Is This Really Part of an Accounting Education -- Well, I Certainly Think So

I am a big believer that one of the problems with an accounting education is that it is made up of way too much accounting. If our sole job as college educators is to get our students ready for the first five years after graduation, then the amount of accounting we cover is probably about right. However, an awful lot of accounting graduates leave the accounting profession within the first few years after finishing college. At what point do all those accounting courses become a waste of time if a person is not still doing accounting within a few years? But, I could argue exactly the same thing about the study of History, English, Philosophy, or the like.

My belief has long been (well, for 43 years now) that a college education has to help each person have a well-lived and fulfilled life. If a college education is not still having a positive impact on a person decades and decades after graduation, I wonder whether it wasn’t a failure. I believe that we too often abdicate any education outside of the major (accounting, history, whatever) to general education requirements which are often rushed through during the freshman year.

I prefer to insert some life-long learning into every course. I try to do that in many ways. One method I have used for decades to try to take my students beyond just the knowledge of FASB rules is to give them extra points on my Intermediate Accounting II final exam for visiting specific locations in the Richmond area. Students often live in our city for four years without fully appreciating the many wonderful attributes that it has to offer. Yes, I can teach them all the accounting in the world (capital leases, for example) but shouldn’t an accounting course open their eyes to more than that if I want to impact their lives for a longer period of time.

Is that possibly one of the reasons that college education is under such heavy attack these days?

Maybe, we do such a good job of teaching our major courses that we miss teaching them about the world beyond the major. In truth, teaching accounting is probably easier than helping young students learn how to live a fulfilled and thoughtful life.

I was reminded of this yesterday when I received the following email from one of my current students who had to spend his Spring Break on campus as a member of a sports team. He will get a few points on a final exam but I would argue that he got a whole lot more than that from his experience—a benefit that will stay with him far beyond a few years. I would love to be able to share with you some of the many photos that he sent to me about his day learning about Richmond.

Here is his email:

“I am here on campus during break because of sports, and we had today off so I decided to go out and venture to some of the places you had mentioned to us. I decided to make this a full day event, and since no one is here, and my teammates were all sleeping in I went by myself. I had fun with it though! I took some pictures, and in a sort of Ellen Degeneres Oscar moment I took 'selfies' at each of my stops. I hope you get a kick out of it! I honestly didn't think I was going to have this much fun! I tried to attach my photos in order, and I hope they all go through.

“First stop: Pony Pasture Rapids (overlooking the James River) - Climbed out on the rocks as far as I could, current was extremely fast, but made for a peaceful scene.

“Second Stop: Virginia Historical Society - Unfortunately their main exhibit halls were closed for renovations, but I still wandered around the lobby, and even got up to the Library area.

“Third Stop: Virginia Museum of Fine Arts - As you will probably see from the photos I had some fun at this place. Lots of cool things. Best thing I saw was a replica of the Worsham-Rockefeller Bedroom.

“Fourth Stop: Maymont Park - By far the best stop on my tour. The fountains weren't on, bummer, but still cool. The bear was great to see, and I even saw some bison!

“Fifth Stop: Dinner at Chick-Fil-A - Okay not on your recommended list, but I absolutely love this place, and Monday nights are college nights where students get a free sandwich.

“Sixth Stop: Westhampton Theatre – to watch the movie: Dallas Buyers Club -Keeping along with the Oscar theme, I went to see this Oscar-nominated film, and it didn't disappoint. But here is the best part, I was the only one in the theatre, and my admission was free! The ticket machine was broken, so it was my lucky day. Maybe they need to look into leasing a new machine? (operating or capital hmmmm??)

“Final Stop: Bev's Homemade Ice Cream Shop - Another one that was not on the list, but this is a suggestion for you to try. Whenever my parents are in town we go to this ice cream place in Carytown, and it never lets us down! I went with M&M's and sprinkles.

“Well that’s all I have, sorry for the long email, but it was quite the day! Hopefully this is something unique that a student had not previously done, if not, oh well, it was a blast, thanks for all the great places!”

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