Sunday, August 31, 2008

The eternal student

Skool is back in season. We started a week early this year, but had this pre-Labor Day week off, due to the DNC.

I am enjoying my new classes much more this semester than last. While my finance class was great (I really dig business classes involving number-crunching), the Organizational Management class which I took last semester really sucked. One would imagine from the name of the class that one would learn things about managing a business in a dynamic, globalized, competitive environment.

No. I spent $185 on the textbook and the teacher did not crack the book for three weeks. He instead used his own text in that time. We had to write papers about the merits of capitalism vs. communism. He reveled in repeating standard, tired right-wing talking points in nearly every class: “Reagan defeated communism”, “the most evil words ever written was the communist creed ‘from each according to his ability, to each according to his need’” with zero context or historical exposition. He never wrote a single note on the dry erase board, and when he did get around to using the textbook, he merely used key topics as jumping-off points for aimless and rather dumb class discussions.

Towards the end of the semester, I hadn’t been staying current on the text (didn’t relate much to the essay tests he gave!) so one evening I made a halfhearted attempt to catch up on about 4 chapters of reading, each chapter about 30 or so pages of dense text. After about half an your I threw the textbook down in disgust. I just didn’t care, and reading the text was a waste of time for the class. I got an A, but felt like I had wasted my time and money. I have little enough of either!

I am happy to report that this semester is looking much better on the teacher front. I am taking Cost Accounting and Business Ethics.

Cost accounting is another of these number-crunching classes that I enjoy. Most people who do not work in accounting or are not accounting majors would find the subject hideously boring, so I will spare you the details. Suffice it to say, do you ever wonder how companies can keep track of how much it costs to produce a single item or service? Do you ever wonder how they calculate what profit margin they need to have on said item or service in order to stay in business?

That’s cost accounting, and it is distinct from financial accounting in that it is not required to conform to Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, or GAAP as we call them (pronounced “gap). It has wide implications in the fields of marketing and finance as well. I’m pretty interested in this class, not least because we will be doing quite a bit of pretty advanced stuff with Excel. I happen to love working with Excel (unusually good for Microsoft software, they got it right for once), and it is pretty much the standard spreadsheet software for business, and accounting in particular. My teacher seems pretty knowledgeable too, which is a nice change of pace from that egotistical Reaganite last semester.

The other class is Business Ethics. This class is a required one but actually falls into the category of philosophy at Metro State. The running joke about Business Ethics is that the term is itself an oxymoron. Whether or not that’s true, I am very interested in this class. It’s another subject that is very important in this day and age, with the accounting scandals that seem to still be surfacing in the business world with depressing regularity, the current economic downturn caused by reckless financial speculation that I have extensively written about elsewhere, the sometimes exploitative economics of globalization, and so forth. This teacher as well seems to know his stuff and he is very good at leading focused classroom discussions about various topics.

The only problem is that because I’ve had this week off, I have been ultra lazy and haven’t studied at all! I’m planning to do some tomorrow since I have the day off from work. It’s good that I have some interesting looking classes this semester because it keeps me motivated.

I am no longer as gung-ho about finishing my degree ASAP, as I was a couple years back. I am nearing the end and therefore would rather have the least stressful time of it as possible. To put it in perspective, if I graduate as planned in Spring of 2010, I will have spent nearly 8 years on a 4 year degree. Sometimes I feel like an eternal student but the end is in sight...