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Critical Review of Business Ethics Education

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Several cases of immoral practices in eminent companies such as Enron and WorldCom have raised the issues of the importance of having business ethics education in higher education institutions, in anticipation that it could prevent or diminish the unethical behaviors at workplaces. On the contrary, many disbelieve that certain values like business ethics and moral judgments for instance can not be taught. This paper addresses my view points on the research findings on business ethics education of two articles; “Yes, You can Teach Business Ethics: A Review and Research Agenda” (Referred in this paper as Article 1) and “The Impact of Business Education on Moral Judgment Competence: An Empirical Study” (Referred in this paper as Article 2).

In comparison, both articles show a similarity in that they both lean towards supporting the teaching of business ethics in school. In Article 1, Williams & Dewitt suggest that there are many common concerns and skepticism about the outcome of learning business ethics, suspecting it to be a waste of time as moral values have been formed prior to high education depending on an individual’s social background and other factors. In addition, ethics is not important or relevant in a business context as self interested profit maximization is a business’ primary goal (Williams & Dewett p.110). Therefore, teaching of business ethics is not deemed as vital in the business world and often times, it fails to contribute to an individual’s moral judgment resulting in many corporate scandals seen in the news regardless of the business ethics training provided. A case of Enron and its auditing partner Arthur Anderson is a good example of companies that invest in ethics training but nevertheless behave in unethical manners contributing to Enron’s collapse, the biggest bankruptcy in US history. Was it ethical that Sherron Watkins, a former Vice President of Enron sold her company stock prior to Enron’s collapse leaving many unemployed and made a famed career out of this incident? It is absolutely true that business is successful because it is driven by self-interest (Williams & Dewitt, p. 110). No matter how ethical one believes to be, self-interest is the fundamental key to behaviors. Watkins exposes the frauds and scams behind Enron without her losing gain, testifying that she knew her stock sales was an improper action. Yet, her justification upon her action was that she had more information that the marketplace did (Associated Press, MSN BC 2006). What was going through Watkins’ mind and persuaded her to take a stand against her own company? Was it business ethics education she learned or solely how she was brought up during childhood? Business ethics training might have played a role in encouraging Watkins. It is possible that business ethics training may have positive influences on some people like Watkins but appeared useless on others. While it is virtually impossible for the moral message to have an impact on every individual, reaching just a few individuals should be worthwhile enough for institutions to offer business ethics classes. It may have initiated more whistleblowers that could help revealing unethical behaviors happening in the world today.

Article 2 suggests that moral reasoning has been found to be positively related to the level of education (Desplaces et al, 2007 p. 74). A level of education is also positively correlated with wealthy socio-economical status (Charles & Hurst, 2002). Dr. Taksin Shinawantra, the former prime minister of Thailand seemed to have it all; money, fame, power, status, high education and social admiration. Prior to entering the political scene, he was regarded as one of Thailand’s most affluent businessmen owning AIS, the outstandingly profitable telecommunication company. Nevertheless, those things were not enough for him. His goal was to lead the country as a Prime Minister. As one of the wealthiest businessmen, Taksin was not expected to behave unethically by withholding the nation’s interests to favor his own businesses. Thai citizens believed that he was already rich, in which he emphasized this point in his election campaign stating that he merely intended to escort the nation out of debts and poverty, not actually for the money. Once he was elected as a Prime Minister, he was infamously involved in frauds, bribery, corruption and simply selling out the nation. In my view point, Taksin portrays a highly educated man with remarkable ability to lead Thailand in the right direction. Only he was stopped by his poor moral competence and resulted in him being exiled, contradicting his motto “Better to die than to live like a loser” (Bangkok Post 2001). Not only was Taksin deposed by military coup, he is now globally notorious for being greedy and unethical. Similar thing could be said regarding Martha Stuart. Money has a tendency to impair



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