As transgressions of civility by business leaders come to light— the fraudulent account scandal at Wells Fargo, the toxic work environment at Uber, the culture of sexual harassment at many organizations—it’s worth a controversial course correction: adding the study of business to the classic liberal arts education.
While business education and a liberal arts training are typically seen as being at odds, if not antithetical, it’s time to place business thinking into the context of larger society.
The perspective that business education and subjects such as literature, political science, and sociology should be separated is rooted in the social realities of the past, when class boundaries firmly separated “tradesmen” from “gentlemen.” But large organizations and businesses are today an integral part of society, providing citizens with the products, services, and resources we need to live, including basic needs such as food, shelter, and clothing. Given this reality, it is curious that a critical examination of business in society has been perceived as oppositional to the goals of liberal arts education.
Most business education today is instead reserved for MBA programs, wherein the entire topic of education is a normative examination of business and markets that is explicitly meant to be prescriptive (as it is in the MBA degree).
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