A Matter of Ethics


The recent college admission scandal has all the elements of a Hollywood blockbuster movie – wealthy and famous Hollywood and Silicon Valley parents buying entrance to elite colleges for their children, a shady college-preparatory program, coaches fabricating athletic successes, and a multi-million-dollar class action lawsuit against the country’s leading universities. Ironically one of the persons involved is a partner in a Social Impact fund! It brings up important questions about what we are teaching children today. It paints an extremely narrow view of what success looks like and that its okay to bend the rules and cheat to get what you want; merit be damned.

It doesn’t just end there. We live in an age where “the end justifies the means” mantra has become the norm for far too many people and it is symbolic of where we are as a society today. Think Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook’s string of scandals in recent times – be it the reckless sharing of user data or high-profile data breaches or even its inability to rein in abuse of its platform to spread fake news and propaganda. The worst part is that Facebook continues to ask for our trust even as it loses control of data. Or look at Purdue Pharma, a family owned Connecticut company that has collected more than $31 billion from OxyContin sales and helped plant the seeds of the current opioid epidemic. It is almost unbelievable that Purdue blatantly misled federal regulators and the public about the highly addictive nature and unsafe use of OxyContin. In fact, the company continued to aggressively market OxyContin, even as it became clearer that the drugs weren’t safe – raising major ethical issues. Consider these stats – according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than 130 people die each day in the United States of opioid overdoses.

Warren Buffet once famously said – “We look for three things when we hire people. We look for intelligence, we look for initiative or energy, and we look for integrity. And if they don’t have the latter, the first two will kill you.” In a nutshell, leaders need to develop a strong moral compass that will form the foundation of an organization’s ethical culture. Which brings us back to the current college admission crisis and the importance of preparing young people to make ethical and moral choices. How do we teach them to be honest and respect values? How do we instill in them a code of morality and ethics in a cut-throat culture that fosters dishonesty? These are tough questions…but they need to be addressed right away.

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