My Economics and Business Educators’ Oath: My Promise to My Students
- Kamran Mofid
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First written on 15 March 2011
Updated on 27 June 2015
Below you will find the list of my promises to you should you decide to take a module in business or economics with me, or come to my public lectures on business ethics and responsible leadership. In the final analysis, I firmly believe that the solution to ethical challenges in business must be a shared responsibility between the students and the faculty. You- the students- have shown us the way: you have presented us with your own MBA oath+. It is high time we- the educators- declare to you our own oath too. As educators we must assume more responsibility by providing better leadership development. Only then might our graduates take an oath they can actually live up to. Below is my oath and promise to you.
Before anything else, let me tell you what My Teaching Vision is:
I firmly believe that education should be a path to wisdom and educators are here to make a difference: To do something meaningful and to leave a legacy that guides future generations to take action in the interest of the common good, building a better world. Educational leaders should seek to create cultures where people learn together and people lead together to create real and deep sustainable change.
My Economics and Business Educators’ Oath
My classroom and my lectures are not just an economic sphere, they are the region of the human spirit and hope
First, let me tell you this: In sharp contrast to what modern, market-fundamentalist and values-free economics and economists tell us, I very strongly believe that people are priceless. So, when you come to my lectures, you are not a customer, I am not a seller of a service or commodity. My classroom is not a marketplace, a fancy bazar, or a factory converter belt. I believe in the wisdom of our sages who have reminded us, again and again, that teaching is more than a noble profession. It is a vocation, a calling... The teacher is the most important person in any civilisation, as on him or her depends the molding of the nation.
All in all, my teaching is based on and inseparable from our understanding of the entire web of life, with dignity and respect for all creation and all that gives life meaning. It will not be about making money at all costs, production and consumption. It will also be about making life-lasting values and contributing to what makes us human in this journey we call life.
This may not be as fashionable idea as it once was in yesteryears. But, it still resonates with me. It is still my fashion. Be assured of that. This is my first promise to you.
*I admit that in the wake of the financial crisis of 2008 and many more before and since, public opinion of business, business leaders, business schools, economists and MBA graduates has dipped to record lows. Many have become the butt of jokes and ridicule, suspected of knowing anything of value, beauty or wisdom.
*I admit to the considerable role of the business schools and economics/business academics in the implosion of the current crises. I admit that surely some of our teachings must be held responsible for the fact that hedge funds, private equity, investment banking, venture capital and consulting, creative accounting and loan structures, the so-called high priesthood of financial capitalism, were/are overwhelmingly MBAs’ preferred job destinations.
*I admit that it is high time that business schools and the MBA/Economics educators reflect upon the role and the responsibility of their graduates in the carnage of Wall Street and consider how business and economics education have contributed to a mindset that has led to the excesses that have brought us all a very bitter harvest.
To set the record right and to give you a values-led business education that you are justly demanding, I commit myself to the following principles in my teaching and engagement with you:
* I will teach you that ethics is the moral analysis of business activity and practices. In my dialogue with you, we consider business actions and decisions in the light of moral, philosophical and spiritual principles and values, and ask whether ethical motives in business activity would make business better and more successful.
What are my educational/teaching ethos& values?
Before saying more, let me share with you the philosophy, the vision and values which underpin my thinking and have guided me in offering this suggested path for the common good. Here I am most humbly inspired by Lao Tzu, a mystic philosopher of ancient China, considered the founder of Taoism. He said:
Some say that my teaching is nonsense.
Others call it lofty but impractical.
But to those who have looked inside themselves,
this nonsense makes perfect sense.
And to those who put it into practice,
this loftiness has roots that go deep.
I have just three things to teach:
simplicity, patience, compassion.
These three are your greatest treasures.
Simple in actions and in thoughts,
you return to the source of being.
Patient with both friends and enemies,
you accord with the way things are.
Compassionate toward yourself,
You reconcile all beings in the world.
Statement of Ethical Principles
‘We have to build a better man before we can build a better society.’-Paul Tillich
‘Try not to become a man of success, but a man of value.’ - Albert Einstein
- When I tell you to create wealth, I will also ask you: Why, How and for what reason wealth should be made?
- I will ask you to reflect upon the true meaning of wealth, that perhaps the greatest wealth is not stored in things but in relationships and community, happiness, contentment and well-being.
- When I tell you about scarcity and competition, I will also tell you about abundance and co-operation.
- When I tell you about free trade, I will also tell you about fair trade.
- When I tell you about GNP – Gross National Product – I will also tell you about GNH – Gross National Happiness.
- When I tell you about profit maximisation and cost minimisation, about the highest returns to the shareholders, I will also tell you about social consciousness, accountability to the community, sustainability and respect for creation and the creator. I will tell that without humanity, business is a house of cards built on shifting sands.
In my teaching I remain mindful of life’s bigger questions that rarely find their way into the business schools and departments of economics, questions that are deeply spiritual:
- What is the source of true happiness and well-being? What is the good life? What is the purpose of economic life? What is true affluence? What is genuine wealth? Does money hold the secret to having a happy life? Should money be a means to an end or the goal itself? Other questions include: What is education? What is knowledge? What is a university? What does it mean to be a human being living on a spaceship with finite resources? How can we contribute to creating the new civilisation for the common good?
To achieve the above mentioned principles, I acknowledge that:
- Business education should fill a burning need in the contemporary world: education that is meaningful for our present, and relevant to our future. It should also fill a growing demand by you to discover: What kind of world do we live in? What kind of future can we expect? And what can we do to create a better world for ourselves, and for our fellow members of the human community on this planet, our home?
- Filling this need and responding to this demand calls for expert, informed, down-to-earth and at the same time visionary education. It calls for a curriculum that embraces all the facts and events, whether they belong classically to the physical, the biological, or to the human and social sciences. We live on a shared planet: on Spaceship Earth, and everything that happens here affects every one of us. And every one of us is an architect of the future of humankind, for what each of us does affects, and so concerns, everyone else.
- We must reorient economics, business and the world of education and work towards a truly meaningful and values-based development of human well-being, in balance with the well-being of nature, not simply the pursuit of unbridled economic growth, consumerism and materialism. The world of autistic economics and business must change and only then we can claim that we are genuinely pursuing a wealth creation model that is providing for the happiness and the good life for the good of all.
- Our teaching should be far more values-based, reflecting the real world, and the deeper aspirations of its peoples. And that is not mathematical, mechanical and robot- like. It must be people oriented and nature based. In short, in the wise words of E. F. Schumacher “economics as if people mattered”, as described in his acclaimed book “Small is beautiful”.
- My teachings should enable you to discover how you can make the economy serve the interests of society, not the other way around, as it is mostly the case today. You should be taught that a sustainable and prosperous global economy needs to be for the common good, in which a fair society and the environment accompany profits. The failure of markets, institutions and morality during the current financial crisis has shown that the emergence of global capitalism has brought a new set of risks demanding an ethical, moral and spiritual framework.
I will teach you a value-led “Bottom Line”
- I 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 considerations. When practiced under these values, then, the business is real, viable, sustainable, efficient and profitable.
Therefore, the New Bottom Line that I will tell you 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 maximise money and power (The Old Bottom Line) but ALSO to the extent that they maximise 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."
Given my oath to you, the economics and business education that I teach you are built upon the following key pillars:
- 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 you 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, Civil Societies, as well as labour and environmental organizations. The solutions should fully embrace values from all cultures and traditions and represent a dialogue amongst civilisations.’
- Now, it goes without saying that, I am very much looking forward to our classes, where I can share all these in more detail with you, and also hearing your stories, your perspectives and insights. It is only then that we can look forward to and proceed together in hope.
- If you are so inspired, please share this with others.
- Prof. Kamran Mofid, PhD (Econ)
+Students’ MBA Oath: The MBA Oath | Responsible Value Creation