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Africa Today 47.2 (2000) 179-181

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Bastian, Misty L. and Jane L. Parpart. 1999. Great Ideas for Teaching About Africa. Boulder: Lynne Rienner Publishers. 243 pp.

Great Ideas for Teaching about Africa is one of several books (see references) which have appeared in the last decade to address issues about teaching African studies. This book contains ideas for North American Africanists who teach undergraduate students at non-federally-funded institutions. Bastian and Parpart, unlike previous editors, solicited articles from Africanists by email and listservs. By using these technologies rath- er than word of mouth or paper, they admittedly disqualified articles by prominent scholars who might not be proficient in electronic technology. They sought to attract new, innovative teachers who would focus on pedagogy (which answers questions of how/why/when/where) rather than content (what) and did so as exhibited in the nineteen chapters of Great Ideas for Teaching about Africa. The twenty-four contributors (eleven male, thir-teen female) ranged from graduate teaching assistants (three), to full professors [End Page 179] (eight) with "years of classroom experience." Several authors describe courses taught in Canada or New Zealand. Like the previous works, most of the contributors are US historians, political scientists, or anthropologists.

The editors divided the book into four parts that reflect a curricular strategy with a focus on practical applications, innovative ideas, or interdisciplinary approaches. Part One concerns the utilization of "The Arts as Resources for Teaching." Eyoh Dickson describes teaching culture and politics with film, while Rosalind Hackett uses film, and Isichei uses slides and overheads to illustrate how literature and art contribute to African religious concepts. Adeline Masquelier integrates various types of musical recordings to illustrate current societies. This section ends with Natalie Sandomirksy's description of teaching literature by a thematic approach.

The second part, "Controversial Subjects and Current Issues," demonstrates how Africanists are utilizing current issues to cultivate learning experiences. Curtis Keim addresses racial issues through primary documents concerning the Atlantic slave trade, while Bill Bravman challenges students about ethnicity. Kearsley Stewart confronts her class with HIV/AIDs in Africa by asking them to keep a daily journal of their reactions and to collaborate with other students in researching and analyzing print and web materials. Corinne Kratz challenges her class to maintain an open mind as they study circumcision through films and web sites. Jane Parpart utilizes role play and small groups for enabling students to vocalize their knowledge about gender and development. Finally, Sandra MacLean and colleagues divide students into small groups to examine issues of peace through case studies.

Part Three consists of examples of "New Technology in the Classroom." Tamara Giles-Vernick prepared a course web site to post materials for her students. In contrast, Benjamin Ray asked his students of African art to explore the web to collect information for class presentations. Alternatively, Robert White required his virtual course students to use H-Africa (Michigan State University), among other sites, and assessed the students on their construction of a web page. Garth Myers et al. divided their classes into small groups to work on geography exercises using multiple types of technologies.

Part Four comprises essays concerning "Broader Approaches to Teaching About Africa." Ralph Austen describes the transformation of his career teaching "African Civilization." Next, Cyril Daddieh explains how he built his course from what the students know by using concept mapping strategies. Philip Zachernuk demystifies the students' beliefs about African intellectuals through small group discussions. Last, Misty Bastian addresses the issue of the survey course by creating a mock trial of a current situation.

Many of the authors present some common revelations about teaching North American students. They repeatedly state how poorly prepared their students were with respect to the strength of their stereotypes about Africa. Students had little accurate knowledge about Africa even though [End Page 180] the instruction of African content is part of the secondary education as outlined in the U.S. National Standards for Social Studies, for English, and for French. Consequently, prior to teaching their course content, US Africanists had to design remedial activities. This observation...


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