Bad Teacher? Using Films as Texts When Teaching Business Ethics: Exploring the Issues

  •  Josie Fisher    
  •  Bligh Grant    
  •  Denise Palmer    


The contemporary teaching of business ethics necessarily involves the recognition that texts, materials andmodes of assessment ought to be rendered appealing to students, while at the same time ensuring the quality ofteaching. Prima facie the use of film can be seen as a way to address this dilemma: Students may be attracted tothe ‘delivery’ of course content through the medium of film as opposed to, for example, standard lecture format,participation in online activities or, at a stretch, reading and writing. An alternative scenario can also beenvisioned where the use of film in teaching business ethics is bad professional practice, pandering to both therequirement for positive assessments from students and for technological change. This paper discusses theseissues by critically examining the films recommended by a contemporary business ethics text, Crane and Matten(2010). We identify significant problems with the use of two films, The Corporation (2005) and Michael Clayton(2007). Against our own criticisms of these two texts, the paper then focuses upon Ken Loach’s (2007) film It’s aFree World, arguing that it is a useful text for the illustration of what students, more often than not, regard as theclichéd issue of unskilled foreign wage labourers being exploited in ‘advanced’ western economies. Despite theconsiderable virtues of Loach’s particular text, we argue that any recourse to film as an alternative method ofexamining a range of issues in business ethics has to be treated with caution.

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