Our world faces new challenges in the 21st century. In an increasingly interdependent economy, business decisions will affect us all. Those decisions that are based on sound ethical judgment will have the most favorable and beneficial results. Business ethics education empowers students with information and skills that will lead to better communication and more ethical decision-making worldwide. As members of a profession that knows no geographical borders, English language teachers worldwide are in a key role to help improve communication and understanding about ethics in business.

If we are to plan for the future and our children’s future, we must try to solve problems of equality, environment, and consumerism. Teachers have a professional obligation to build social responsibility and ethical behaviors in students. English language teachers can and should provide students with opportunities to build social responsibility and ethical behaviors. The materials in this Volume of the English Teaching Forum's on-line journal on Language and Civil Society will help English language teachers in their efforts to do that.

International Issues in Business Ethics

Ethical considerations are inseparable from and systematically connected with business decision-making. Ethical concepts can and should inform international economic activity.

According to Donaldson (1989), societies can and do have the right to expect business to function ethically because society engages in a contractual agreement with business to carry out the necessary work to provide goods and services to that society: "All productive organizations can be viewed as engaging in an implied contract with society. ..... Corporations, as all productive organizations, must have bestowed upon them by society.... authority to own and use land and natural resources. In return, society has the right to expect that productive organizations will enhance the general interests of consumers and employees. Society may also expect that corporations honor existing rights and limit their activities to accord with the bounds of justice."

So, under this ‘social contract’ between society and business, what rules guide the behavior of business agents? What are the minimal duties of global business professionals? Should an international code of business ethics be adopted? If so, what should such a code contain?

Some business practices traverse national and cultural boundaries. Others do not. When crossing national borders, it is necessary to be sure of what the rules are that govern ethical practice and behavior. In most cases, those rules are infrequently discussed and sometimes not explicitly known. The tasks carried out in the chapters in this volume will allow teachers and students opportunities to begin to identify those rules. Civil societies are maintained and developed in contexts where citizens discuss such issues. For these reasons, the materials contained in the ten chapters that follow this Introduction will be of high interest and value in helping students build English language skills to discuss and write about business ethics for use in contexts relevant and meaningful to them. In this volume, we will begin with a primary emphasis on business ethics as it relates to human rights, fairness, and justice.

Pedagogical Overview

Design of Lessons: Each lesson is designed with a presentation of information, followed by language practice and tasks, and finally, assessment.

Tasks: The focus of the lessons is on the completion of tasks. Tasks span a range of pedagogical and real-life activities. All tasks are designed to provide students with opportunities to use the knowledge and skills taught. These tasks are done both in and outside the classroom. Upon the completion of each task, there is a systematic assessment: self-assessment, peer feedback, and teacher evaluation.

Language Knowledge and Skills: The goal and objective of all lessons is the development of knowledge about language and the abilities to use language skills with significant and important content, especially business ethics. Teachers need not be experts in business ethics to use these materials. The background information (Teacher Resources) will be of help to teachers who seek to be better acquainted with details of the issues discussed in each chapter.

Keeping an Open Mind: In all matters ethical, students and teachers alike will be required to be open to the various ideas that the materials and exercises present and those offered in class by fellow classmates and even others (individuals interviewed, information obtained on-line and in readings). The more diverse the ideas, the better. The more energetic the discussion, the better. The goal is to build and maintain student and teacher investment and motivation in addressing these complex and fascinating issues. The English language skills that students learn in a context of investment and motivation are geometrical in terms of increased proficiency when compared with language acquisition that occurs in less energetic settings.

I hope this volume on Ethics is interesting and inspiring to your students.

Liz England


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