By day and night I’m an accounting professor. By inclination, however, I’m a [place adjective here] blogger. Pick you favorite adjective: financial, accounting, regulatory, professorial, or whatever.
A few days ago, a reader e-mailed asking why I blog, etc. Summing it up in a few words, “I think and because I must express myself, therefore I blog.” The reader continued with another question, asking where the ideas come from that turn into blog posts. My vague reply probably dealt with living in a diverse world during interesting times. But that’s not all of it by any means.
The essence of my day job is to observe the world of accounting (and education), figure it out, and then explain it to students at my academic institution. By some perverse twist of thought, I have substituted “any past, present and potentially future reader of The Summa” in place of students. Voilà!
Ideas for blog posts spring naturally from the manner in which I look at the world, and what part of my world I’m looking at. Generally speaking, the manner in which a person looks at the world has an influence in that person’s world view, a topic I wrote about a few days ago (On Developing a Worldview).
For me to explain anything, in class or on this blog, I must be able to figure it out. And to do that I must ask questions. Frequently asked questions include, “What just happened here?” or “Why did that happen here?” or “Is it likely to happen again?” or “What is the pattern?” Questions must precede answers, and answers dictate the response.
What will the course be like? What will be covered? How will it be covered? What skills will be stressed? Essentially, I’m in the middle of figuring out how to explain to students how I look at the world of intermediate financial accounting.
But that’s not all of it.
I am not yesterday’s professor. Yesterday’s professor would focus on FASB rules (i.e., SFAS #4, SFAS #142) and test on knowledge acquisition. Yesterday’s teacher assumes that if students are taught knowledge, they will figure out how to use that knowledge after they graduate and matriculate into the practical world. I am tomorrow’s teacher, where the focus is on the bigger picture of financial statements. Tomorrow’s teacher assumes that students will forget knowledge, but will retain skills. Tomorrow’s teacher teaches for tomorrow, such as how to use accounting when it is needed a couple of years down the road. Tomorrow’s teacher does not teach answers, but does teach how to ask questions.
Why questions? It is because if I simply explain to students how I see the world and what I see of it (all very interesting), then that is knowledge (about me) to them And I assume that students can forget any knowledge. But if I can teach students to figure out their own knowledge, they’ll be set for life. And, they can’t figure out their own answers unless they can ask questions.
I’m so excited about new classes. In Intermediate Accounting (a course I’m sure many readers loved back when they were students), I’m pondering just how I’m going to get students to shift from answers to questions. If they can do that, they’ll never be bored in their professional life. Here’s what they might be doing this semester:
- Presenting a company’s financial statements. Oh, this is a doosy. Numbers have to be converted into words, organized into sentences and paragraphs, and communicated with a theme. And, questions must be answered.
- Tearing apart the financials for a company to figure out what is going on. In other words, a full blown exercise in financial statement analysis.
- Writing a paper in which they take a position on some accounting issue and then persuade me that they’ve taken the better position. Topics I’m considering are: Should the U.S. drop GAAP and switch to IFRS? Should leased assets (and the corresponding financial obligation) be accounted for differently than now? Should the U.S. retain the old rule for contingencies or switch to the new rule?
- Reflect on whether they are learning anything.
I love this time of year. There is much promise in the air whenever college classes get started. And I love blogging. There is much promise in the air whenever a blogger sits down at a keyboard.
Debit and credit – – David Albrecht