Rejoice, MBA graduates at Harvard and other elite schools are now signing an oath to go forth into the world and work for the betterment of mankind. At least, that's the gist of an article in the New York Times.
According to the Times, the students are not only lining up to promise to do good but classes in ethics are blossoming throughout academia. According to the article this represents a generational change. The new crop of MBAs evidently came to the campuses with a different set of ethics than their predecessors.
The article indicates that business school students want to move towards a code of ethics not disimilar to other professionals:
Those graduating today, they say, are far more concerned about how corporations affect the community, the lives of its workers and the environment. And business schools are responding with more courses, new centers specializing in business ethics and, in the case of Harvard, student-lead efforts to bring about a professional code of conduct for M.B.A.’s, not unlike oaths that are taken by lawyers and doctors.
Yes that will solve everything. MBAs agreeing to act like lawyers. That oath has clearly done a lot to clean up that profession.
Forgive the skepticism, but I rather suspect that the first time one of these kids quotes his oath to some MD at an investment banking firm he's more than likely to receive a suggestion as to what he can do with his idealism. Business, particularly the type of business most of these students have been trained for, is a pretty cut throat enterprise. Always has been, always will be. It doesn't mean that you have to sacrifice basic ethical standards or lie, cheat and steal to get ahead but it does mean that you can't be too prissy about the way you get your deal done.
This isn't the first time this meme has rolled around and it won't be the last. Hell, it employs a few teachers that probably couldn't cut it in the mainstream so it's not all bad. Let's not just kid ourselves about how much difference it is going to make. Having seen a few generations come and go and listened to all of the prognostications about how different and sociallay aware they were, how different and how much better their approach to business will be, I can assure you that when it comes to human behavior there really isn't that much new under the sun.