Thursday, September 18, 2003

Ethics training part of new plan

Elder pupils told to do right thing

By Liz Oakes
The Cincinnati Enquirer

PRICE HILL - Joe Maas, vice president of operations at JTM Provisions in Harrison, has a message for Elder High School students: Do the right thing.

Elder, an all-boys Catholic school of 1,037 students, is the only Tristate school to participate in a nationwide rollout Wednesday of an effort to get kids thinking about business sense, as well as dollars and cents.

Maas helped launch an ethics curriculum in teacher Tim Schira's Junior Achievement Economics class at Elder. The curriculum is part of Junior Achievement's mentoring program, which is adding the ethics component for the first time.

It's being woven into all Junior Achievement programs in grades 4-12. Junior Achievement, based in Colorado Springs, Colo., isn't tracking the number of schools nationally participating in this fall's rollout, but the new program will eventually reach more than 3 million U.S. students annually.

Although Maas includes ethics as a part of every business class he mentors, the new Junior Achievement curriculum "will definitely ensure that ethics is a part of every teacher's time, business ethics especially."

He sees the need to emphasize ethics. When there are layoffs, sometimes "there's not a lot of heartache in the boardroom," he said. "The realities are that a lot of companies don't struggle with layoffs, and we do, a lot. So far we've avoided it with a lot of strategic planning."

In a Junior Achievement/Harris Interactive online survey released Wednesday, 33 percent of teens say they would act unethically to get ahead or make money if they knew for sure that they would never be caught.

Nearly half - 45 percent - of the teens who responded said they didn't think today's business leaders were ethical.

One Elder senior, Victor Bronstrop, 17, of Cleves said that unsavory perception doesn't surprise him.

"There's more opportunity to do stuff like that" in the corporate world, said Bronstrop, who is taking the Junior Achievement economics class, offered mostly to seniors.

"That's sort of the way people are," Bronstrop said.

Surveys show a high percentage of students taking business courses don't rank ethics very high in their list of considerations, said Maas, an Elder alum (Class of '76) who has been mentoring for Junior Achievement for 11 years at Greater Cincinnati schools, the last two at Elder. "Clearly, some of the economic problems we are experiencing today are related to the immoral and unethical business practices that were conducted," Maas said.

New York-based Deloitte & Touche, which is footing the $1 million cost of the project for schools across the country, like other accounting and auditing firms has had to face ethics questions of its own recently. Deloitte & Touche has been embroiled in a dispute with former client Adelphia Communications Corp., which filed bankruptcy in 2002 and has come under fire from federal regulators.

Maas said he plans to inject some real-life issues he's faced, such as the costs of charitable contributions, which cut into profits, and layoffs. Once students enter the business world, "they will be facing decisions they make that may result in layoffs, trying to make a decision in a way that will prevent that from happening and still maintain corporate profits," he said.

Sean Kelley, a development official at Elder, which like other schools has had to deal with cheating students, said the program will help students now, too.

"Just to get the kids thinking about it, that this does impact them on a daily basis," Kelley said. "Just because you can get away with it and it's an easy way to get ahead, it's not necessarily the right thing to do."

Survey results

Findings of the Junior Achievement/Harris Interactive survey:

33 percent of youths said if they knew they would never be caught, they would act unethically to make more money or get ahead.

45 percent did not believe business leaders are ethical.

56 percentagreed that "people who practice good business ethics are more successful in business than those who don't."

66 percent said they usually didn't have to play loose with rules to be successful. Twenty percent said they "usually" have to bend the rules to succeed; 14 percent were unsure.

The online survey, conducted July 14-25, polled 624 youths ages 13-18 randomly selected from a Harris Interactive nationwide panel. The margin of error was plus or minus 4 percentage points.

For more information on the Junior Achievement business ethics curriculum, visit Web site


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