Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 146, Issue 3, pp 703–723 | Cite as

Highlighting Moral Courage in the Business Ethics Course

  • Debra R. Comer
  • Michael Schwartz


At the end of their article in the September 2014 issue of the Journal of Business Ethics, Douglas R. May, Matthew T. Luth, and Catherine E. Schwoerer state that they are “hopeful in outlook” about the “evidence that business ethics instructors are….able to encourage students…to develop the courage to come forward even when pressures in organizations dictate otherwise” (p. 78). We agree with May et al. (2014) that it is essential to augment students’ moral courage. However, it seems overly optimistic to believe that this improvement will result from any course in business ethics. Indeed, we question the appropriateness of their measure of moral courage and assert that business ethics educators must purposely design their courses to develop students’ moral courage. In particular, we advocate introducing business ethics students to works of literature featuring protagonists who exercise moral courage in organizations. Fiction provides rich accessible narratives that show students worlds beyond their experience, awaken their imaginations, and evoke their emotions. Further, we highlight morally courageous exemplars because they inspire the cultivation of character. Joining those who underscore the role of virtue in business ethics education, we argue that exposure to moral exemplars in fiction will help students to build the moral courage they need to carry out ethical decisions in the workplace. Results from 46 students at the end of an MBA ethics course featuring moral courage provide preliminary evidence of the effectiveness of our approach.


Education/pedagogy/teaching Emotions Fiction Literature Moral action/behavior/conduct Moral courage Moral exemplars 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Management and Entrepreneurship, Zarb School of BusinessHofstra UniversityHempsteadUSA
  2. 2.School of Economics, Finance & MarketingRoyal Melbourne Institute of TechnologyMelbourneAustralia

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