“The thing to do, when you don't know, is not to bluff and not to freeze, but to learn.” Donella H. Meadows

Monday, January 31, 2011

Anything but dry

The topic I teach is a good test case for placing the University’s values in action. The common perception of accounting is that it is a rather dry subject, with much to memorize and many difficult exams to take, but if one can only graduate with a B or above, a well paying job should not be too hard to find. But even a high GPA student who maintains these beliefs after graduation would not be a success story according to Seattle University’s values.
It is our job to help the student decide whether accounting is indeed the best career for him or her. To assist in understanding a difficult passage in the textbook, or to discover why the outcome of a certain test was disappointing. To pose intriguing and challenging questions in class, and to smile, tell interesting and funny stories, and make it so that they will come and enjoy even the 8 AM class on a rainy Monday. If they know we care, it is amazing how much effort they will put into their assignments, and how much lighter their load will be.
But accounting is not dry. It can be gray, but only because in many areas setting accounting policy is anything but black and white. This is interesting gray, where fraud and manipulation thrive. Interesting also because investors must learn to see through the complex veil of accounting in order to make sound decisions. As teacher I must be cognizant of recent developments in the applied and academic worlds of accounting, so that I can bring what is new and puzzling with me to the classroom. Not next year when a new textbook comes out, but tomorrow when CNN will be spreading the news. Should we or should we not implement fair values in financial statements now? How did the “credit crunch” begin, and what can be done to lessen its impact? If I can bring my own insights to the classroom I will be a living example of someone who is excited about accounting. And so, some of my students may also catch the “bug”.