The author of the article essentially took a look at what accounting, in the public’s eye, meant then, and what it means now. Accounting, as depicted in the painting by Dutch painter Jan Gossaert, was viewed with admiration by the public at large. While accounting has changed a great deal from those times, it is still powerful enough to gain the attention of the public when it matters. However, many people still view accounting as a drag.
Anyone who is an accountant will tell you that when they tell people what they do for a living, it usually comes with a response that is a mix of saddened sympathy and requests for help in filing taxes. As the author of the article points out, many individuals in the United States (and other parts of the world as well) view accountants as nothing more than bean-counters who can occasionally put the economy into distress, usually due to fraud. It’s hard to say when that point of view came in to play. The author suggests that as accounting (financial responsibility) became more advanced, it was no longer seen as a “shared practice and value,” but rather a specific profession. As individuals and companies garnered more wealth through advancing economies, the accountants were there to keep them in check. You often see images depicted in popular culture of individuals that are about to make, or have already made, poor financial decisions, and there is usually an accountant standing nearby wagging their finger. While individuals may gain wealth, accountants are there to remind them to be responsible.
I think part of the negative view of accounting today comes from many individuals experience with it. For all business degrees, and several non-business degrees, an Accounting I course is part of the required curriculum. Many students go in to the course with notion that they can just go to class, study one or two nights before the test, and everything will be fine. Accounting is NOT designed that way. It’s a skill. Many students don’t grasp the fact that it cannot be learned through intuition or straight memorization. As a result, many students end up resenting accounting.
I also think that our society has really taken a hold of the notion that you should “follow your passion.” That is to say, you should do what you enjoy. I think a lot of people misinterpret this. I enjoy accounting, but I also enjoy music, traveling, food, and a list of other things. And I am sure every other accountant in the world would say something to that effect. My joys in life are not boiled down to one “thing.” I think a lot people believe that their profession defines who they are, and in many ways, this is true. However, in far more ways, this is false. In a perfect world, people would view accountants as strong, analytical business professionals with passionate lives that extend beyond the office. Maybe one day…