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Accounting student should be nourished intellectually they ought to be encouraged to critique underlying concepts and the social and ideological forces responsible for fashioning any accounting technique. There is a need to pierce the technical surface of accounting to expose the underlying ideology. We should be encouraged to see the seemingly purely technical as inevitable carrying a heavy burden of ideology.
Based on the above statement, could you please discuss and give your opinions regarding the issue raised in the statement.
The issue of what ought to be an appropriate curriculum for (especially) baccalaureate accounting students is a complex and multi-faceted one. Because it can reinforce and extend the argument by that what we teach students in accounting is tantamount to a poverty of discourse and an educational scandal. A poverty of accounting discourse emerges from failure to engage more vigorously with the underlying fundamentals of definition, concept and measurement in accounting. It arises when accounting educators ignore or gloss over the importance of ideology and power in constructing both definition and measurement. We should not ignore the view that definitions are interest driven and saturated with questions of power and persuasion.
A poverty of accounting discourse will arise from condemning students to an exclusive diet of conventional accounting technique one that is lacking in the vital trace elements of critique. For example, in an angry mood, barely able to disguise his disapproval of accounting curricula which continued to ignore fundamental anomalies in the beliefs, dogma and principles underlying accounting that scream for re-examination in the light of observables and experiences. Accounting ideology concern or going to concern on assumptions, the idea that costs attach to outputs, valuation according to the cost or market rules, notions like service potential, and a whole cluster of ideas on aspects of accounting. In other words, accounting ideology concerns go to the heart of the issue of the accountability of accounting educators. The researchers in this, seemed to accept, implicitly at least, that the socially constructive nature of accounting definition would be conducive to clearer, fairer and better accounting education and practice.
By ignoring the social perspective of accounting we are not playing fair with the students who 'learn' accounting, and with the future generations of people who will bear the consequences of ill-informed accounting behavior by those students when they enter practice. We should be mindful that accounting is not only a 'malleable resource' but that it helps create a portrait of what many regard to be economic reality.
If accounting students are to be nourished intellectually, they ought to be encouraged to critique underlying concepts and the social and ideological forces responsible for fashioning any accounting technique. It is important to encourage social critique and 'deviations' from the mainstream impositions of the in vogue conceptions and paraphernalia of the ideology du jour, whether it be capitalism, socialism, communism, liberalism or any other ideology. But unfortunately, some of the researchers of accounting seem to conceive their role as 'professing the truth without fear or favour, of leading the way, challenging the status quo, offering critique, 'disturbing the peace, setting the agenda, being the conscience of the profession, and offering resistance to dominant ideologies. This is unfortunate, for we need to pierce the technical surface of accounting to expose the underlying ideology.
We need to encourage students to 'see' the seemingly purely technical as inevitably carrying a heavy burden of ideology. We must have students engage in critique. We need to raise their awareness of the implications of ideology that are often obscured by faddishness and technical virtuosity (e.g., as evidenced in the vogue popularity of, for example, economic value added).
According to my reading and survey and expectations, we would fail in our accountability to society, as disturbers of the peace, if we continue to be obsequious, conformist and complacent and meekly provide little other than a curricular bill of fare dominated by market driven technical menus. We should resist any temptation to expunge irritating, challenging material because it may offend sensibilities. And we should capture the essence of the accounting educator's duty when they write
Accounting is central to the workings of capitalism. It prioritises property rights (as in a balance sheet), celebrates the supremacy of capital over labour (as in the income statement) and encourages belief in efï¬ciency, private proï¬ts and competition, etc. Emphasis on its technical aspects tends to displace consideration of accounting's role in representing social conï¬‚ict. Instead of posing questions about the role of education in legitimizing practices that result in exploitation, poverty wages, environmental degradations and fraud, the issues become those of following the right techniques and/or accounting/auditing standards. In this way the social core of accounting becomes hidden from scrutiny.
Accounting curricula should encourage critique, be informed by ideological awareness, and be served with healthy portions of skepticism. Accounting educators should promote a scholarly environment in which freedom to be skeptical and critical of conventional wisdom is tolerated and actively encouraged. A re-emphasis on critique will provide much-needed antidote to the dressed-up bluster and seductive patina that sustains the mechanics of rather arbitrary, but ideologically laden, accounting techniques such as EVA offer a unique moment during which accounting education may open up accounting social core.
This core only gains public visibility when there are corporate collapses, scandals and revelations of frauds (e.g. Enron and WorldCom). Such moments of crisis weaken the dominant discourses and create possibilities of change. They provide a reminder that aspiring accountants are being taught techniques and values that can fail, have failed, or are failing. However, these moments of crisis are also opportunities for reconstruction, or at least discussion of it. But such discussion is rarely accompanied by questions about the role of accounting education in encouraging antisocial or errant conduct by auditors, company executives or corporate advisors. The connection is rarely made between the professional values and the role of accounting education in the proliferation of social problems. Thus opportunities for reforming education remained conï¬ned to the narrow conï¬nes of the universities or private mutterings of academics. They are rarely taken beyond the academy.
Accounting educators, allow accounting to continue to be perceived by the public as somehow a revealer of an underlying natural truth in this is cause a failing of accounting educators. Accounting academics are doubly at fault here because they are (or should be) the conscience of the profession, and not merely the willing servants of professional reproduction and corporate triumphalism. Accounting educators role in society is to make the teaching, research and practice in the discipline of accounting as good as it can be for society at large. One aspect of the role of accounting educators (which, from the tone of his speech, would probably sit uncomfortably with Bush) is to assess critically accounting practices and principles, and in doing so expose false prophets and humbug, including the political and economic ideologies that extant accounting practices and principles facilitate.
There are strong grounds for regarding accounting, the well-named language of business, as helping to make various customs and rituals (including some that are anti-human and anti-humane) seem natural. We should remain alert to any contention that accounting is an important part of the 'production of images and discourses' in our society and is one of those crucial social practices 'that has to be analyzed as part and parcel of the reproduction and transformation of any symbolic order because a esthetic and cultural practices matter, and the conditions of their production deserve the closest attention.
Teaching by thousands of accounting academics in many countries over many decades, theorizing and making socially serviceable the periodic measurement and reporting of the ï¬nancial position (wealth) and operating performance (change in wealth) of a business entity. Then there appear to be sustainable grounds for implying that this is a third failure by accounting educators. Despite much research that has allegedly made the practice of accounting better, nonetheless, decades of research and scholarly enquiry by legions of accounting academics might be characterized, generally, to have been in vain.
Many accounting academics seem to lack the communication skills and the rhetorical wherewithal to convince practitioners of the merits of their research and of the accounting 'theory' they espouse. Or perhaps the problem lies with the practitioner arm of the accounting profession and the semblance of antagonism and diffidence it often appears to display to academicians.
Society, should be of more than passing interest for accounting educators because all education, including that of accounting in the university, is political, and indeed, ideological. At the very least, students deserve to understand, critically, the discourses that render them, and their world, as they are. Should university educators promote accounting education as merely the learning of methods to facilitate 'better' private decisions? Should accounting educators be content, for example, to teach the technical mechanics of International Financial Reporting Standards despite concerns that these (and similar) accounting rules and requirements may have been developed in a social lacuna bereft of compassion for humanity? Should the possibility that the accounting we teach will help our students to design a 'better' management control system for a rapacious, proï¬t hungry mega-corporation be a source of contentment? How should the accountability of university accounting educators be discharged?
The researchers, appositely captures the point that accounting is not taught in the university (or in colleges, high schools, and elsewhere) with an intent to foster critical consciousness, engender a respect for public goods, and affirm the need to energize democratic public life and reinvigorate the imperatives of social citizenship. Even in advanced, mature settings, ï¬nancial accounting, for example, is taught as an information system that generates earnings numbers for business valuation models and, more generally, for contracting purposes. Management accounting is taught as a decision support system. While there are instances of curricula that bring a more social (but hardly ever a radical) perspective, examples are rare: they are often hived off in special, often marginal, courses. And when a more social, critical approach is proposed it is often in disguise.
The collapse of Enron, as a social phenomenon, ought to be regarded as providing a unique opportunity for accounting discourse that shows vividly the intertwining of the technical, the social and the ideological, and which therefore ought to be important in any accounting curriculum.
Most accounting educators do not require students to read the original writings of the great minds of accounting. More often than not students are left intellectually impoverished by not reading such writings or by being served a menu of sanitized summaries in accounting theory textbooks. Accounting education would beneï¬t if students were exposed to the corpus of wisdom (and the warts) embodied in the lifetime writings, including private correspondence, utterances, and thinking of accounting major intellectual leaders over time. Where, accounting curricula often include the occasional examination of one or two works of 'contemporary research heroes. Accounting educators should require students to read, analyse and critique some of the thoughts of exemplary paragons of challenging thinking in accounting.
Criticism of the professional standards of practising accountants and accounting educators has a long history that is traceable through diverse settings over many years. Yet we seem to have become totally inured to it, immune to criticism that is counter to the overblown rhetoric of professional excellence and virtue promulgated routinely over many decades by professional accounting bodies. The criticisms leveled currently at practising accountants and (by implication) accounting educators are not new. Criticisms persisted over several decades and have been supported then, and since, by a wide variety of accounting scholars. For example, theory of Continuously Contemporary Accounting is alleged to have demonstrated with logic and evidence that only an accounting system based on market selling prices is relevant to users' evaluation and decision-making processes.
With this in mind, there would seem considerable merit in recognizing the importance of a historical perspective in curriculum choices. We should alert students to the fact that the history of corporate failure is littered with criticisms of accounting and auditing education and practices and that on each occasion. Most accounting subjects taught at universities are to some extent dependent on the historical insights provided by accounting historians. Thus, students of ï¬nancial accounting are unlikely to fully understand the importance of auditing and accounting standards if they do not have a good grounding in the history of the legislative protections provided by governments to shareholders, and society in general, as a result of ï¬nancial catastrophes over the past two centuries. knowing the history of the highly politicized debate that has taken place over whether to expense stock options and the ethical propriety of external auditors conducting management advisory services for their audit clients would help students to understand the current problems of accounting that have emerged from the old experience.
In other words, students should be made aware that accounting is the language of business that it is contested in a way that affects perception, thought and action; and that it serves social, rhetorical and ideological ends. Accounting educators should go far beyond mere parroting of the superï¬cial platitude 'accounting is the language of business, and consider accounting curriculum choices in which language is made problematic.
Students should be encouraged not to regard accounting as operating in an insulating cocoon but to appreciate it as a profound social and organizational mechanism embedded in the practice of other functional areas of business, such as marketing, and human resources management, and of society more generally. Students should be encouraged to appreciate the complexity of accounting through exposure to real, as opposed to textbook, accountings. The complex, ideologically laden world in which accounting operates should not be overlooked or trivialized.
Students should be encouraged to contemplate the abstract plane of accounting and the metaphors that, often subtly and unnoticed, inï¬‚uence accounting and the way our accountings are perceived.
There should be a more determined commitment to address the 'poverty of discourse' in accounting curricula by:
Engaging more vigorously with the underlying fundamentals of theory, deï¬nition, concept and measurement in accounting; and of encouraging a view that good practice needs to be founded on sound theory. As an example, the ideological and rhetorical power of deï¬nition should be opened up for discussion in the accounting curriculum.
Abandoning slavish, unquestioning adherence to conventional accounting techniques and over-preoccupation with uncritical study of extant accounting standards and ofï¬cial pronouncements issued by professional accounting bodies. Accounting educators should serve accounting with lashings of scepticism and should be prepared, even when it offends sensibilities, to encourage critique and deviations.
Piercing the technical surface of accounting to expose its underlying ideology. We should not operate as unquestioning cheerleaders of any imposed ideology such as those based on the virtues of market-based competition or of the supremacy of capital over labour.
Accounting curricula should accord greater cognizance of, and alertness to, the lessons of history and the wisdom and also weaknesses of prominent intellectual forebears in accounting by:
Encouraging student exposure to the life's work of the great minds of our discipline.
Alerting students to the criticisms of the professional standards of practising accountants that have been made over many decades.
Alerting students to the long history of unexpected corporate failure: a history littered with criticisms of accounting and auditing practice in which promised reforms have lapsed once the outrage has subsided.
Encouraging an appreciation that some suggestions might support the contention that accounting, in ways still seemingly too subtle for us to comprehend adequately.
To sum up, we should encouraging a social view in accounting education, by encouraging critique, and by encouraging a critical enthusiasm for the wisdom of the past, we aim to nudge accounting out of the shadows. But encouragement of such matters is only the beginning. There is ample scope for further consideration of how the agenda outlined above might be implemented.
This would involve deeper analysis of the teaching and learning processes that would best support changes in the worldview expected of students. As well, attention needs to be directed to the form of pedagogy (or andragogy) that would best help implement the proposed agenda of reform, and to the ways in which educators might be persuaded to become more open to new ways of thinking.
Finally, an agenda of reform for accounting education is proposed, seeking a greater responsiveness by accounting educators to three broad matters:
The political, rhetorical and ideological nature of accounting.
The poverty of discourse in accounting curricula.
The merits of a better understanding of accounting history.
Accounting education suggested that responsiveness to these matters be manifest in a stronger commitment to critique of accounting. And we need for accounting educators to have students appreciate the idiosyncratic, political, rhetorical, ideological and non-objective nature of accounting.
It is important for accounting educators and the general populace to embrace a (for many, novel, but more realistic) view of accounting as something other than a tangible and technical means of accessing a measurable world.
The domain of accounting ought not to be characterized axiomatically as precise, objective and capable of producing ï¬nancial statements upon which anyone ought to be capable of attesting that they represent a 'true and fair' view (in any ordinary sense of the words). It is important to convey a sense of the abstract about accounting as i mentioned before. In particular, about how accounting is a fashioner of perception and image, and how it unavoidably embraces rhetoric, metaphor and ideology.