11.isea vol call for paper no 2 pp. 149-167

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  • 1. Issues in Social and Environmental AccountingVol. 4, No. 2 December 2010Pp 149-167Identity, Variety and Destiny in AccountingEducation for a SocialEnvironmental and Liberal Arts Tradition Ralph Palliam American University of Kuwait KuwaitAbstractWhen one considers that all profits are not made equally, philosophy, history, anthropologybecome pre-requisites for professional accounting and finance graduates. This allows for acomplete understanding of an intimately related financial market that exerts tremendous influ-ence on socio-economic conditions. A graduate from a liberal arts institution may be worthmore than what his or her academic balance sheet shows. A liberal arts education teaches onehow to think, how to analyze, how to read, how to write, how to develop a persuasive argu-ment. Any liberal arts education, even vaguely defined becomes an intellectual antidote to theoverwhelming flood of information and technological change. A liberal arts education teachesstudents to read and to reason; to learn something about the range of human expression; to con-sider the great literature and ideas of world civilizations; to recognize and construct arguments;and to have sensitivity towards others thinking. It also makes possible a genuine kind of citi-zenship without which democracy and markets crumble. This study presents emerging trends inaccounting as a growing discipline in liberal arts institutions whose mission is aligned withsocial goals.Keywords: accounting, accounting education, stewardship, social-environmental issues, lib-eral arts, accounting history.Introduction: accounting in the liberal sessing and evaluating financial account-arts tradition to build social con- ing records for corporate social responsi-sciousnessbility. The globalization of businesses,the increasing complexities of businessFrom a stewardship perspective, not eve-transactions, advances in informationrything that a corporation counts can betechnology and the demand for timelycounted and not everything that a corpo-accounting information are facilitatingration counted counts. This is preciselyelectronic commerce and communica-what most corporate social scientists tion at enormous social costs. Withinface particularly when it comes to as-this context one needs to consider theRalph Palliam is an Associate Professor of Finance at P O Box 3323 Safat KUWAIT, Telephone: +965 67040237,Facsimile: +965 25737039, email: rpalliam@auk.edu.kw

2. 150 R. Palliam / Issues in Social and Environmental Accounting 2 (2010) 149-167challenges, relevance and usefulness of ergy counting than in undertaking rigor-traditional accounting education that ous assessments of their social environ-underscores profit as a bottom line. Fi-mental management systems. Moreover,nance and accounting professors at lib- as long as lions cannot count, the historyeral arts institutions are frequently criti-of counting in the jungle is always goingcized by their professional organizations to favor the hunter. From a lions pointand associations for the specific theoreti- of view, reading, writing and arithmeticcal and theatrical tools they teach and may not be as important as the ability tofor the way they teach students to thinkcritically think out life-long survivalabout the world and approach socio- strategies in a jungle. Coupling norma-economic problems in the face of corpo- tive discourse about the relationshipsrate success. Moreover, finance and ac- between accounting information in busi-counting degrees from liberal arts insti- ness and different societies enables onetutions tend to scare parents and studentsto identify opportunities for accountingtoo who worry about whether their in- as a subject and to engage in dialoguevestment in a college education will ever about those accounting activities thatpay off. In essence, they are respondingcreate a potential not only for economicto a wave of human, social and cultural success but also socially sustainable de-interest in matters of business and tech- velopment. This is consistent with whatnology, globalization and innovation. Annisette (2006:399) in her seminalEducation entails, inter alia, an invest- work - People and periods untouchedment in human, social and cultural capi-by accounting history: an ancienttal, the consequences of which ought to Yoruba practice - suggests that by tak-result in all endeavors of human ad-ing accounting history research beyondvancement and human achievements that the familiar settings of Europe and thesociety morally approves of. Account- West we create the potential for pro-ing therefore ought to be a qualitative found growth in our discipline.and quantitative measurement and as-sessment of that human advancementAccountability and accounting have be-and achievements. Raising critical con- come terms with almost common mean-sciousness about the way accounting ing. Accounting describes an accountingdata is narrated offers a way of consider-system that is designed to truthfully anding the critical role liberal arts institu- accurately detail the description of a cor-tions in constructing and evaluating aporations financial result and position.corporations transition towards socially The term, accountability refers to impor-acceptable development. tant elements of considering and judgingthe quality of the details described byKlamer (2002) in accounting for socialaccounting practices, policies and proce-and cultural values considers the con-dures of the corporation. In this regardceptualization of the goods that countCooper and Owen (2007) contend thatwith the concepts of capital, value and there is a significant degree of adminis-property. To those like Klamer (2002) trative reform, in terms of the increasingwho take welfare economics seriouslynumber of major companies proclaimingwill find anomalies in counting conven- their social responsibility credentials,tion. There are strong suspicions thatand backing up their claims by produc-many companies are spending more en-ing substantial environmental, social and 3. R. Palliam / Issues in Social and Environmental Accounting 2 (2010) 149-167 151sustainability reports. Any exercise inquires, for the proper prosecutionaccountability requires much more than of it, considerable and varied at-standardized or normative accounting. In tainments; that it is not confinedthis regard Klamer (2002:454) laments: to the department of the Actuary,ever since I began to consider the worldwhich forms indeed only a branchof the arts from an economic perspective of it, but that, while it compre-I have been dealing with the restrictionshends all matters connected withof the standard economic perspective. It arithmetical calculation, or in-was as if that perspective did not allow volving investigation into figures,me to see things particular to thatit also ranges over a much widerworld.field, in which a considerable ac- quaintance with the general prin-A historical survey of accounting com- ciples of law, and a knowledge inmences with the contribution of Luca particular of the Law of Scotland,Pacioli who was widely considered theis quite indispensable; that Ac-father of modern accounting suggest that countants are frequently employedhe acquired an amazing knowledge ofby Courts of Law . . . to aid thosediverse technical subjects religion, Courts in their investigation ofbusiness, military science, mathematics, matters of Accounting, which in-medicine, art, music, law and language.volve, to a greater or less extent,He accepted the popular belief in thepoints of law of more or less diffi-inter-relatedness of these widely varyingculty; that they act under suchdisciplines and in the special importanceremits very much as the Mastersof those, such as mathematics and ac-in Chancery are understood to actcounting, which exhibit harmony andin England.balance (Vaughan, 2005). This view isfurther supported by the Institute of Ac-Consistent with the notion of accountingcountants in Glasgow who once peti-in a liberal arts tradition, Albrecht andtioned Queen Victoria for the grant of a Sack (2000), cite the 1986 findings ofRoyal Charter in 1854. (As cited by Hall Bedford Committee of the American2009:2). The Petition, which was signedAccounting Association (AAA), whichby forty-nine accountants in the City of considered the future structure, content,Glasgow suggests:and scope of accounting education in preparing for the expanding profession.That the profession of an Ac- Moreover, in recent years again, ac-countant has long existed in Scot- counting and finance professors haveland as a distinct profession of issued impassioned calls for fundamen-great respectability; that origi-tal change in accounting education, withnally the number of those practic- increased emphasis on developing com-ing it was few but that, for manymunication, interpersonal and intellec-years back, the number has beentual skills, and on broadening the knowl-rapidly increasing, and the pro- edge base. According to Palliam andfession in Glasgow now embracesShalhoub (2003), these calls have nota numerous as well as highly re- been answered by the academic commu-spectable body of persons; thatnity with significant efforts to reinventthe business of an Accountant re-pedagogical techniques and restructure 4. 152R. Palliam / Issues in Social and Environmental Accounting 2 (2010) 149-167the curriculum to address the perceivedattack the devastation on all fronts isdeficiencies in accounting graduates.required. Hopefully, together with theThey contend that should Albert Ein- works of researchers like Annisettestein or Sir Alexander Fleming come(2006),identity, variety and destiny inback from their graves, they would beaccounting education for a liberal artsamazed at the advancement and achieve- tradition will be seen as a foundation,ments that have been made in their re- so that one does not face crisis resultingspective fields. Moreover, should thefrom poor accounting policies and whatforefath