About six years ago, some colleagues and I at Seton Hall got to schmoozing about the first accounting course. It’s a bear to teach, and, we figured, students don’t get much out of it. For one thing, an average of only 13% of the students taking the course become accounting majors. Yet the first thing we try to teach them is: how to do bookkeeping, debits and credits, journal entries, general ledgers, etc. etc. etc. Then, we cover various details about how to do accounting in exhaustive detail: three depreciation methods, three inventory methods, and lots of other stuff that the students can just as well forget as they drive home from taking the final exam.
We asked ourselves: what should students learn in a first accounting course? After much discussion, we arrived at three basic learning goals for the first course:
- Students can understand the basic elements of the…
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