Preparer Approach Lacking in Accounting Education

BY C. JAMES JR BUCKLEY

Like so many in the profession, I have been wondering what happened to cause the situation we find ourselves in today. While there are many different reasons and perspectives, I would like to offer what I see as at least a part of the problem.

I have been teaching accounting for more than 30 years and spent several more in public practice. I teach intermediate accounting, and this year, we adopted the new edition of the number-one best-selling intermediate accounting text. I suggest what I have encountered with this new book may be indicative of part of our current problems.

There has been a movement in accounting education over the last several years to go from a preparer approach to a user approach. This makes good sense for the introductory accounting classes made up primarily of nonaccounting majors. They need to know how to use accounting information more than how to create it.

In our school both the accounting and nonaccounting majors take the same introductory classes. However, when this new approach is used in intermediate accounting classes, the accounting majors do not obtain the foundation necessary to be good preparers of accounting information.

Here is what I have experienced using this new text:

Special journals are covered in two sentences. It is necessary to go to a supplemental CD to search for more information.

Case studies that allow students to apply the concepts are not included. While special journals are not the be-all and end-all of accounting, they provide a solid understanding of how transaction data are accumulated. If we don’t have that knowledge, it reduces our effectiveness when analyzing those data.

There are only two problems requiring the preparation of a worksheet. Accountants use worksheets to organize work and to analyze data. While it is a mechanical approach to problem solving, it provides a vehicle for students to learn and practitioners to apply critical thinking skills.

I think I am seeing a discipline that has started to throw out the foundations upon which the subsequent analysis rests, reducing the time and effort spent on problem-solving approaches and perhaps not even recognizing obvious errors in the data.

Has the vision of the profession changed from trusted, knowledgeable accounting experts to high-powered consultants and advisers? I believe one cannot become the consultant/adviser without first being the knowledgeable accounting expert. We are starting to skip very important steps in preparing those entering the profession, and it will continue to suffer as a result.

C. James Buckley Jr.
Professor of Accounting
Mesa State College
Grand Junction, Colorado

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