Monday, September 22, 2003

Good business: Good ethics

As corporate scandals and unethical business practices continue to make news, it's encouraging that one of Cincinnati's largest high schools will join a nationwide push to teach good business ethics to students. The new curriculum, which defines ethics as rules, or standards, for right/good behavior or actions, comes from Junior Achievement.

Elder High School, an all-boys Catholic school on the west side of Cincinnati, will include the ethics curriculum in teacher Tim Schira's Junior Achievement Economics class.

Joe Maas, vice president of operations at JTM Provisions in Harrison, and a Junior Achievement volunteer mentor in area schools for 11 years, is helping with the launch. The new curriculum, he said, "will definitely ensure that ethics is a part of every teacher's time, business ethics especially."

Nationwide, the ethics lessons will become part of Junior Achievement's mentoring programs in grades 4-12 and eventually reach more than 3 million U.S. students annually. Junior Achievement, based in Colorado Springs, Colo., is dedicated to educating young people about business, economics and free enterprise.

There's certainly a need. In a Junior Achievement/Harris Interactive online survey released last week, nearly half - 45 percent - of teens who responded said they think today's business leaders were unethical. More telling, 33 percent of the teens said they would act unethically to get ahead or make money if they knew for sure they would never be caught.

"Clearly, some of the economic problems we are experiencing today are related to the immoral and unethical business practices that were conducted," Maas told The Enquirer.

The reputation and credibility of many businesses and corporations have suffered in the scandal fallout. It's notable that New York-based Deloitte & Touche, is paying the $1 million cost of the JA project for schools across the country. Like other accounting and auditing firms, D&T has faced its own ethics questions recently. It was tangled in a dispute with former client Adelphia Communications Corp., which filed bankruptcy in 2002 and has come under fire from federal regulators. Deloitte & Touche's part in developing the new JA program is one effort to restore confidence in the capital market system.

Here's the hopeful news from the Junior Achievement/Harris survey of teens: More than half - 56 percent-agreed that "people who practice good business ethics are more successful" than those who don't and 66 percent still believe you don't have to "play loose with rules" to be successful.

Let's teach all students - and remind adults -- that responsible, ethical behavior is the true cornerstone of the American free enterprise system.

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