EDUCATION

Nothing Succeeds Like Failure: The Sad History of American Business Schools

Cornell Univ. (Histories of American Education). Oct. 2019. 280p. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781501742071. $32.95; ebk. ISBN 9781501742095. ED
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Conn (history, Miami Univ.; Americans Against the City) believes that corporate culture focused on maximizing return to shareholders has damaged the American economy and undermined American society. The author examines the growth of business schools since the founding of Wharton in 1881 and concludes that business schools have failed to create a curriculum that includes an ethical framework for business leaders. As business schools grew in number and influence through the 20th century, Conn argues, they were unable to define a socially responsible role for business leaders or to anticipate or develop solutions to economic crises. During the rapid social changes after World War II, business schools lagged after other academic and social institutions in reaching out to or including women and those from marginalized groups. Conn concludes that even into the 21st century business schools never articulated a coherent purpose or created identifiable social benefits and suggests that greed rather than a commitment to doing good is the prime motivation. Yet he ruefully concedes that they are widely admired as prestigious and successful institutions. He draws upon his scholarly skills to tell this story with a light touch.
VERDICT A lively choice for readers who are skeptical of the claims of business schools to train leaders with an ethical perspective.

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