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Middle level thinking: the cultural mission of business schools

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Purpose ‐ Business education should be seen as a form of professional education which assists the student to acquire the virtue of practical wisdom. This article seeks to discuss the issues. Design/methodology/approach ‐ A middle level thinking (MLT) approach is taken to engage business education and practice that seeks to fashion explicit and vibrant ties between broad ethical principles and the concrete decisions, policies, and processes which shape how an organization operates. Findings ‐ The financial crisis of 2008 and past business scandals are symptoms of a broader cultural crisis. Universities and their business schools have contributed to this cultural crisis by providing students with an overly compartmentalized and specialized form of education. Business education must be re-envisioned as professional education which prepares students to engage in a form of middle level thinking (MLT). For this kind of thinking to become sustainable within a university context, it must draw upon the university's own cultural mission; otherwise, it will be susceptible to the economic and specialized pressures which bear upon these institutions. Practical implications ‐ The article describes a practical process called the self assessment and improvement process which helps to catalyze MLT. It also examines this method's application within the authors' own business school, which is situated within a Catholic university. Social implications ‐ By fostering MLT, business schools will promote the development of professionals who have the capacity to connect broad moral principles to concrete moral judgments and actions, thereby leading to specific practices which enable organizations to better contribute to the common good. Originality/value ‐ The article shows that acquisition of practical wisdom can be promoted within business schools through practical approaches which help to foster MLT.
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Keywords: Business studies; Culture; Financial economics; Thinking

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2010

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