I read recently that the Harvard Business School is making major changes to its curriculum and that the changes, according to its marketing release, are aimed to “create leaders of competence and character, rather than just connections and credentials”. Evidently, there is a certain concern and maybe a little guilt that 58% of its graduates go into financial services and consulting and, as its Dean noted, that it helped create a culture that had something to do with the financial sector meltdown and the decline in public trust of business. So a big objective now is to create more “ethical leaders”. I wish them well, but I am reminded of John Wooden’s admonishment that “sports do not build character; they reveal it”. The same goes for business and ethics. And where do we secure a solid foundation in ethics for students beyond its principle sources in the family and religion? In the study of the humanities and liberal arts, primarily the Western intellectual tradition and the foundations of Western civilization and American ideals. So while we strive to correct the deficiencies of our professional schools, let’s also correct the damage that has been done to the core curriculum in the liberal arts in our leading universities over the past century.
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