Philosophy & Ethics in The Business Studies Classroom: Teaching Students to Be Ethical Leaders
How can Business Studies Teachers help students to engage in philosophical and ethical reflection?
As a business studies teacher, you have the opportunity to shape the minds of the next generation of business leaders. While it's important to teach your students about the fundamentals of business, it's equally important to explore the role of ethics in business. Business ethics is an important subject that shouldn't be ignored in the classroom. In this article, we'll explore the importance of exploring business ethics in the business studies classroom.
Why Teach Business Ethics?
Teaching business ethics is important because it provides students with the knowledge and skills they need to navigate the complex ethical issues that arise in the business world. Business ethics is a field that deals with moral principles and values in the context of business activities. It's important for business students to learn about business ethics because they will face ethical dilemmas in the workplace, and they need to be prepared to make the right decisions.
Business ethics is not just about following laws and regulations. It's also about doing what is right, even when it's not required by law. Students need to learn that ethical behaviour is not just good for society, but it's also good for business. Companies that behave ethically are more likely to earn the trust and loyalty of their customers, suppliers, and employees.
Exploring real-world ethical dilemmas in the classroom can help students develop critical thinking skills, moral reasoning, and empathy. It can also help them become more self-aware and reflect on their own values and beliefs. This, in turn, can help them become better leaders and make more informed decisions.
How to Teach Business Ethics
Teaching business ethics is not as straightforward as teaching other business topics. It requires a different approach and methodology. Here are some tips on how to teach business ethics effectively:
Use Case Studies: Using case studies is an effective way to teach business ethics. Case studies allow students to apply theoretical concepts to real-world situations. You can use case studies to illustrate ethical dilemmas and ask students to analyse the situation and suggest possible solutions.
Encourage Debate: Encouraging debate and discussion is a great way to teach business ethics. You can ask students to discuss different ethical viewpoints and encourage them to express their opinions. This can help students develop critical thinking skills and learn how to communicate their ideas effectively.
Use Role-Playing: Role-playing is another effective teaching method for business ethics. You can ask students to role-play different ethical dilemmas and explore different solutions. This can help students develop empathy and put themselves in other people's shoes.
Guest Speakers: Inviting guest speakers who have experience in business ethics is a great way to enrich the classroom experience. Guest speakers can share their real-world experiences and provide students with practical insights into ethical decision-making.
Using Case Studies to Explore Business Ethics
As business studies teachers, it is essential to equip our students with the knowledge and skills necessary to navigate the complex world of business ethics. One effective tool for exploring these issues in the classroom is through the use of case studies.
A case study presents students with a real-life scenario in which ethical considerations are at play. It challenges students to consider different perspectives and make informed decisions based on their understanding of ethical principles. By analysing these cases, students can develop a deeper understanding of the complexities and nuances of ethical decision-making in the business world.
When selecting case studies for your classroom, it is important to choose examples that are relevant and engaging to your students. Consider cases that are current, controversial, or involve high-profile companies. This will help to spark lively discussions and encourage students to think critically about the issues at hand.
To facilitate these discussions, you can use a variety of teaching methods. For example, you could assign students to read the case study in advance and come prepared to discuss it in class. Alternatively, you could divide students into small groups and assign each group a different case study to analyze. This approach encourages students to work collaboratively and engage with a variety of perspectives.
During the discussion, encourage students to consider the different stakeholders involved in the case study. For example, who are the employees, customers, shareholders, and community members affected by the decisions made? What are the ethical implications of these decisions, and how might they impact everyone involved.
Using historical examples of "questionable business ethics" can help students to understand the severity of the consequences of business ethics decisions. You might consider exploring one of the following examples with your students:
Enron - Enron Corporation was once considered one of the most innovative companies in the world, but in 2001, it became embroiled in a massive accounting scandal. This case study highlights how Enron's executives engaged in fraudulent activities, including concealing debt and inflating earnings, which ultimately led to the company's downfall.
Nike - Nike, a leading sportswear company, was accused of using sweatshops and child labor in its factories in Southeast Asia. This case study explores the ethical dilemmas that arose as a result of the allegations and how Nike responded to the controversy.
Volkswagen - In 2015, Volkswagen admitted to installing software in its diesel cars that enabled them to cheat emissions tests. This case study highlights the ethical implications of this scandal, including the impact on the environment and the company's reputation.
Johnson & Johnson - In 1982, Johnson & Johnson faced a crisis when seven people died after taking Tylenol capsules that had been tampered with. This case study examines how the company responded to the crisis by recalling all Tylenol products, introducing tamper-proof packaging, and creating a crisis management plan.
Lehman Brothers - In 2008, Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy, triggering a global financial crisis. This case study explores the ethical issues surrounding Lehman Brothers' collapse, including the company's excessive risk-taking and questionable accounting practices.
Using Debates to Foster Philosophical & Ethical Reflections
As a business studies teacher, you likely understand the importance of incorporating ethical and philosophical issues into your curriculum. One effective way to do this is by using debate-based activities in your classroom. These activities can help students understand the complexities of ethical decision-making and the different perspectives that exist in the business world.
Here are some tips on how to use debate-based activities to explore philosophical and ethical issues in your business studies classroom:
Choose a relevant topic Choose a topic that is relevant to the business world and that will spark debate among your students. For example, you could choose a topic such as whether or not a company should prioritize profits over social responsibility or whether it is ethical for companies to use sweatshop labor. Make sure the topic is broad enough to allow for different perspectives and arguments.
Divide students into teams Divide your students into teams and assign each team a perspective to argue. For example, one team could argue in favor of prioritizing profits over social responsibility, while another team could argue against it. This will encourage students to think critically about different viewpoints and develop persuasive arguments.
Research and preparation Give your students time to research and prepare their arguments. Encourage them to use reliable sources and to consider different ethical and philosophical perspectives. This will help them develop a deeper understanding of the topic and strengthen their arguments.
Hold the debate Hold the debate in class and encourage students to engage in respectful and thoughtful discussion. Encourage them to listen to opposing viewpoints and respond with well-reasoned arguments. This will help students develop important critical thinking skills and learn how to engage in respectful debate.
Reflection and discussion After the debate, take some time to reflect on the experience with your students. Ask them to discuss what they learned and how their perspectives may have shifted. This will help students develop a deeper understanding of the topic and encourage them to think critically about ethical and philosophical issues in the business world.
Using debate-based activities in your business studies classroom can be a powerful way to explore ethical and philosophical issues in the business world. By encouraging students to engage in respectful debate and to consider different perspectives, you can help them develop important critical thinking and communication skills that will serve them well in their future careers.
Here's a list of twenty debate topics you might wish to explore with your students:
Is it ethical for companies to use cheap labour in developing countries?
Should businesses prioritize profits over social responsibility?
Should companies be required to disclose all information to their shareholders?
Is it ethical for companies to engage in aggressive tax avoidance strategies?
Should companies be allowed to patent life-saving drugs and charge exorbitant prices?
Is it ethical for companies to use data mining to collect personal information?
Should companies be required to disclose their environmental impact?
Should companies be required to pay their employees a living wage?
Is it ethical for companies to engage in price gouging during emergencies?
Should companies be allowed to use genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in their products?
Should companies be required to disclose their political donations?
Is it ethical for companies to engage in animal testing?
Should companies be required to have a certain percentage of women on their board of directors?
Should companies be allowed to patent natural resources?
Is it ethical for companies to engage in deceptive advertising practices?
Should companies be required to provide health insurance to their employees?
Should companies be allowed to use artificial intelligence to make hiring decisions?
Is it ethical for companies to engage in price discrimination based on location or socioeconomic status?
Should companies be required to prioritize environmental sustainability over profits?
Should companies be allowed to use intellectual property laws to stifle competition?
Using Role-Playing Activities in the Business Studies Classroom
While lectures and discussions can provide students with theoretical knowledge about business ethics, role-playing activities can offer a more practical and engaging way to explore the topic.
Role-playing activities can provide students with a simulated environment in which they can practice ethical decision-making skills, analyze the consequences of their actions, and develop a deeper understanding of ethical issues in the business world. Here are a few examples of how business studies teachers can use role-playing activities to explore business ethics in their lessons.
Ethical Dilemma Scenarios
Business studies teachers can provide students with ethical dilemma scenarios and ask them to act out different roles and make ethical decisions. For example, a scenario could involve a salesperson who has to choose between making a sale by hiding information from the customer or being honest about the product's limitations. The students could then discuss the consequences of the decision and how it would affect the business's reputation and the salesperson's credibility.
Workplace Conflict Resolution
Business studies teachers can create role-playing scenarios that simulate workplace conflicts related to ethical issues. Students can be assigned different roles, such as an employee who is being bullied, a manager who is under pressure to achieve targets, or a team member who is not contributing to the group effort. The students can then work together to resolve the conflict, taking into account ethical principles such as fairness, respect, and honesty.
Business studies teachers can assign students to role-play different stakeholders in a business, such as employees, customers, shareholders, and the local community. The students can then work together to analyse the ethical implications of different business decisions on each stakeholder group. For example, they could analyze the impact of outsourcing on employees' job security, the quality of products and services for customers, and the company's financial performance for shareholders.
Corporate Social Responsibility
Business studies teachers can assign students to role-play different corporate social responsibility scenarios, such as a company's decision to invest in renewable energy or donate a percentage of profits to charity. The students can then discuss the ethical implications of such decisions, including the impact on the environment, the community, and the company's stakeholders.
Guest Speakers for Promoting Business Ethics Awareness
Using guest speakers can provide unique benefits when it comes to exploring business ethics in your business studies lessons.
Advantages of Using Guest Speakers to Explore Business Ethics
There are many advantages to using guest speakers in the classroom. Here are a few specific benefits of using guest speakers to explore business ethics:
Real-World Examples: Guest speakers can provide real-world examples of how ethical principles apply in the business world. Hearing stories of ethical dilemmas and how they were resolved can help students understand the importance of ethical decision-making in the workplace.
Networking Opportunities: Inviting guest speakers to your class can also provide students with networking opportunities. Many guest speakers are industry professionals who can offer insights into potential career paths and connect students with potential internship or job opportunities.
Diverse Perspectives: Guest speakers can offer diverse perspectives on business ethics, which can be particularly valuable in a classroom setting. Students will hear from experts with different backgrounds, experiences, and opinions, which can help broaden their understanding of ethical issues in business.
Where to Find Good Speakers on Business Ethics
Finding good speakers on business ethics can be challenging, but there are several resources available to help you identify potential speakers. Here are a few places to start:
Professional Associations: Many professional associations, such as the Society for Business Ethics or the Association for Practical and Professional Ethics, maintain lists of speakers who are experts in business ethics.
Industry Groups: Industry groups, such as the Business Roundtable or the Ethics and Compliance Initiative, may also have speakers who can speak to business ethics in specific industries or contexts.
Business Schools: Business schools often have faculty members who are experts in business ethics and may be willing to speak to high school classes.
Tips and Guidance for Using Guest Speakers to Explore Business Ethics
If you decide to invite a guest speaker to your classroom to talk about business ethics, here are some tips to make the most of the experience:
Plan Ahead: Identify your learning objectives for the session and communicate them clearly to the guest speaker. Make sure they understand the format of the session and any specific topics or questions you'd like them to address.
Prepare Your Students: Provide students with background information on the guest speaker and the topic they will be discussing. This will help them engage more fully in the session and ask informed questions.
Facilitate Discussion: Encourage students to ask questions and engage in discussion with the guest speaker. Consider using a structured discussion format, such as a fishbowl or Socratic seminar, to ensure all students have an opportunity to participate.
Follow Up: After the session, debrief with your students to reinforce key takeaways and ensure they understand how the information they learned can be applied in the real world.
In conclusion, using guest speakers to explore business ethics is an effective way to bring real-world examples and diverse perspectives into the classroom. By following these tips and guidance, you can ensure that your students gain a deeper understanding of the importance of ethical behaviour in the business world.
What About Non-Ethical Philosophical Issues in the Business Studies Classroom?
Business studies teachers can explore a wide range of philosophical issues in their lessons. These issues may include questions about the nature and purpose of business, the role of government in regulating businesses, and the relationship between business and society. Here are a few examples of philosophical issues that can be explored in a business studies classroom:
Capitalism vs. Socialism: One of the fundamental philosophical debates in business studies is the debate between capitalism and socialism. Capitalism emphasizes the importance of free markets and individual economic freedom, while socialism emphasizes collective ownership and economic equality. Teachers can explore the advantages and disadvantages of each system and how they impact businesses and society.
Property Rights: Property rights are a key concept in business studies, and teachers can explore the philosophical underpinnings of property rights. This may include discussions about the nature of property, the relationship between property and freedom, and the role of government in protecting property rights.
Libertarianism vs. Communitarianism: These are two political philosophies that can be applied to business studies. Libertarianism emphasizes individual freedom and limited government intervention, while communitarianism emphasizes the importance of community and collective responsibility. Teachers can explore how these approaches apply to business decision-making and how they impact stakeholders.
Objectivism vs. Subjectivism: These are two metaphysical and epistemological philosophies that can be applied to business studies. Objectivism emphasizes the importance of objective reality and reason, while subjectivism emphasizes the importance of individual perspective and experience. Teachers can explore how these approaches apply to business decision-making and how they impact stakeholders.
Determinism vs. Free Will: These are two metaphysical philosophies that can be applied to business studies. Determinism emphasizes the idea that events are determined by previous events and laws of nature, while free will emphasizes the idea that individuals have the ability to make choices that are not determined by previous events or laws of nature. Teachers can explore how these approaches apply to business decision-making and how they impact stakeholders.
Epistemology of Business: Teachers can explore the epistemology of business, or the study of how knowledge is acquired in the business world. This may include discussions about the role of experience, intuition, and expertise in business decision-making, and how different approaches to knowledge acquisition impact stakeholders.