Chambers as Educator

Two recent pieces by colleagues of Raymond John Chambers appositely capture his significance as an educator and mentor.

The abstract of Wolnizer and Dean (2000) notes that they

'adopt a personal tone to explore Chambers' impact on accounting and management education and through that his impact on accounting thought and practice. As mentor and colleague for over a quarter of a century, Chambers left many wonderful impressions, some of which are described here. The article describes some of the influences on the innovations and approaches of a great teacher. Familial and early working life experiences are shown to have greatly influenced his views on accounting, finance and management, and hence his innovations in accounting and management education at both the Sydney Technical College and the University of Sydney. His research, writings and teachings continually stressed the need to apply common sense to common experience. The article concludes by noting Chambers' perennial pursuit of seeking evidence to test his ideal solution to eradicate the follies and infelicities that plagued then (and still plague today) accounting thought and practice. Chambers regarded having such an ideal as the essence of being a researcher.'

Clarke, Dean and Wolnizer (2005) were invited to respond on behalf of Chambers to observations made by, Tinker (2005), Lee (2005), Amernic (2005) and Mattessich (2005) related to issues raised in Chambers (1999) 'Poverty of Accounting Discourse'.

"Mattessich also holds the view that Chambers' 'Poverty' is flawed because Chambers fails to find solace, joy, excitement, in the achievements of accounting over the past six hundred years or so. Why does Mattessich have this view? Nothing in 'Poverty' gives reason to lumber Chambers with this. There is nothing in the context in his other writings either. On the contrary, as Amernic appositely notes, Chambers accepted Goethe's line of "accounting - [as] one of the finest inventions of the human spirit" (1984). He did, however, consider that widespread longstanding observations regarding systemic defects in accounting have either been unreasonably ignored, dismissed without debate, or otherwise, neither included in the curricula of accounting schools nor received the enquiry they deserve. Again, where in 'Poverty' does Chambers allude to any non-recognition of the advancement of accounting - (say) of double-entry bookkeeping since Cotrulgi. In this regard he is in good company (see recently, Crosby's Measure of Reality, 1996). Indeed, Chambers has noted that Pacioli's means of determining financial position possibly had more in common with his views than with most contemporary practice.

... Amernic argues that 'Chambers helped frame accounting and accounting education by elevating the way we see accounting to a position of fundamental social importance, and accordingly enthused the obligation that accounting educators have to "the next generation" with high moral standard. Such an ethical and principled framing of accounting education seems an important contribution to me.'

To Chambers, the foundations of practical expertise and of confidence in the wisdom of a profession are laid in the course of professional education and training. Rules of practice and habits of thought then learned strongly influence what is passed on to the next generation. If the colleges and universities inculcate respect for disciplined thought as the foundation of serviceable practice, graduates might acquire the habit of submitting established and proposed rules to scrutiny in the light of their experienced or prospective consequences; alternatively, they might look to the universities for appraisal of existing practices and for the exploratory development of better practices. These things are characteristic of fields of inquiry and practice that have an established inquisitive and critical tradition."

... 'Amernic notes that Chambers' introductory reference to the 'ditty of Little Buttercup' from Gilbert's HMS Pinafore is intended 'to provoke what some might consider a radical perspective on accounting education: to interrogate closely and critically "cherished beliefs and habits"'. So Chambers' notion that 'things are seldom what they seem' leads Amernic to identify educational value in posing the question such as 'why do they seem as they do? and what are the social and power relations that make it so?' Good questions, assuredly of the kind Chambers would have welcomed, especially were they to have been accompanied by suggested, well reasoned and evidenced answers. More importantly, Amernic sees the educational imperative of encouraging students to 'look behind the curtain', 'to unmask the surface'. We agree totally.

... Lee observes that if 'Poverty' was undated 'it would appear that it had been written by Chambers in response to the specifics of a scandal such as Enron and WorldCom. If another scandal were to surface in 10 years' time, it would remain relevant. However, it would be a public disgrace of monumental proportions if the poverty of accounting persisted to 2013.' But a decade since that was penned by Lee was unnecessary - within a year the Parmalat affair emerged- dubbed as Europe's Enron! This is the vital challenge Lee now poses to accounting educators."

References*

  • Amernic, J. H., 'A legacy for accounting education', part of a 'Rejoinder to Forum on Chambers' "The Poverty of Accounting Discourse", Accounting Education, March, 2005, pp. 19-24.
  • Chambers, R.J., 'Accounting Education for the Twenty-First Century', Abacus, September, 1987, pp. 97-121.
  • Chambers, R.J., 'The Poverty of Accounting Discourse', Abacus, October, 1999, pp. 241-51.
  • Clarke, F.L., Dean, G.W. and P.W. Wolnizer, 'Rejoinder to Forum on Chambers' "The Poverty of Accounting Discourse" - More questions than answers?', Accounting Education, March, 2005, pp. 39-51.
  • Dean, G.W. and P.W. Wolnizer, 'Chambers as Educator and Mentor', Abacus, October, 2000, pp. 243-254.
  • Lee, T.A., 'Never mind the quality, feel the width', part of a 'Forum on Chambers' "The Poverty of Accounting Discourse", Accounting Education, March, 2005, pp. 25-27.
  • Mattessich's, R., 'On the poverty and richness of accounting - illusion versus reality', part of a 'Forum on Chambers' "The Poverty of Accounting Discourse", Accounting Education, March, 2005, pp. 29-34.
  • Tinker, T. 'Rosemary's baby - Neo-classical Economics as Chambers' love child', Accounting Education, March, 2005, pp. 35-38.

* Note: all reference links are to University of Sydney Library databases.