Base teaching on lessons of the Bible, business schools are told

Academic claims Christian principles are key to preventing financial crisis. Hannah Fearn reports

April 29, 2010

Business schools must base their teaching on the lessons of the Bible to guard against future economic collapse, according to a senior academic in the discipline.

David Muskett, head of undergraduate programmes at Manchester Metropolitan University Business School, believes that business education should be based on the Christian principles of stewardship and striving to achieve holiness.

He made the case for change at a Higher Education Academy business education conference in Newcastle last week, stating that the "amoral" teaching methods of UK business schools were partly responsible for the global financial crisis.

His comments follow a series of calls for the introduction of courses in ethics for business students, after the economic meltdown was blamed in part on the greed of bankers and businesspeople who had not been taught to think about the wider impact of their work.

"There is a sense of amorality in much moral thought these days. There isn't any absolute right or wrong. If you have got nothing to anchor to then anything goes, providing it's legal," Mr Muskett said.

As a committed Christian, he said, he believed that business schools should have a "more explicit moral compass".

"We have been teaching business techniques in a moral vacuum. It has been driven by over-optimistic and risky behaviour," he argued.

He said Christian teaching, including careful stewardship of the Earth, could make a vast difference to the way business graduates conducted themselves throughout their career.

"We need the notion of a sense of calling that somebody who is a Christian would have in business. They have a sense of vocation to the business they're in, a notion of stewardship. We need that sense of care.

"[Traditionally], the best way of maximising cash flow is to not pay the suppliers, who have got no power over you, for as long as possible and keep the cash within the business, but that tends to put smaller suppliers out of business," Mr Muskett said.

For example, current practice in the UK was putting small dairy farmers out of business as retail monopolies failed to pay promptly for the milk they had bought, he noted.

Yet early philanthropists and business figures including the Cadbury family, who were Quakers, ran profitable businesses using Christian principles of ethical practice and taking care of workers.

"Striving for integrity and moral perfection", or holiness, would also reduce selfishness in business, Mr Muskett added.

His early research into the differences between business ethics in the UK and the US indicated that businesses in America were more likely to have ethical behaviour enshrined in their working practices than those in this country, he said.

The US also has more Christian universities, and is a more religious society in general, he added.

The aim of business schools, Mr Muskett concluded, should be to "change our collective mindset. When we teach something, we have to balance it with the moral implications."

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