A colleague once said that the MBA came with a mortgage. The awarding of the degree carried with it the obligation to contribute, a sort of “pay it forward” idea. He challenged every MBA student in his classes to decide how they would give back. He raised the challenge of the tithe or “first fruits” concept, familiar to Jews and Christians in many places. Because the tithe was usually understood to be a “tenth” of what was received as income, the newly-minted MBA could consider how she would give 10 per cent back somewhere. Maybe this is the interest rate on the mortgage …
What if this were truly the case with every accredited MBA? What if accreditors asked for contribution as a measure of program quality? To be fair there are some ranking organizations that track Peace Corps or Teach for America recruits in undergraduate institutions as a measure of community involvement, though I’m not aware of this at the MBA level.
A few years ago one of the major accrediting associations allegedly rediscovered ethics as an important topic in the MBA curriculum. For some deans, it seemed to be a new idea. We all have become weary of the scandals, greed and moral lapses of some business (and nonprofit) leaders with MBAs from elite schools and rolodexes to die for. Would their worldviews and behaviors have been different if their mortgages were paid off, and they owned the MBA free and clear?
Here’s a place to pay your accumulated interest … addressing the problem that the cost of postsecondary education may be among the major crises facing the developed and developing world (though there are obviously always other and bigger crises). Fewer people each year can afford the MBA gold standard. The gap is widening between those with the learned theory, practices and skills to create wealth and those without. There will always be entrepreneurially gifted naturals who can make money without an MBA, but I’m claiming there’s more to life than this, and a good management education can make an important difference. But an MBA is probably out of the reach of at least 98 per cent of the world’s population and that number is growing.
In a previous post I spoke to a group of scientists about an MBA for the rest of the world. At this point it is simply not affordable.
As a program guy, I have been playing around recently with the concept of the MBA as a teaching degree. Remember your friends in college who wanted to teach junior high? They took classes in the education department while majoring in something else like math or literature. Sometimes they added a teaching credential or M.A. in Teaching (different states require different preparation) and then graduated to breaking up fights on a playground among puberty-stricken grade schoolers or cruising locker-lined hallways to break up clinches among hormonally-charged high schoolers. These classmates sought “teaching degrees”. The business majors could be a little condescending toward them.
There may be two categories (or more) of solutions to the problem of the MBA for the rest of the world.
First, schools of business and management need to start brokering mortgages for their graduates. These mortgages need to be paid back into the community – local and global. (How about “Teach for the Globe” and send MBAs out to replicate other MBAs for the rest of the world? … like Teach for America.)
The second category calls retiring executives without a graduate degree to come back for a teaching MBA. (a TMBA?) Honestly, you don’t need a PhD to teach management and business, unless your goal is “lead-butt scholarship” (as one friend described it), at a prestigious research university. You need theory, practice and scars. Why aren’t those Silicon Valley hotshots training young entrepreneurs in Nairobi neighborhoods?
Wendell Berry once exhorted us to “… every day do something that won’t compute. Love the Lord. Love the world. Work for nothing.” What if the civic and global duty to make the world better could be formalized in our vehicles (MBAs among others) that are most geared to making the world wealthier?
… and holders of MBAs simply did it for free?