Phi Beta Cons

Et tu, Business Schools?

The kudzu-like creep of statist propaganda across the landscape of higher education has reached business schools. Back in February, the Wall Street Journal ran an enlightening article by a recent graduate of Bentley University, which is regarded as having one of the top undergraduate business schools. Author Matthew Tice in his piece entitled “My Antibusiness Business Education” lamented “Unfortunately, only 20% of the 122 credits that I needed to graduate went toward satisfying the requirements for my Finance major, while more than half of the courses I took seemed designed to turn me into a self-loathing Finance major.” Particularly upsetting to him was his “business law and ethics” class, which focused on sustainability and corporate social responsibility.

In this week’s Pope Center Clarion Call, Jane Shaw takes up that matter, asking “What’s Wrong with Business Schools?”

She cites the concerns of Fred Smith, founder of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, who maintains that business schools are doing just what the famed economist Joseph Schumpeter warned would happen, namely that business leaders would stop defending capitalism and fall in with the mobs calling for “fairness.” A Harvard Business School professor stokes those fears with a book calling for business school education to become “softer” and more focused on “helping aims.”

At least, there is some resistance. Shaw also quotes another Harvard Business School prof who is alarmed that business schools are “losing interest in a fundamental aspect of capitalism — competition.”

“If Fred Smith is right — that ‘most business schools now argue that business should accept guilt, move toward corporate social responsibility’ — it’s hard to include competitiveness in the course catalog,” Shaw concludes. “If you believe that your fundamental activity is illegitimate, how can you pursue it fervently?”

One possible corrective to this could come from the business community itself. Insofar as business decision-makers are still focused on competition and profits, they’ll figure out which schools are sending forth graduates who’ve been steeped in collectivist notions that sound nice in college classrooms but are a useless distraction in the real world. Eventually, word will spread that some business schools are to be avoided for that reason. Some firms may decided that b-school credentials are not a plus at all.

George Leef is the director of research for the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy.

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