A business ethics lecturer used Kendrick Lamar lyrics in an exam and his students loved it

Image: Reuters/Mario Anzuoni
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A teacher at Nairobi’s Strathmore University surprised students in his business ethics class with an end-of-semester exam question based on a Kendrick Lamar song:

In the words of Kendrick Lamar (popular rapper of the good kid, m.a.a.d city fame), “If you get your first big cheque and you cop a chain before you buy a house. You’re a vanity slave.” In this song, “Vanity Slave,” Mr Lamar speaks openly about mindless consumerism. Explain three dangers of consumerism.

A photo of the exam, held on Monday (July 11), has been circulating on social media. Many are commending the instructor and the school, known for its strong business programs, on their good taste.

The exam was written by Caleb Kandagor, an assistant lecturer in philosophy and ethics at Strathmore. Kandagor, who has been teaching the course for three years, says he was surprised by all the attention the question has gotten.

“My students who are millennials do listen to hip-hop and I thought since we had covered the topic why not just surprise them with something they can relate with,” he said. “Probably they had listened to the song before and never given it a thought. It is a question they will remember for a lifetime. For me it is about making ethics real.”

Kandagor hopes to warn students against consumerist behavior that could lead to excessive debt and other financial pitfalls. Youth unemployment in Kenya is the highest in East Africa, with almost one in five working-age Kenyans unemployed. The number of new graduates from schools like Strathmore consistently outpaces new jobs in the country.

“Above all, [the song] calls for young people to focus on securing their future rather than consuming all their earnings in material wants just to please others,” Kandagor says. ”The challenge with business ethics currently in Kenya is that we have leaders who flaunt their wealth and no one knows how they have earned their money. These leaders are sending a message that what matters is the end, wealth, but not the means used to acquire the wealth.”