I have occasionally written about the need for a professor to develop a mature worldview. More so than that, we all (whether professor, student, or professional) should consciously develop a world view. Yes, a world-view is a good thing. Although there are three accepted forms for spelling the term, it is not a difficult concept.
A worldview is one person’s mental model of his/her reality. It is a personal framework for organizing ideas, attitudes and theories about some aspect of the world in which a person lives. When viewed in its totality, it is a personal description of the way all things work.
When we are young and/or inexperienced, our view is limited because we haven’t seen that much of the world. Thirty two years ago when I first studied accounting, my worldview of accounting was pretty much limited to what was immediately in front of my nose (an only-in-front-of-nose-view). Likewise, thirty years ago when I taught my first accounting class, my view of the world of accounting education was very limited. It was not mature. Never-the-less, I had a mental model of sorts. Not a framework, it was more like a clothes hamper where I tossed my ideas and a few attitudes. Somewhere along the path of my life, I built a few theories for explaining how a few isolated things worked (I always had teaching tendencies). Eventually the clothes hamper was so crammed, disorganized and messy, I had to develop a framework for classifying and sorting everything. So I worked on it. And voilà–I had a worldview.
I’ve been asked to post a reading list for developing an accounting worldview. I can’t, because it doesn’t work that way. Here’s why.
It is true that each one of us either has a worldview, or the capability for developing one. A worldview reflects what an individual person sees. Because of different vantage points, we all don’t see the same things. As a youngster, I grew up dirt-poor, raised by uneducated parents who none-the-less held an idealized vision of education (you should make something of yourself and make the world a better place). As an undergrad, I studied political science (international politics and foreign affairs) and history (American). I brought ideas from these disciplines (and from my upbringing) with me when coming over to accounting. My worldview will share similarities with some people, and not with others. Because of individual differences, worldviews are like snowflakes (no two alike).
Can I send anyone a reading list for developing a world view? No. I shared the request with a retired professor friend (art history). Her response was the student should go sit in a library for ten years and read, read, and read some more. You need to inspect your part of the world with a magnifying glass. When I moved to Concordia over the summer, I took nearly 30 boxes of books. I trashed photocopies of nearly 500 journal articles, all heavily marked up with a highlighter pen. Reading is for comprehension and retention.
Neither one of us can tell the student what to read, for that depends upon the student’s interests. A worldview is as dependent upon attitudes as it is on ideas. Passion is an exceedingly overused term. Never-the-less, it is apt here. You have to care enough about something to put in the time necessary to properly brew a rich worldview.
Writers can actually firm up what they think about a subject by writing about it. How is this so? Writing forces an author into reflection. Several things must be present when reflecting. Ideas must be present (yes, what you think is a necessary ingredient for a good essay). However, how and why you think are also important. People will only trust your ideas if they know they are sound. The “how” and “why” provide the justification. As you write a justification for others, you justify it for yourself. Stated another way, if you can’t justify it to yourself, perhaps you shouldn’t think it. To thine own self be true. And of course, well written essays must be properly organized. Point A logically leads to point B, and so forth. Everything is connected. It is internal consistency, if you will. My worldview about accounting standard setting became much sounder once I started writing about it.
This doesn’t mean that you should share your thoughts with the world on the first day you start forming your world view. At some point in time, though, having someone read you is important. After all, no man (or woman) is an island. Because we grow and learn from interaction with others, our worldview can grow and develop from sharing. At some point in time, blogging becomes useful. At least, I’ve found it so. Blogging is important to me for two reasons. First, I write about my world view. Second, I can read others’ worldview, then reflect on and internalize their arguments.
The final comment I have is that the value derived from a worldview should be measured over the long term, not the short term. Worldviews take a while to develop, and they can sometimes take even longer to catch on with other people. If you are waiting for the world to appreciate you, then please don’t hold your breath. In the mean-time, be content with the realization that is not the end result that matters, but the process by which the worldview was created..
Debit and credit – – David Albrecht