All of us have very decided ideas about teaching. While our geographical interest may be Africa, our disciplinary training and specialties are varied, and our methodologies and ideologies lead us, not only into different research paths, but toward differing teaching goals and learning expectations. Perhaps, common interest in Africa creates a better understanding of, and cooperation among, the various disciplines, and, if that is the case, it is an indisputable advantage in our classes. Still, it would be presumptious, indeed impossible, for a historian to tell a geographer or an economist or a linguist how, or even what, to teach.
However, our profession expects two things of us: to produce original contributions to the pool of knowledge in our specialty, and to teach effectively what we have learned to undergraduates seeking a general education, as well as to graduate students whose educational goals are more akin to our own. There is no small irony in the fact that, for a variety of reasons, as the number of college students dwindles, as the cost of education spirals, and as the job opportunities for new Ph.D.s all but vanish, our peers are more demanding in their evaluation of our research, while college and university administrators are more concerned with “accountability;” that is, total student credit hours produced—our teaching.
There are three points I want to make about teaching, but first I think it is important to make a disclaimer.