By John von Heyking, April 20, 2011 in Uncategorized
This New York Times article on recent criticisms of undergraduate business education is illuminating. In the quest to offer students a vocational business education, in the quest to be entirely useful, business education ends up being not about anything in particular. Pure utility is entirely useless.
The article cites several studies that show how little business students work for their degrees as compared to other majors. This is not necessarily a reflection on their personalities. It is the incentives contained within their educational programs. Take the ubiquity of group assignments. Everybody knows the hard workers do most of the work. Moreover, in dividing up tasks in group assignments, tasks will be taken according to the strengths of each individual. The student strong in math will do the statistics, the artistic student will prepare the visual layout of the Powerpoint, etc.
Worth noting too is that Ivy League and elite liberal arts institutions do not offer undergraduate business programs. They recognize employers seek the skills that other majors offer: communications skills, critical thinking, etc. The main reason students attending lesser institutions take business is to get connected. One might think of an undergraduate business program as a finishing school for the middle class.
I’m less inclined to regard liberal education as the bastion of the upper class. Even so, business education isn’t going anywhere, so let’s give the last word to McGill’s Henry Mintzberg, whom the article quotes as saying: “The object of undergraduate business education is to educate people, not to give them a lot of functional business stuff.”