Harvard Business School is among the few M.B.A. programs that require students to take ethics as part of their core curriculum. The program is delivered through a nine-session course that aims to give the next generation of corporate executives a sense of the gravity of their roles as managers. There are a handful of electives that students can take as well. "What we teach is that you can't reduce your job to a set of financial obligations," says Joseph Badaracco, the John Shad Professor of Business Ethics at Harvard Business School. "It's a big, complicated set of responsibilities."

So what went wrong with Jeffrey Skilling? The former Enron Corp. president and CEO was once a shining example of the management ingenuity coming out of Harvard. Now, he can be listed among its most notorious alumni. "When you see someone who had such extraordinary talent and was a smart and articulate guy building up what was a terrific company, and you find out the company was screwed up massively, its importance [to an ethics discussion] is clear," says Badaracco. His conclusion: Business schools aren't doing enough. "It's only nine sessions in a 700- to 800-session program," he says. "So, clearly, [ethics] has only a limited influence relative to other courses the students take."

Badaracco is not the only one doing some soul-searching. Nationwide, academics and business schools are raising questions about the role of business ethics in a business school curricula, and about whether the current scandals reflect a fundamental shortcoming of M.B.A. programs. Certainly, the stories of improprieties at companies like Enron, Arthur Andersen LLP and Xerox Corp. give folks like Badaracco vivid real-life examples of fallen stars with which to teach students how to be good corporate citizens. But they also make educators wonder whether they should be providing students with a better moral compass to allow them to navigate their way through choppy corporate waters without taking illegal shortcuts to good earnings and success.

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