Teaching Normatively: An Approach for Integrating Mission Values Across the Business Curriculum

Teaching Normatively: An Approach for Integrating Mission Values Across the Business Curriculum

Brian K. Steverson, Adriane D. Leithauser
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-5345-9.ch010
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This chapter offers a way to seamlessly, efficiently, and effectively integrate mission values into any core business course. It describes an approach to teaching business ethics developed over the past two decades and explains how that approach can be used by any business faculty to incorporate into their courses a substantive discussion of the role of mission values in contextualizing the specific knowledge and skills that business students are asked to master as they move through the curriculum. This approach to mission-driven business education is properly described as teaching normatively.
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As the extent of the unravelling of financial and real estate markets became fully known and the Great Recession began in 2008-09, it became clear that there was no shortage of suspects for causing the crisis. Schools of business did not escape this assignment of blame. In 2008, a piece appeared in the New York Times on March 15 placing at least some of the blame for the crisis on MBA programs across the country (Holland, 2009). Quoting Angel Cabrera, Dean of the Thunderbird School of Global Management,

It is so obvious that something big has failed. We can look the other way, but come on. The CEO’s of those companies, those are the people we used to brag about. We cannot say, “Well, it wasn’t our fault” when there is such a systemic, widespread failure of leadership (Holland, 2009).

Holland argues that beginning in the 1970’s, business school faculty adopted the pedagogical philosophy that their job was to produce graduates trained in the ways and means of maximizing wealth generation and shareholder returns at the expense of a concern for the impacts such an obsession with financial returns could have on the larger economic well-being of the nation. This criticism led schools such as Harvard and Wharton to restructure their curricula in the hopes that new graduates will be better prepared to assume leadership roles upon graduation (Middleton and Light, 2011).

Ironically, the genealogy of American schools of business is founded on the commitment to train business leaders to regard themselves and the work they do as belonging to that select group of occupations that society regards as “professions,” which places business in the same social class as medicine, the law, and the clergy. For example, in 1901, Henry Smith Pritchett, then president of MIT, in a speech before the New England Cotton Manufacturers Association and later in print, urged those engaged in the education of future business leaders to break with the narrow, “business-only” view of their educational responsibilities that was dominant at the time, and instead revision themselves as engaged in the development and implementation of a new profession:

[T]he conditions of modern life are such, the facilities of communication are so great and play such a part in success, the relations of men are so complex and upon so large a scale, that the time is near when those who are to direct great organizations, who are to control and develop manufactures between nations – in a word, the Captains of Commerce – must look upon their calling as a profession, not a business; and for this profession there is a training to be had in the schools which will not only save time for the individual, but which will develop a broader, a more efficient and a higher type of man; a training which shall bring not only a keener vision but also a wider outlook and a better perspective. (quoted in Khurana, 2007: 101).

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