The long read: There are 13,000 business schools on Earth. Thats 13,000 too many. And I should know Ive taught in them for 20 years
Visit the average university campus and it is likely that the newest and most ostentatious build is likely to be occupied by the business school. The business school has the best house because it induces the biggest gains( or, euphemistically, “contribution” or “surplus”)- as you might expect, from a shape of knowledge that teaches people how to make profits.
Business schools have huge affect, yet they are also widely considered to be intellectually fraudulent places, fostering a culture of short-termism and avarice.( There is a whole genre of gags about what MBA- Lord of Business Administration- actually expressed support for:” Mediocre But Arrogant”,” Management by Accident”,” More Bad Advice”,” Master Bullshit Artist” and so on .) Critics of business schools come in many shapes and sizings: employers complain that graduates lack practical skills, conservative voices scorn the arriviste MBA, Europeans moan about Americanisation, revolutionaries cry about the concentration of power in the hands of the running dogs of capital. Since 2008, many commentators have also suggested that business schools were complicit in producing the crash.
Having taught in business schools for 20 times, I have come to believe that the best solution to these problems is to shut down business schools wholly. This is not a typical opinion among my colleagues. Even so, it is remarkable just how much criticism of business schools over the past decade has come from inside the schools themselves. Many business school profs, particularly in north America, have argued that their institutions have gone horribly astray. B-schools have been demoralized, they say, by deans following the money, teaches making the punters what they crave, researchers pumping out paint-by-numbers newspapers for publications that no one reads and students expecting a qualification in return for their cash( or, more likely, their parents’ money ). At the end of everything there is, most business-school graduates won’t become high-level administrators anyway, only precarious cubicle drones in anonymous office blocks.
These are not complaints from professors of sociology, nation policymakers or even outraged anti-capitalist activists. These are positions in volumes writes to insiders, by employees of business schools who themselves feel some appreciation of disquiet or even disgust at what they are getting up to. Of course, these dissenting views are still those of a minority. Most work within business schools is blithely unconcerned with any expression of uncertainty, participants being too busy oiling the wheels to worry about where the engine is going. Still, this internal criticism is loud and significant.
The problem is that these insiders’ dissent has become so exhaustively institutionalised within the well-carpeted passageways that it now pass unremarked, merely an everyday counterpoint to business as usual. Jobs are made by wailing aloud in books and papers about the problems with business schools. The business school has been described by two insiders as” a cancerous machine spewing out sick and irrelevant detritus “. Even names such as Against Management, Fucking Management and The Greedy Bastard’s Guide to Business appear not to make any particular difficulties for their authors. I know this, because I wrote the first two. Frankly, the idea that I was permitted to get away with this speaks volumes about the extent to which this type of criticism intends anything very much at all. In fact, it is rewarded, because the fact that I write is more important than what I publish.
Most solutions to the problem of the B-school shy away from radical restructuring, and instead tend to suggest a return to supposedly traditionally bred business practices, or a form of moral rearmament decorated with words such as “responsibility” and “ethics”. All of these suggestions leave the basic problem untouched, that the business school merely teaches one form of organising- marketplace managerialism.
That’s why I think that we should call in the bulldozers and demand an entirely new way of thinking about handling, business and markets. If we want those in power to become more responsible, then we must stop teaching students that heroic transformational presidents are the answer to all the problems, or that the purpose of to know … … taxation statutes is to evade taxation, or that making new desires is the purpose of marketing. In every instance, the business school acts as an apologist, selling ideology as if it were science.
Universities have been around for a millenium, but the great majority of business schools only came into existence in the last century. Despite loud and continual claims that they were a US invention, the first was probably the Ecole Superieure de Commerce de Paris, founded in 1819 as a privately funded attempt to produce a grande ecole for business. A century subsequently, hundreds of business schools had popped up across Europe and the US, and from the 1950 s onwards, they began to grow rapidly in other parts of the world.
In 2011, the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business estimated that there were then nearly 13,000 business schools in the world. India alone is estimated to have 3,000 private school of business. Pause for a moment, and consider that figure. Think about the enormous numbers of people employed by those institutions, about the armies of graduates marching out with business degrees, about the gigantic sums of fund circulating in the name of business education.( In 2013, the top 20 US MBA programs already charged at the least $100,000( PS72, 000 ). At the time of preparation of, London Business School is advertising a tuition fee of PS84, 500 for its MBA .) No ponder that the bandwagon maintains rolling.
For the most part, business schools all assume a similar form. The architecture is generic modern- glass, panel, brick. Outside, there’s some expensive signage offering an inoffensive logo, probably in blue, likely with a square on it. The door opens, automatically. Inside, there’s a female receptionist dressed office-smart. Some abstract art hangs on the walls, and perhaps a banner or two with some hopeful affirms:” We mean business .”” Teaching and Research for Impact .” A big screen will hang somewhere over the foyer, running a Bloomberg news ticker and advertise visiting speakers and talks about preparing your CV. Shiny marketing leaflets sit in dispensing racks, with images of a diverse tableau of open-faced students on the cover. On the leaflets, you can find an alphabet of mastery: MBA, MSc Management, MSc Accounting, MSc Management and Accounting, MSc Marketing, MSc International Business, MSc Operations Management.
There will be plush lecture theatres with thick carpet, perhaps named after companies or personal donors. The lectern births the logo of the business school. In fact, pretty much everything bears the weight of the logo, like someone who worries their possessions might get stolen and so recognizes them with their epithet. Unlike some of the shabby houses in other parts of the university, the business school tries hard to project efficiency and confidence. The business school knows what it is doing and has its well-scrubbed face aimed securely at the busy future. It cares about what people think of it.
Even if the reality isn’t always as shiny- if the roof leaks a little and the toilet is blocked – that is what the business-school dean would like to think that their school was like, or what they would want their school to be. A clean machine for turning income from students into profits.
What do business schools actually teach? This is a more complicated question than it first shows. Much penning on education has investigated the ways in which a” conceal curriculum” renders lessons to students without doing so explicitly. From the 1970 s onwards, researchers explored how social class, gender, ethnicity, sexuality and so on were being implicitly taught in the classroom. This might involve segregating students into separate classes- the girls doing domestic science and the boys doing metalwork, say- which, in turn, implies what is natural or appropriate for different groups of people. The concealed curriculum can be taught in other ways too, by the ways in which teach and assessment are practised, or through what is or isn’t included in school curricula. The concealed curriculum tells us what matters and who matters, which places are most important and what topics can be ignored.
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