Can We Teach Character: an Aristotelian Answer – Article Example
CAN WE TEACH CHARACTER?An Aristotelian Answer (A review of an article by Hartman) ID Number: BUS102 of University:
April 15, 2015
Estimated word count : 879 (of text only)
The article entitled “Can We Teach Character? An Aristotelian Answer” was written by Edwin M. Hartman of Rutgers University. It was first published in March 2006 in the journal of the Academy of Management Learning & Education in Vol. 5 of Issue No. 1 and consists of about fifteen pages in length. His article seeks to answer the question of whether it is possible to teach business school students how to improve their character as opposed to teaching them about ethical principles only. The author offered to answer his own question in the affirmative because it is possible to do so using the arguments of the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle. The idea is that teaching about character is far more important because it is something that is innate to the individual person. Moreover, teaching character in business school will hopefully help students later in real life workplace situations when confronted with ethical or moral dilemmas.
Todays business environment is very competitive; it is made more competitive due to the continuing trend in globalization of goods, services, people, and investment funds. It is due to this intense competition that people sometimes resort to shortcuts or unethical acts to achieve the objectives set for them by employers or those goals they set by themselves. It is important that a business school student be made aware of business ethics in making moral decisions, and not the legal considerations only. There are many examples of unethical business practices, scandals, and frauds committed by people whose moral compass had gone astray. The journal article by Hartman revisits the idea of building up character in students who will be leaders someday.
Hartman argues that business schools should also teach business ethics. It is never too late to teach a student about ethics. This is because even “if character is formed in childhood,” (Hartman, 2006, p. 68), it is still possible to influence and change a persons character by the act of teaching about ethical values and principles. In other words, it is far more important to change the character of a person than just teaching about ethical principles because principles can often be applied or used only on discretion; character entails the inner values of a person who in many situations will act according to his conscience and deeply-held personal values.
According to Aristotle, the person of good character is a virtuous person because he acts in a way that is “consistent over time and coherent at all times,” (Hartman, 2006, p. 69). What Aristotle meant is a person who has character will always act according to his personal values of what is right or wrong, regardless of the situation he is facing. There is no compromise for this person who can be under pressure to produce better business results or higher profits. He will not resort to unethical business practices or questionable accounting techniques to pad profits.
For example, a business leader who has character will not succumb to the temptations of graft and corruption despite being offered a bribe nor will he offer a bribe to get a large contract. Put differently, the leader of good character will always avoid conflict-of-interest situations where he can be put to the test inadvertently. Hartman believes teaching business ethics courses will still help a future business leader even if character is already formed in early childhood due to the idea that these ethics courses will help them become better people and better leaders.
The journal article by Hartman offers succinct arguments and deep insights into why a character of the person is really important in todays competitive business environment wherein many situations, challenges, and dilemmas require ethical judgment. It is never easy to arrive at a good decision but a person with character will almost always arrive at the correct decision where it will benefit the greatest number of people. This is what ethics is all about and ethics can be used to improve a persons character by providing the template for ethical decision making.
Hartman argues forcefully the value of business ethics courses because these courses are important on two things, namely: the first is that the courses “can encourage morality by raising critical questions . . . “, and second, the courses “can also teach well-meaning students some techniques for deciding what the right thing is” (Hartman, 2006, p. 69). The important point of having these business ethics courses is to promote critical thinking and encourage the students to question their own values, helping them create the right corporate culture or environment. This article achieved its goal of arguing for the value of teaching these business ethics courses.
The central lesson of the article is that business school should teach not only business subjects but ethics courses as well. This is because a person with good character will chose the right kind of interests, both personal and business related. People can be happier with their lives if they have the right work-life balance by studying ethics and thereby achieve some reflection on the bigger things in life rather than just succumb to the peer pressure always present at work. It is never late to re-learn the basic things acquired in childhood, such as character or honesty.
Hartman, E M. (2006, March). "Can We Teach Character? An Aristotelian Answer."Academy of Management Learning & Education. 5(1), 68-81.