath they can actually live up to. Below is my own offerings on what our oath might look like.
The link below, is an example of what an” MBA Educators’ Oath” might look like:
6- Now is the Time to Celebrate Service, Volunteerism, and Contentment
Every year The Sunday Times publishes the Rich List- that annual worshipping at the shrine of wealth, power, position, bonuses, large inheritances, and sharp elbows. It is to celebrate and promote the wrong values, the greed is good, shop till you drop and that what matters most is how much you have and how much you own. This, as we all know very well by now, has brought us a very bitter harvest. Surely there must be another way, another list.
Here instead of the Rich List, I wish to recommend the annual Independent on Sunday Happy List, where every year outstanding examples of people who volunteer, care, educate, or do something special to make Britain and the world a more contented, better-adjusted, and supportive place are noted.
The Happy List celebrates a different set of values: the people who put good work ahead of fat profit. It honours those who give back, rather than take; those who help others or do something worthwhile without thought of enriching themselves, and, in many cases, at considerable personal cost and consequences. This, in contrast to the Rich List, is the vision to build community, encourage dialogue and openness, while developing rewarding and fruitful relationships for the common good.
It shows what can become possible with a vision that positions the quest for economic and social justice, peace and ecological sustainability, ethical and corporate social responsibility within the framework of a spiritual consciousness grounded in the practice of open-heartedness, generosity, and caring for others.
I suggest that The Happy List to be recommended as core-reading at all our business schools, to ispire students grow into ethical and effective leaders in the community.
This, then, should be followed by offering courses at the business schools on “What is Happiness?”- What is it that gives us a more lasting happiness, rather than the transient ones: money, power, position and possession? As it stands, we are obsessed with unbridled growth, “more and more is better” philosophy, as well as so much emphasis on competition. Can we not engage with our students and start thinking “about when we have sufficient – sufficient money, sufficient stuff – and whether we really need the things we think we do, beyond what we already have?” Can we not tell them “that we should look less at what our next-door neighbours have, and more at what the rest of the planet dreams of having? Then, we should try to learn to be content where we are. In a world running out of resources, the most important ethical and political and ecological idea can be summed up in one simple word: "enough". (Why Happiness Should be Taught at Our Universities? http://gcgi.info/news/118-why-happiness-should-be-taught-at-our-universities )
7- Now is the Time for a” Education Fund for Action on the Global Common Good and Sustainable Education”
A good quality, meaningful and relevant education as called for above, needs a proper funding, which I suggest cannot be left to the market forces. To move forward I wish to offer the following path and direction.
As noted already, the socio-economic and financial crises have brought education sharply into global focus. Education is a lifetime pursuit and an investment for the future. Education is essential for instilling values necessary to bring about stability, conflict resolution, and replacing violence, fear and ignorance with hope and purpose. Humanity’s best hope is always served best with access to quality and affordable education. Today, education is truly global. We now must try to combine our national and global interests, bringing ideas and resources together for the common good. Globalisation is affecting all aspects of our lives. We should understand how globalisation is changing education systems today, and how best to prepare our young people to learn and succeed in a globalised world. It is vital to understand the issues associated with education’s response to globalisation.
The sharing of knowledge, ideas and values is the noblest way to transcend barriers. As such, global education is potentially an immensely powerful tool,
helping people from all nations develop dynamic societies, open to dialogue and innovative solutions for tomorrow. The foremost challenges are to work together towards greater mutual respect and understanding for the greater good. Promote increased access and equality throughout the world and prepare students for their role as global citizens.
We must all realize that there must be another way in conducting the world’s affairs, moving away from poverty, hopelessness, helplessness, anger, fear, terrorism and wars to peace, harmony, hope, purpose, commitment, virtue and wisdom. However, sadly, the impact of the economic crisis on higher education has been profound and devastating, making it impossible for the education to deliver its noble objectives. Already, our HE and FE institutions have faced continually decreasing funding from governments at all levels. With the global financial meltdown, it is likely that higher educational institutions will face harder times. Now that education at all levels is poised to be the “whipping boy” of budgetary allocations in the face of the meltdown, what bail out options are available for this and other similar sectors?
There are tens of millions of young people around the world, between the ages of 18 and 25-many with degrees who are unable to find suitable employment or are under-employed. They are not the guilty ones. They did not cause the "meltdown", thus, why is it that they are paying for the “crimes” of others? They are left with massive debts, student loans and more, with their hopes and dreams shattered. On top of this, fees have been raised and continue to rise significantly, loans have become more expensive and harder to obtain, university departments and courses being closed, new buildings and refurbishments stopped, professors losing jobs, contracts of the part-time instructors not renewed, classes getting larger, staff-student ratios rising rapidly,...Need I say more?
How will all this impact education? Where do we go from here? What we need now, what the world is crying out loud for, after decades of war, terrorism, death and destruction, financial crises, and more is surely a new strategy calling for “The Humanitarian and Development Surge”, highlighting a new path, a new direction with a new moral, ethical and spiritual compass. Therefore, in order to enable us to create a better world, securing democracy, freedom and prosperity for all, I propose the establishment of The Education Fund for Action on the Global Common Good. A Fund to bring the people of the world together to do something extraordinary, so that we all become partners, rising to the challenges facing us all, tackling conflict, disease, global warming, terrorism, poverty, and more.
By working together on a shared cause, we will be part of a larger movement to build trust, understanding, sympathy, empathy and respect between the world’s civilizations and peoples, without which, it will be impossible to heal our world. The Fund will allow us to implement our mission by coordinating our efforts to influence policies, practices, research, and interventions in a manner to bring about a more socially just and ecologically balanced world for our children and grandchildren. I strongly believe that Education is our pathway to equal dignity and global peace.
With a small fraction of the sums currently spent on wars and weapons of mass destruction we can make this possible. This fund will ensure the realisation of all the peoples’ dream, all over the world. Let us grasp this call. Let us become the instrument of hope. Let us become that dream.
To conclude, this is an exciting time for our field, for our profession, for our passion. Yet, it is also a troubling time. As many have said, economics, business, and business schools are not without blame for the crises which are engulfing the planet, the economy, and our profession. They must change. What we teach students must change. It must change if it is to play a constructive role in solving the multiple and multi-dimensional crises that so engulf our world, our species, the fabric of human community, relationship, and the web of life. We are running out of time.
If our field does not change, if the revolution in thinking we have called for does not happen, if we do not revisit the rich and fertile soil in which our field was born, the moral philosophy amid the broader questions of human existence, meaning, and ecology, then not only will we have retreated from the chance to play a constructive role in solving these crises, we will inherit well deserved scorn and contempt. The opportunity is upon us. Let us seize it. To let go of this opportunity is an affront to our humanity and our vocation. “We must come together as a planetary family to map our future based on economics, ecology, environment, ethics, empathy and education.” We must not let down our children, grandchildren, our students.
Finally in these concluding remarks I wish to congratulate and salute the business schools which have already began the task of transition to sustainable education. As it has been noted, training future business leaders in finance, strategic management, and analytic reasoning continues to be the province of business schools. In the U.S. alone, more than 100,000 Masters Degrees in business are conferred each year. Business schools are beginning to address social and environmental issues, but there is wide variance in the depth and integration of sustainability. Though business schools are traditionally ranked on outgoing salaries, job placement and test scores, there is increasing pressure to take sustainability and social justice more seriously. This pressure comes from all sides: employers, MBA alumni, faculty and students.
As it has often been observed, new challenges require new competencies. New competencies arise from assuming new perspectives and envisioning new solutions. New challenges also require new leadership skills. Subject expertise needs to be complemented with the ability to drive change and implement new solutions across organisational boundaries, and indeed some business schools are answering this call, for which they should be commended, whilst others must seriously begin their own soul-searching journey, discovering the path towards sustainability and the common good. (For a selection of the business schools, affecting change towards sustainability and the common good, see references below)*.
So you have it. I am delighted for this opportunity: sharing a moment or two with you, reflecting upon some timely issues. I hope you know that, in this piece I presented you, my only guiding principle was to make an honourable intervention in the debate on sustainable education for the common good, offering, I hope, a hopeful future.
In closing, I cannot find better words, from a better teacher, than Rumi:
“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field, I’ll meet you there.”
Chris Hedges, “Why the United States is Destroying Its Education System?”
http://www.truthdig.com/ (11 April 2011)
Leo Hickman, “MBA course: ‘blind pursuit of profits is destroying the planet’, The Guardian, Tuesday 5 April 2011
Rosie Bristow (for the Guardian Professional Network), “Live discussion: The role of business schools in advancing sustainability”, The Guardian, Wednesday 20 July 2011
Peter Scott, “Time to tackle double standards in education”, The Guardian, Monday 1 August 2011
Tamson Pietsch, “Teaching Styles in HE: to inform or enlighten?”, The Guardian, Wednesday 17 August 2011
Knowledge to Wisdom, http://www.knowledgetowisdom.org/
Nicholas Maxwell, “Does Science Provide Us with the Methodological Key to Wisdom?” I am grateful to Prof. Evelin Lindner, World Dignity University, Oslo, Norway, for providing me with the text of this paper.
Bertrand Russell, “Knowledge and Wisdom”, 1954, http://www005.upp.so-net.ne.jp/russell/1073-KW.HTM
Stefan Collini, “University ‘market’ is a con”, The Guardian, Friday 19 August 2011
Graeme Archer, “We should be philosophical about university”, The Guardian, Friday 19 August 2011
Peter Oborne, “The moral decay of our society is as bad at the top as the bottom”, The Telegraph, 11 August 2011
Charles Moore, “I'm starting to think that the Left might actually be right: What with the the phone-hacking scandal, the eurozone crisis and the US economic woes, the greedy few have left people disillusioned with our debased democracies”, The Telgraph, 22 July 2011
Gordon Pitts, “Peggy Cunningham: Breaking the monster mould”, The Globe and Mail, 16 March 2009
Carla Millar and Eve Poole, “Business schools arefailing to teach ethical leadership”, The Guardian, Firday 26 November 2010
Larry Cuban and Dorothy Shipps (2000), Reconstructing the common good in education: coping with intractable American dilemmas, Stanford University Press
Seumas Milne, “These riots reflect a society run on greed and looting”, The Guardian, Wednesday 10 August 2011
James Meadway, “How did the world get so fixated on GDP?”, The Guardian, Wednesday 10 August 2011
George Monbiot, “As the dream of economic growth dies, a new plan awaits testing”, The Guardian, Monday 22 August 2011
Julian Coman, “Why are the failings of capitalism only being expressed by the right?” The Observer, Sunday 21 August 2011
Alex Hawkes, “UK riots were product of consumerism and will hit economy, says City broker”, The Guardian, Monday 22 August 2011
Will Hutton, “We have forgotten the economic lessons our forebears taught us”, The Observer, Sunday 10 April 2011
Roger Bootle, “Economics is far too important to be left in the care of academics”, The Telegraph, 24 April 2011
Zosia Bielski, “Today’s college kids are 40-per-cent less empathetic, study finds”, The Globe and Mail, 1 June 2010
John Harris, “Who are the real looters? Rioters or MPs? You help yourself to hundreds of Pounds worth of fancy chairs, rugs, lamps. Are you not in the same moral ballpark as looters?” The Guardian, Friday 19 August 2011
Naomi Klein, “Looting with the lights on- We keep hearing England's riots weren't political, but looters know that their elites have been committing daylight robbery”, The Guardian, Thursday 18 August 2011
Fred Dallmayer (2007) In search of the Good Life-A Pedagogy for Troubled Times, Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky
Tim Jackson (2009) Prosperity Without Growth-Economics for a Finite Planet, London and New York: Earthscan
Kamran Mofid, “Small is Beautiful: The Wisdom of E.F. Schumacher”, http://gcgi.info/news/128-small-is-beautiful-the-wisdom-of-ef-schumacher
Kamran Mofid, “Globalisation and Education for the Common Good: A Path to Sustainability, Well-being and Happiness”, http://gcgi.info/news/109-globalisation-and-education-for-the-common-good-a-path-to-sustainability-well-being-and-happiness
Kamran Mofid (2002) Globalisation for the Common Good, London: Shepheard-Walwyn
Kamran Mofid and Marcus Braybrooke (2005) Promoting the Common Good, London: Shepheard-Walwyn
Kamran Mofid and Steve Szeghi, “Economics and Economists Engulfed By Crises: What Do We Tell the Students?” http://gcgi.info/news/91-economics-and-economists-engulfed-by-crises-what-do-we-tell-the-students
The Independent on Sunday, Happy List
The Sunday Times, Rich List
*See a selection of business schools affecting change towards sustainability in education and business:
*Kamran Mofid is Adjunct Professor at Dalhousie School of Business, Dalhousie University, Canada, Founder of the Globalisation for the Common Good Initiative (founded at an international conference in Oxford in 2002) and Co- founder/Editor, Journal of Globalisation for the Common Good, member of the International Coordinating Committee (ICC) of the World Public Forum, Dialogue of Civilisations, Moscow and Vienna, and Founding Member, World Dignity University, and Global Advisory Board, Human Dignity and Humiliation Studies, Norway. Mofid received his BA and MA in economics from the University of Windsor, Canada in 1980 and 1982 respectively. In 1986 he was awarded his doctorate in economics from the University of Birmingham, UK. In 2001 he received a Certificate in Education in Pastoral Studies at Plater College, Oxford. From 1980 to 2000 he was Economic Teaching Assistant, Tutor, Lecturer and Senior Lecturer at Universities of Windsor (Canada), Birmingham, Bristol, Wolverhampton, and Coventry (UK). Mofid's work is highly interdisciplinary, drawing on Economics, Business, Politics, International Relations, Theology, Culture, Ecology, Ethics and Spirituality. Mofid's writings have appeared in leading scholarly journals, popular magazines and newspapers. His books include Development Planning in Iran: From Monarchy to Islamic Republic , The Economic Consequences of the Gulf war, Globalisation for the Common Good, Business Ethics, Corporate Social Responsibility and Globalisation for the Common Good , Promoting the Common Good (with Rev. Dr. Marcus Braybrooke, 2005), and A non-Violent Path to Conflict Resolution and Peace Building (Co-authored, 2008).