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Business School Comes Under Criticism

Looks like law schools aren't the only institutions of higher education to come under criticism for failing to prepare lawyers for the real world. Now, via Wired GC, comes a link to this New York Times piece that discusses whether shortcomings in business school MBA programs have left graduates unprepared "to make decisions that might have mitigated the financial crisis."

Many of the criticisms about business school that the Times piece recounts resemble those levied against law schools, centered on a lack of practical training and inadequate discussion of ethics:

Critics of business education have many complaints. Some say the schools have become too scientific, too detached from real-world issues. Others say students are taught to come up with hasty solutions to complicated problems. Another group contends that schools give students a limited and distorted view of their role — that they graduate with a focus on maximizing shareholder value and only a limited understanding of ethical and social considerations essential to business leadership [...]

Henry Mintzberg, a professor of management studies at McGill University in Montreal, also argues that because students spend so much time developing quick responses to packaged versions of business problems, they do not learn enough about real-world experiences.

At the same time, just as many lawyers criticize legal education for failing to acknowledge that law is a business, some experts lament that business schools fail to train MBAs as professionals, with a code of conduct and philosophical ideology about their role in society. Says Rakesh Khurana, a professor at Harvard Business School and author of “From Higher Aims to Hired Hands,” a historical analysis of business education:

Business schools ... never really taught their students that, like doctors and lawyers, they were part of a profession. And in the 1970s, he said, the idea took hold that a company’s stock price was the primary barometer of success, which changed the schools’ concept of proper management techniques.

Instead of being viewed as long-term economic stewards, he said, managers came to be seen as mainly as the agents of the owners — the shareholders — and responsible for maximizing shareholder wealth.

Business schools are examining a variety of approaches to make MBA degrees more meaningful. Though there still isn't a strong push to professionalize MBAs, increasingly, business schools are incorporating discussion of social issues and ethics into their programs. 

For those of you who have joint JDs and MBAs, how would you compare your legal education to B-school education? Which better prepared you for your current job, and if you had to choose one degree -- JD or MBA -- which would it be?

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on March 16, 2009 at 04:12 PM | Permalink | Comments (5)

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