Corporate Sponsored Education: The Limits Of Social Responsibility

3290 words - 13 pages

Corporate Sponsored Education: The Limits Of Social Responsibility

ABSTRACT: The business sector increasingly subsidizes financially challenged institutions. Representative examples would include health care, major sports arenas, and penal facilities. Among the recent beneficiaries of corporate largesse are schools. Such assistance blurs social roles and raises serious moral concerns, especially those of moral agency. Education, more so than other social institutions, determines the kind of citizen and moral character a person can become. Put differently, education operates on virtue development that may override the fiscal logic of profit-maximization practiced by corporations. In this paper I argue that whatever benefit received by struggling schools is short-lived by comparison to the long range influence achieved by a corporation via advertisements that affect the psychological preferences of children. I contend that this makes the exchange unfair insofar as it violates the autonomy of the student. Education should provide a free and open atmosphere in which critical points of view are discussed. If corporations are permitted untrammeled access to schools, social views may become one-dimensional. Economic salvation would effectively trade on the moral failure of schools.

The familiar debate over corporate social responsibility draws against the classical view of Milton Friedman that the sole responsibility of corporations is to its stockholders. This narrow view eschews corporate social responsibility for the maximization of profits whereby society would be the indirect beneficiary of market capitalism. In contrast, the broader view held by Richard DeGeorge, Tom Donaldson, and Norman Bowie argue that corporations have a social responsibility to enhance the well-being and liberty of citizens since they provide the employment pool required by increased demands of production. In many locations, there is an added incentive of tax relief for a business to remain in a community. Events over the past several years prompt revisiting social responsibility of corporations such as the thousands of unemployed as a result of downsizing; maladjusted auto air bags injuring and killing infant passengers; tobacco industry's covering up addictive chemicals used in the production of cigarettes; Prudential Securities inflating the cost of stock for personal profits; and discriminatory hiring and promotions at Texaco Oil. Although these are reasons for recasting the terms of the contract to prohibit business activities that are unambiguously injurious, there may also be good reasons for restricting positive duties of corporations in society that are ambiguously beneficient. For while some corporations have breached the contract, others have embarked on projects that manifest a concern about the cultural and educational endeavors of institutions. It is not unusual to hear of corporate sponsorship of musical events, theatrical performances, scholarships,...

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