Should business schools be demolished? “Everything that is excessive does not count”

In a provocative article he published Watchman And took in France before reverberationBritish professor Martin Parker, calls for the elimination of Business Schools (in France they are called “business schools”) around the world.

As always, and as Talleyrand pointed out, “everything that is excessive is trivial.” While the author raises some very realistic issues that are already on the minds of most school deans, he draws conclusions that seem wrong. Moreover, these matters seem heavily tainted by ideology, such as the criticisms he makes against these institutions. It depends on the arguments we propose to refute it.

Market capitalism: a toxic ideology?

The author criticizes schools for their ideological enslavement to managerial capitalism. It is clear that he considers this to be the wrong way, relying mainly on the excesses that we have all witnessed in recent years (the 2008 crisis for example). However, describing and evaluating managerial capitalism on the basis of its excesses is not intellectually honest: it is equivalent to describing the democratic system by speaking only of cases of corruption of political leaders… It is also the forgetting of the generalized economic and social well-being made possible by the development of this type of capitalism. We do not know what other ideology or economic system the author proposes to promote …

Teachers enslaved by capitalist ideology?

The author does not take half-measures, and it is difficult to answer him. But many of my colleagues would be disappointed to see their picture in this way. If we survey among them, we find a mosaic of all opinions within the population with (hopefully) less representation of the extremes. It is likely that the entire traditional political spectrum will emerge there, with a slightly more left-leaning potential than the general population, far from the mirage of capitalism without faith or law.

What is the mission of business schools?

Coming back to the heart of the matter, the Business Schools. What are their mission and responsibilities? In a general way, to train students and prepare them for their first integration into the work environment, as well as for their future professional career. Will he be responsible for preparing them for a different world from the one they will soon enter? Absolutely not, and soon these students (and their parents) blame us for it. We were going to change our program after that (don’t really know which one?), but we wouldn’t have any more students ahead of us. Do they come to us and pay big bucks to become, as the author puts it, “risky robots in uncharted office buildings”?

Are schools, however, exempt from all liability? of course no. In essence, an academic institution cannot simply be a mirror of what already exists (as was the case for French business schools thirty years ago). It must also be, through its research and educational activity, a space for innovation and change.

History shows that many tools, and many new methods, commonly used today in corporations (“unknowingly of their own free will”), have their origins in the research work of professors Business Schools. Sure, research articles are often vague and inaccessible to most people as the author points out, but through the professors’ teachings, they become accessible to their students. The latter will be the first promoters once they are incorporated into the companies.

Social responsibility: hand panties to hide the temptation to profit?

The author blames Business Schools To promote the lure of profit among its students and even go so far as to hold them responsible for the 2008 crisis, due to the development of this competence. No, simply no. Teaching students how to maximize company value creation does not make them unscrupulous fraudsters. Once again, the author continues to over-generalize. Yes, some of our students participated in this movement. Should they be considered the most representative of the tens of thousands of annual graduates? no.

Moreover, we don’t just teach them that. A place for critical thinking is essential in most of our organizations (even if, like everyone else, we have our bad apples). It has been a long time since business school curricula were no longer limited to management “techniques”, but rather opened up to other dimensions, such as the humanities or geopolitics. Thus they sharpen the critical sense and depth of analysis of their students.

Social responsibility and ethics have taken great importance in our courses. Contemporary issues asked him and the students were the first to remind us of them. Gone are the days when students sleep in front of an ethics course offered by a law professor with a very legal view of the concept. Contrary to what the author states, this is no longer cosmetic. We can hope, as in the past for other regions, that our teachings will be spread by the ability to work in companies.

Is academic freedom stifled?

As the author himself admits based on his own experience, academic freedom is as widely practiced in business schools as it is elsewhere in universities. I myself, as director of French public and private business schools, have never dared to doubt it. No dean would do that if he cared little about his work.

This applies to research, but also to teaching. Diversity of viewpoints is a source of enrichment for students, not the other way around. Like all directors, I had problems with publications by professors teaching at the institutions I was managing. We’ve sometimes lost private funding, but academic freedom can’t be negotiated.

In the endWhat remains of the author’s thoughts? Not so much, if not provocative, that it is clearly based on resentment and the ideology of protest. It is all hidden under the veneer of a sense of public interest. Also without a doubt the interest in selling a future book…thanks to unethical marketing, in this case.

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