An MBA for the rest of us

May 1, 2014, 4:06 PM UTC

I was walking through the Oakland airport a while back when I saw not one, not two, but three billboards trumpeting the splendors of a university MBA. One was from the University of California at Davis. One was from Berkeley. The last was from the designated training facility for the National Bank of Startup Capitalism, Stanford. Marone! I thought. What a profitable revenue stream it must be, this MBA thing, so busy are all these educational beehives in marketing it. As you know, Marketing is the art of creating desire for something nobody knows he needs until the demand is created for it by Marketing.

So what are they teaching people?

A key to the answer comes from Harvard, which, clearly jealous of the war chest that Stanford has stuffed to bursting from its online offerings, has just launched HBX — remote business training for the rest of us. The course in applied rationalism begins with a CORe (Credential of Readiness) introducing entrants to such ostensibly fundamental concepts as Business Analytics, Economics for Managers, and Financial Accounting.

I’m sure that’s well-intentioned, but I think it’s irresponsible. People getting their start in the workplace don’t need that kind of nonsense, unless they aspire to be in finance or maybe teach in a business school. What they need is a course of study focused on the genuine challenges, opportunities, and conundrums that assail the working person.

In such a curriculum, we would begin with a discussion of not appearing stupid, with instruction on how to feign financial literacy, consume alcohol without disgracing oneself, and appear intelligent about matters about which one has no knowledge or interest. Not looking stupid, in many cases, is more important than not being stupid. It should be taught first, and studied, as ballet dancers continue to study their craft, throughout one’s career.

A responsible MBA would then instruct students in the art of fabricating a business persona. The individual we present to the workplace is not precisely the same as the one who wakes up and looks in the mirror before the face is arranged and the helmet goes on. What makes up this construct? Well, a wide range of things, including but not limited to grooming, costume, hardware, level of aggression, use of friends, and, of course, an approach to the craziness of other people, bosses in particular.

From here our alternative curriculum would go on to tackle core disciplines that prepare the ambitious student for mastery in the real world: the arts of selling, for instance, as well as a full understanding of managing (not only others but oneself), group dynamics (the foundation of that ubiquitous daily event, the meeting), and a deep dive into the fundamentals of power, for in the end, isn’t that what this trip is all about? After this grounding we would then gleefully plunge into the swift-moving waters of, among other things, strategic thinking, crisis management, electronic communications, and, when it is absolutely necessary, ethics. We’d also need a bulging quiver of tutorials and electives, and probably a glossary of business terms designed for people who occasionally want to understand what other people are saying.

Sounds like a fabulous alternative to your tedious, expensive, and time-consuming traditional MBA, doesn’t it? The good news is that this is exactly what I have delivered in my new course of study, The Curriculum: Everything You Need to Know to Be a Master of Business Arts, which comes stuffed with amusing and instructive charts and graphs and, at the very end, a diploma suitable for framing. For further understanding of what I just accomplished, acquire The Curriculum at any bookseller and turn to the chapter on self-marketing. I also do speaking engagements.

Follow Stanley Bing at and on Twitter at @thebingblog.

This story is from the May 19, 2014 issue of Fortune.

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