Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Only Schools That Matter

This is the time of year when high school seniors and their families and friends are on pins and needles. In little more than a month's time, colleges will be sending admission decision e-mails and letters. The universal hope among our brightest high school students is that they will get into great, good, or at least solid schools.

Because those universities are the places where their futures will be decided. 

But not really. These are the places where all of our futures are decided:

The Harvard Business School
The Stanford Business School
The Penn Business School (Wharton)
The MIT Business School (Sloan)
The Northwestern Business School (Kellogg)
The University of Chicago Business School
The Dartmouth Business School (Tuck)
The University of California, Berkeley Business School (Haas)
The Columbia Business School
The New York University Business School (Stern)

As listed in the February 11, 2009 edition of U.S. News & World Report, these are the top ten business schools in the United States. They, along with a number of other top business schools, produce our country's elite bankers, traders, developers, and entrepreneurs. You know, the people who created this sucking mess of an economy that is making everyone's life so exciting these days. The same gang that's getting trillions of taxpayer dollars in bailout money.

Last week, the House Financial Services Committee, chaired by Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), called in a rogues' gallery of mega-bankers. Their number included Kenneth D. Lewis, CEO of Bank of America, graduate of Georgia State University; Vikram Pandit, CEO of Citigroup, MBA Columbia; John Stumpf, CEO Wells Fargo, MBA University of Minnesota; John J. Mack, CEO of Morgan Stanley, Duke; Jamie Dimon, CEO of JP Morgan Chase, MBA Harvard; Lloyd C. Blankfein, CEO of Goldman Sachs, Harvard JD; RobertP. Kelley, CEO of Bank of New York Mellon, MBA Cass Business School, London.

Needless to say, but I'll do it anyway, the companies these guys head are on the hook to the federal government, that is you and me, for umpteen billions of dollars. 

Which raises in my mind several questions, such as: Are all of these guys legacy admits? If you think I'm kidding, consider this: The Harvard Business School rejected an application by the most successful investor of modern times, Warren Buffett, but it admitted and conferred its solid gold MBA on George W. Bush. (Another of the mugs most responsible for the current disaster.) If you think Boy George got in on anything other than the strength of his family name, I've got some Enron stock to sell you. 

But let's assume that at least half of the people who get into top tier business schools do so on merit. Then the questions become: What the hell were they taught in their classes? Or did a statistically improbable number of them suffer devastating but invisible head injuries after they'd risen to the pinnacles of power?

Is it possible all these schools have incorporated in their curricula the credo of Gordon Gekko from the movie "Wall Street?" Greed is good.

We have to do a serious examination of our country's business schools because not only did they produce the pack of hyenas and imbeciles who gave us outsourcing, downsizing and Soup Kitchen 2.0, but they are also producing the next crop of grasping sociopaths.

There's one more observation to make here, and a constructive suggestion: None of the CEOs driving us off a cliff is a female. What I'd do? Can all the guys at the top and give some smart women a chance.

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