Music Business Ethics!

033Music Business Ethics!

I was looking for songs used to illustrate business ethics themes. For instance, Billy Joel’s song, Allentown, and Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the U.S.A. are good business ethics songs. But my first search pulled up a course offering for “Music Business Leadership and Ethics.” I am delighted. The more specialized a field becomes the more likely its reach is increasing. And few fields need more reach like business ethics.

Below is a piece of the online syllabus. Maybe you will have an opportunity to create or participate in this kind of innovative teaching. If so, Good Luck!!

James Pilant

Music Business Leadership and Ethics Course – Berklee Online

The course begins with an examination of notable leaders, leadership approaches, and industry scenarios important to anyone in the music field. Students will explore ethics from a wide variety of industries to gain an understanding about why ethical choices are important in sustaining one’s career. The music industry is, of course, no stranger to controversy or ethical inquiry. This course work will illuminate current issues such as:

the treatment of artists

intellectual property rights

revenue sharing

digital media and distribution

Students will apply specific decision-making approaches and ethical frameworks toward group activities that mirror the real world. They will explore some controversial issues that have existed for decades and emerging issues that are reshaping the modern music business. Students will be fine-tuning their career plans as they progress through the lessons and they will learn to anticipate decision-making, and ethics challenges. Students will create a blueprint for sound decision-making, effective leadership, organizational planning, and ethical awareness that they can immediately apply toward advancing their careers.

This course gives vital insight in to the overall role of leadership and ethics in the music business, other industries, and in one’s daily life. By the end of this course, students will be able to:

gain insight in to how leadership and decision-making considerations can help create a career plan

examine their plan in the context of the history and evolution and history of the music industry

translate and extrapolate leadership and decision-making strategies from other industries and decision-making scenarios

create a career roadmap with a focus on the achievement of specific goals

identify ethics considerations and leadership opportunities in the music industry that pertain to their career paths

via Music Business Leadership and Ethics Course – Berklee Online.

From Around the Web.

From the web site, Thinking Sounds.

It seems self-evident that music plays more than just an aesthetic role in contemporary society. Its social, political, emancipatory, and economical functions have been the subject of much research. Given this, it is surprising that discussions of ethics have often been neglected in relation to music. The ways in which music engages with ethics are more relevant than ever, and require sustained attention.

The book Music and Ethics (Ashgate 2012, co-author Dr. Nanette Nielsen), being the result of my research on the relation between music and ethics, begins from the idea that music is not only a vehicle to transport ethical ideas, ideas that can also be articulated verbally or discursively; rather, the book demonstrates that music ‘in itself’ can, in a unique and purely musical way, contribute to theoretical discussions about ethics as well as concrete moral behaviour.

Music can teach us to listen carefully and without prejudice. It can also teach us to cooperate and interact with others outside preconceived goals and benefits. It can offer insights into expressions of selfhood, as a key player in the construction of subjectivity. However, on the other hand, music also plays an important role in the disciplining and controlling of human beings. In that sense, music has ‘unethical’ sides as well.


Testing Opt Out!

1-05-006Testing Opt Out!

My son did high stakes testing in high school. He described it as a hideous experience often being taken from his classes and placed in the gym as one in rows of students preparing for the tests. The school would move desks into the gym so they would have a huge open area for the supervision of test preparation. They spent days preparing for tests each year.

It seems that the high school experience I had so many years ago has deteriorated into a facility where the wonderful things about school: art, science, literature, inspired teaching as well as opportunities to interact with your fellows, have diminished in favor of standardized tests. Many of my students in the college courses I teach appear as if to do well on tests was the main thing they learned in school. The broad range of skills and the confidence one gets from being educated seems to be diminished among them.

As an educator I know the limitations of testing. Some of my students do well on some kinds of tests like multiple choice. Some do badly. Switch to true-false and some students who did badly do well. It is well known that stress knocks down test scores. So does illness and other factors. One story you hear over and over from other faculty at the college level is the student who takes down everything said in class scoring lower than students who don’t take any notes at all. There are powerful differences in test taking abilities and learning styles.

Testing is a blunt instrument. It has limited accuracy. As a college instructor, there are always students in my classes who do badly on tests that I believe are capable learners who I trust will take away more from the class that those who scored well.

After using tests for years and having taken countless tests myself, I am horrified at what these clumsy assessment tools are being used for. If my son were still in high school, I would opt out. I would not put up with this nonsense. I am familiar with the corporate compulsion to collect data and to crunch numbers. As a business teacher, I believe firmly that this is a corporate fetish. Many numbers are useless and mean nothing. Sometimes it is difficult to discern which numbers are significant when compared to other measures. If you want to see number crunching taken to the level of madness, read David Halberstam’s The Best and the Brightest. Many things done in Vietnam were designed to produce good numbers. And they did, the numbers show that we the war easily. Is that what you remember about the war? Did that war go well for we Americans?

When cooperation with the system means pain for our children, the generation of numbers used to justify the destruction of our schools and increased influence by testing corporations and anti-public education zealots, it is time to say, “Enough.” Opt out, don’t feed the beast.

James Pilant


Test Season Reveals America’s Biggest Failures | Crooks and Liars

It’s testing season in America, and regardless of how the students do, it’s clear who is already flunking the exams.

Last week in New York, new standardized tests began rolling out across the state, and tens of thousands of families said “no dice.”

According to local news sources, over 33,000 students skipped the tests – a figure “that will probably rise.”

At one Brooklyn school, so many parents opted their students out of the tests the teachers were told they were no longer needed to proctor the exams. At another Brooklyn school, 80 percent of the students opted out. Elsewhere in Long Island, 41 school districts in Nassau and Suffolk reported thousands of students refusing to take the test, and an additional district reported hundreds more.

Reflecting how the testing rebellion may affect upcoming elections, the Republican opponent to New York’s Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo, Rob Astorino, announced his intention to opt his children out of state tests.

What is happening in New York is indicative of a groundswell of popular dissent – what Peter Rothberg, a journalist for The Nation and a New York City parent, called a “nationwide movement” – against the over-use and abuse of standardized testing in public schools.

via Test Season Reveals America’s Biggest Failures | Crooks and Liars.

From Around the Web.

From the web site, Change the Stakes.

Teachers of Conscience

A Letter to Chancellor Carmen Fariña

Dear Chancellor Carmen Fariña,

We are teachers of public education in the City of New York. We are writing to distance ourselves from a set of policies that have come to be known as market-based education reform. We recognize that there has been a persistent and troubling gulf between the vision of individuals in policymaking and the work of educators, but we see you as someone who has known both positions and might therefore be understanding of our position. We find ourselves at a point in the progress of education reform in which clear acts of conscience will be necessary to preserve the integrity of public education. We can no longer implement policies that seek to transform the broad promises of public education into a narrow obsession with the ranking and sorting of children. We will not distort curriculum in order to encourage students to comply with bubble test thinking. We can no longer, in good conscience, push aside months of instruction to compete in a city-wide ritual of meaningless and academically bankrupt test preparation. We have seen clearly how these reforms undermine teachers’ love for their profession and undermine students’ intrinsic love of learning.

As an act of conscience, we are declining the role of test administrators for the 2014 New York State Common Core Tests. We are acting in solidarity with countless public school teachers who have paved their own paths of resistance and spoken truthfully about the decay of their profession under market-based reforms. These acts of conscience have been necessary because we are accountable to the children we teach and our pedagogy, both of which are dishonored daily by current policies.

Syllabus Content Warning

Japan-Nuclear-EmergencySyllabus Content Warning

I’d never thought about this until I saw Angus Johnston’s post on his blog, Student Activism. I use the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire as an example of the need for regulation in the business environment. It’s pretty graphic and I warn the class verbally before using it. But this might be better. I could include a warning and then list the documentaries that students could have trouble with.

Mr. Johnston says he could use some feedback on this issue. If you are a teacher, please go to his web site and give your advice.

James Pilant

Content Warnings and College Classes |

The New Republic has a story out mocking and condemning what it describes as a trend toward the use of mandatory “trigger warnings” in college classes.

I don’t have time for a full post on this subject right now, but as I said on Twitter a few moments ago, while I’ve never given a trigger warning by that name, I do make a point of mentioning to  my students at the start of the semester the fact that my courses sometimes address horrific and difficult subjects. Beyond that, I spend a lot of time thinking about how I prepare my students for traumatic material in class, and about how I present that material. Classrooms can be traumatizing environments, and it’s appropriate for professors to consider how to ameliorate that possibility.

After I logged off of Twitter, I got to thinking about whether it would be appropriate for me to address the subject of potentially traumatic subjects in the syllabus, and what an attempt to do so might look like. Here’s what I came up with:

“At times during this semester we may be discussing historical events that may be disturbing, even traumatizing. If you ever feel the need to step outside before or during one of these discussions, either for a short time or for the rest of the class session, you may always do so without academic penalty. If you ever wish to discuss your personal reactions to this material, either with the class or with me afterwards, I welcome such discussion as an appropriate part of our coursework.”

That’s just a very early first draft. I don’t know for sure that I’m going to incorporate this into syllabi going forward, but it’s a whack at the problem at least.

I’m interested to know what y’all think, and to see other examples, if you know of any.

via Content Warnings and College Classes |.

From around the web.

From the web site, Classically Inclined.

So, I was putting together my syllabus for Roman Literature of the Empire recently, which is the half-unit course I’m currently teaching to the first year students. It is going to be awesome – we have Livy, Ovid, Lucan, Petronius and Seneca, so I get to spend some time with my favourite boys talking about my favourite things. However. I had decided that for Ovid, if I was going to get the students to read some of his love poetry, I needed to have a lecture titled Why Ovid Is Problematic.

Why? Because it’s not pedagogically responsible to set students loose on the Amores and the Ars Amatoria without explicitly talking about sexual violence and rape. There is a darker side to our witty, playful poet that does need to be talked about, and students need to be given the tools for thinking about these difficult issues. This is, in part, what my article handling teaching the Metamorphoses in the classroom addresses. I had to think quite carefully about how I structured that lecture and what I do with it – I want to talk about the romanticisation of rape in terms of the Sabine women, the abuse of power as it appears in the two Cypassis poems, the violence against the female body as it appears in the two poems about Corinna’s abortion, and the problems of consent and its absence that some of the Amores pose, which feels like a well-structured progression through the issues posed by this sort of writing with some concrete examples.

I have, of course, yet to face the issues involved in actually preparing the lecture. My problem when I was constructing the syllabus was how to make it clear that the content of this session could be disturbing for survivors of rape. What is the pedagogy of the trigger warning on the syllabus?

Not Teaching Anymore?

Here’s a post from an adjunct professor who quit. Her story isn’t unique. It’s becoming increasingly common.

James Pilant

From the web site, Bryn Greenwood

Unfortunately, I don’t teach anymore. I made the decision to become a full-time secretary primarily because of an environment like the one described in this Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article, which details the downward spiral of Margaret Mary Vojtko, a long-time adjunct professor. Her poverty eventually led to her death, so I feel lucky that mine merely led to a secretarial job.

Universities increasingly rely on underpaid adjunct faculty to carry the burden of what are dismissed as “entry level” courses. It seems to escape university administrators and many tenured faculty members that those entry level courses matter the most. Those are the classes where freshmen get a firm footing for the courses they will take in the next three years. Underpaying the people who teach first-year college students seems equivalent to systematically paying first grade teachers less than sixth grade teachers. After all, teaching kids to read, that’s just entry level work. Easy.

Yet those same tenured faculty lament how many students arrive in their upper level courses without the most basic research skills. Why? Because the people tasked with teaching them basic skills – the underpaid adjunct faculty – do not have the time, energy, or institutional support to become truly great teachers. Some of them are teaching four courses per regular semester and two courses per summer semester (compared to the average tenured faculty load of two/two/zero for an academic year.) At the typical pay of $3,000-$3,500 per course, an adjunct is lucky to make $30,000 a year, teaching as many as ten courses per year.

Please go to her web site and read the entire post. JP

From Online Ph.D Programs
From Online Ph.D Programs

Business Ethics Through Film: Monsters Inc. (via You Tube from bdickson14)

There is probably a little more of the movie than business ethics in this little teaching module but it’s still relevant and very, very fun.

If you are teaching business ethics and you want to lighten the atmosphere, this is a good little video.

James Pilant

Teaching difficult texts (via

I talk about this a lot myself. My primary gripes are that teachers often teach unimportant things because they are easy to grade. Sometimes, I see meaningless questions asked because they lend themselves well to an easily gradable format. Here’s a disguised version of one I saw –

The Social Security Act was passed by Congress in ….
A. 1935
B. 1936
C. 1937
or D. 1928.

If your career and life depend on knowing the year that social security passed in the format of a Jeopardy question, that would be a good question. In every other way it is useless.

How should the questions be phrased? Like this –

The Social Security Act was passed by Congress in …
A. The first few years of the Roosevelt Administration.
B. The last years of the Hoover Administration.
C. As one of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society programs in the mid-sixties.
or D. With the founding of the Constitution.

This places the Social Security Act in historical perspective, and it allows reasoning to be used. You can use what you learned in a variety of venues to determine if the act would have been something that the founding fathers or Herbert Hoover would have done.

I believe in teaching difficult subjects. I believe my students can handle difficult material. And I believe that teaching is an art whose highest practitioners can rise to meet the challenges of complexity and ambiguity.

James Pilant

Just a short post that got me thinking about this. In our Inquiry Education class, we read Wintergirls, a novel about a young girl, Lia, who has anorexia. It takes place in the days, weeks and months after her "best friend," Cassie, who had bulimia, died. It's an intense book with a lot of touchy and sometimes controversial events. In a nutshell, it's the book you want kids to open up and read but you don't want to teach it because of the subject … Read More


In the Basement of the Ivory Tower. #College #Unschooling #Education (via uberlearner)

The adjunct professor here tells us what happens when he flunks a majority of his students. –

What actually happens is that nothing happens. I feel no pressure from the colleges in either direction. My department chairpersons, on those rare occasions when I see them, are friendly, even warm. They don’t mention all those students who have failed my courses, and I don’t bring them up. There seems, as is often the case in colleges, to be a huge gulf between academia and reality. No one is thinking about the larger implications, let alone the morality, of admitting so many students to classes they cannot possibly pass. The colleges and the students and I are bobbing up and down in a great wave of societal forces—social optimism on a large scale, the sense of college as both a universal right and a need, financial necessity on the part of the colleges and the students alike, the desire to maintain high academic standards while admitting marginal students—that have coalesced into a mini-tsunami of difficulty. No one has drawn up the flowchart and seen that, although more-widespread college admission is a bonanza for the colleges and nice for the students and makes the entire United States of America feel rather pleased with itself, there is one point of irreconcilable conflict in the system, and that is the moment when the adjunct instructor, who by the nature of his job teaches the worst students, must ink the F on that first writing assignment.

I share some of these concerns. My persistent gripes about the “necessity” of policemen and firemen having to master college algebra is probably well known locally. A college education is appropriate in many fields but surely we can find a variety of mechanisms(of which a college education is a major choice but not the only choice) by which policemen and other municipal employees can be promoted.

James Pilant

In the Basement of the Ivory Tower. #College #Unschooling #Education The idea that a university education is for everyone is a destructive myth. An instructor at a “college of last resort” explains why.By Professor XJune 2008 Atlantic Magazine     I work part-time in the evenings as an adjunct instructor of English. I teach two courses, Introduction to College Writing (English 101) and Introduction to College Literature (English 102), at a small private college and at a community college. The … Read More

via uberlearner

The Not So Secret Code of Character (via Attacking the Page)

I found this essay to mirror some of my concerns. I try to point out to my classes (I teach college) that identifying with and having sympathy for criminals and wrong doers is usually wrong and when not directly wrong, questionable.

I remember my shock when asking my students who their heroes were and one young lady said the Hannibal Lector character in Red Dragon. After a long pause during which I tried to collect my thoughts, I pointed out that this might not be a good choice. I have also pointed out to my students that you hang pirates, that pirates do not sail in endless circles in the Caribbean on a kind of Carnivale Cruise Line vacation but sail to kill people and take their stuff. They find this a strange thought.

I tell them that your moral judgment has to be turned on all the time to be effective and that it requires considerable effort to do so after having been conditioned to root for the “hero” in thousands of television shows. As with all teaching I wonder how much I get across.

This a good article which takes the side of moral responsibility.

James Pilant

My thanks to Attacking the Page.

From the article –

Basically, codes are the rules we use to govern the way we want to live. Our codes of honor, ethics and conduct make up our conscious. They give us a moral compass for orienteering our way though life. Right or wrong, we all have a philosophy by which we live. And so should our characters.

Codes are all around us: computer codes, genetic codes, building codes, zip codes, Morse code and bar codes. The military has codes, professionals have codes, even pirates have codes (though I hear they’re more like guidelines than actual rules.) So what is a code? According to the online Free Dictionary a code is… A systematically arranged and comprehensive collection of laws. A systematic col … Read More

via Attacking the Page

Ethical Solutions Don’t Come Easy (via Scott’s Thoughts on Marketing)

Here is a fellow business professor. Always a pleasure to find another blogging teacher. He enjoys his students and finds their attention drawn to ethics. That’s wonderful, you’d be surprised how many teachers are less than fond of their students.

I like his thoughts on ethics, and I want you to read them.

James Pilant

Ethical Solutions Don't Come Easy Remember that Willie Nelson song “Always On My Mind? Well, sometimes it feels like ethics is always on the mind of marketers – which of course is a good thing! When I look at the traffic on this blog, the posts on ethics always get the most hits, by a long shot.  And while I can never identify who, specifically, lands on these pages, I can see what search engine terms lead people here.  Phrases like “marketing ethics” and “examples of legal but u … Read More

via Scott’s Thoughts on Marketing

ethics (via prof write @ usc)

This is a post in an ongoing class about teaching writing. The ethical problems discussed here are not too far from the problems of teaching business ethics. I know I have more than a few college students reading my posts. I think those students will take particular pleasure in this essay.

How do you teach ethics? If I have any advice to offer, it would be this: never teach ethics as if choices were a matter of point of view – teach ethics as if the choices were a matter of validity. If you teach ethics while mentioning different philosophies, students tend to take away the idea that morality is a matter of opinion.  I recommend ( and do) teach ethics as to which moral system is most appropriate while discussing the moral reasoning behind that ethical code. The idea is that a student will take from the class the idea that different ethical choices are based on human reason.

If morals are a matter of opinion, money ranks as a rationale with God, honor and country. If morals are a matter of validity or a matter of reason, rationales are weighed and considered.

James Pilant

After reading Katz and Ornatowski, and after our discussion in class on Tuesday, I’ve been struggling to figure out what it means to teach ethics—in writing classes in general and in professional writing classes in particular. Flipping through Locker’s textbook, I see the hard-core instrumentalist approach (basically, don’t lie on your resume or CV). “Ethics” doesn’t even appear in the index. I’m still waiting on my copy of Peeples, so I haven’ … Read More

via prof write @ usc