Sunday, December 15, 2019
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New business curriculum: MAGA, #MeToo, NFL, Uber

Just as the #MeToo movement has touched our schools, forcing education reporters to study and write about subjects heretofore outside our beat, it has also touched US companies, forcing business schools to adapt syllabi and course offerings, sometimes hastily, the New York Times reports.

Being a CEO or a successful manager is no longer just about budgeting, marketing, sales, advertising, or these other subjects that in the past have filled business curricula and textbooks. Now students study what went wrong at Uber, for instance, a company marked by both overwhelming success and a toxic culture that promoted inequity and abuse.

‘It’s not just how the CEO of Uber was treating women,” the paper quoted one student at Stanford University as saying as part of a discussion about certain aspects of our corporate culture. “The bias is throughout the system.”

Older professors are sometimes less knowledgeable about these topics than their students, so when Tim Vogus, a professor at Vanderbilt University asked his students, “What is this whole bro’ thing?” one student responded, “It’s carrying fraternity culture with you into adult life.” Another student said, “It’s arrogance mixed with the feeling of invincibility.”

And this is what happens as 20-somethings come straight out of college, sometimes not completing their degree, and lead billion-dollar companies.

But this kind of culture has marketing implications (consider Charlottesville and President Donald Trump’s reaction that it was about “both” sides), profit implications (consider the decrease in NFL ticket sales over the national anthem protests), and certain human resources implications (consider the sexual harassment putting companies at risk as well as their male managers). Also, consider this: Mr Trump has himself been at the head of several businesses, many of which have failed, and his current position puts a spotlight on those operations like never before, opening up a whole new curriculum for students to learn from.

In preparing for our year-end recognition of the top school news stories this year, two of these subjects have a prominent position only one week before we publish it. That’s because these subjects have obtained so much inertia that they have greatly affected how our schools operate and certainly touched our school families.

But how colleges and universities respond to these shifts in culture, caused or exacerbated perhaps by the election of Mr Trump, has less to do with fair reporting than with preparing students for success in adult life. For those who will go into business, these movements have been huuuge.

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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