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Jun032011

Can Ethics Be Taught?

When employees are under constant pressure by the top brass in their respective organizations to cut costs and increase efficiency, they are often presented with a moral quandary in which their jobs depend upon cheating or fudging reports in order to produce the required numbers. Forging the right ethics must start at the source of one's auditing and financial career -- the classroom. After the second big financial crisis in just one decade, critics are beginning to question what exactly business schools are teaching corporate leaders of America, and many schools are now beginning to listen.

A few years ago, the CPA Journal published a report on how ethics training can be incorporated into what it considers to be an already over-packed curriculum.  Mary C. Gentile, a writer for Bloomberg Businessweek, offers a detailed analysis of why business schools have failed to stop the new age of widespread cheating.  

Two of the biggest names in the business school world, Harvard and Yale, have been some of the loudest in calling for new ethics training. One of the biggest movements in ethics training has been the MBA Oath, created by a few Harvard MBA grads in 2008 and spoken by the school's graduating class for each of the past two years. Even with 3,400 signatories and support from top business schools such as Yale, Harvard, and Columbia, the influence of the MBA oath looks to grow further - one of its principal advocates, Nitin Nohria, was recently appointed as dean of Harvard's business program. Another prime example is the Giving Voice to Values movement being fostered by the Aspen Institute, which stresses not a focus on ethical analysis, but ethical implementation.

How far can ethics courses in accounting really go? Is bad behavior a sign of a few bad eggs (the normal response from the business school world for years) or is it an outgrowth of the status quo? Click here to read an insightful article that probes these questions more in depth.  

Others' arguments are plain and simple: this new rise in business training ethics is useless.

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