I started a new semester last week. Last night, at the end of that first week, I sent the following email to my students. Now that they see what we are doing, I want them to understand my goals. I want them to see what I am trying to accomplish. I want them to believe that the work that I am asking them to do is worth the effort. To achieve your ambitions, your students have to buy into the process. If they do the work just because they are scared of you or your tests, the amount they can achieve is truly limited.
To: Accounting Students
Okay, you’ve had my class now for a week. It is obviously a different approach. Some people like it and some people hate it. I can live with that. But, I do want you to understand what I’m trying to do. I think you’ll do better if you see what my goals are. I realize that you are more used to lecture and memorization and may not even see what benefit comes from what we are doing.
If you have a free ten minutes this week-end, I’d like for you to watch the following video which comes from one of my all-time favorite movies (The Paper Chase). This is a movie that had a great influence on my thinking about education. (By the way, I have a picture of Professor Kingsfield on the back of my door so it is the last thing I see when I walk out of the room to go teach you accounting.)
There are four things that I want you to notice in particular
---Professor Kingsfield tells the class “never assume anything in my class.” Good advice.
---Professor Kingsfield tells the class “you’ll never get to a right answer because there is always another question. Good advice.
---Professor Kingsfield tells the class “you walk in with a scull full of mush and you leave thinking like a lawyer (well, for us, like an accountant).” That is a goal worth some effort. That is education at its best. That is an experience worth having. That is a priority that can change your life.
---Most importantly, I want you to see the difference in “Mister Hart” from the beginning until the end. When he walks through the door at the end of the video, he has matured in so many ways. And, that is what I want for each of you. You will be a better person if you can learn to think better and the world will also be better. Memorizing accounting will not make you a better person but learning how to think about accounting just might.