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Now, B-schools teach spiritual values

Last updated on: January 13, 2005 08:09 IST
With many businessmen landing in jail for violating professional ethics and government regulations, major business schools in several countries have included lessons on spiritual and ethical values in their curriculum, a report said on Tuesday.

Spirituality has so far been an alien concept in MBA programmes, where many students are obsessed with getting jobs that pay six-figure salaries and require marathon workweeks.

"MBAs learn plenty about quantitative values. Now, more students are getting lessons in spiritual values as well," The Wall Street Journal reported.

Business schools are not trying to inculcate religious beliefs or encourage students to proselytize on the job. But more schools are offering courses dealing with spirituality and personal fulfillment in the workplace, the report said.

What they want to teach students is the importance of remaining true to their convictions--whether rooted in organised religion or personal morality--amid the conflicting demands and temptations they will likely confront later.

"It was taboo for so many years to talk about workers' spirituality. But people are suffering by not being able to address that part of themselves and lead a more integrated life. We have seen the exponential growth in anti-depressants as people search for more meaning in their lives and their work," Thierry Pauchant, who holds the chair in ethical management at the HEC Montreal business school, said.

In his ethics courses, Dr. Pauchant covers the spiritual or "existential" dimension, which he defines as "individuals' freedom of beliefs and the development of their deepest aspirations at work," it said.

The corporate scandals of the past few years, said the Journal, prompted many schools to create courses on business ethics, which sometimes touch on religion and morals.

At the Instituto de Empresa business school in Madrid, students' religious beliefs come into play in ethics class when they discuss the marketing of RU-486, the so-called morning-after or abortion pill.

At Columbia University Business School, Srikumar Rao teaches 'Creativity and Personal Mastery.'  "You need the work you do to express your values and be of benefit to the larger society. This is very, very important, but is not acknowledged at most business schools, let alone addressed," Rao said.

In Rao's class, students bare their souls in classroom discussions, a weekend retreat, their personal journals and other assignments.

They also learn breathing and meditation techniques and must participate in "total immersion exercises" that Prof. Rao calls "as if's." For example, students might be required to treat every single person they meet as if it were that person's last day on earth, the report said.

At Stanford University's Graduate School of Business, literature serves as the springboard for spiritual exploration, William "Scotty" McLennan, Dean for religious life, teaches "The Business World: Moral and Spiritual Inquiry Through Literature" towards the end of the two-year MBA programme when students are thinking most about their future.

They read such works as Hermann Hesse's 'Siddhartha' and F. Scott Fitzgerald's 'The Great Gatsby' and share their personal dreams and failures with each other.

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