The 2007 AGS Curriculum

Students attending AGS are selected on the basis of their abilities and interests in a particular intellectual discipline or field, known as Special Aptitude Development (Area I).

In keeping with the School’s aim of developing competencies in the use of theory to understand, manage, and integrate knowledge, each student also pursues classroom work and reading in two other areas: General Conceptual Development (Area II) and Personal and Social Development (Area III). The curricula in Area II and Area III are identical for all students.

Table of Contents

Area I: Arts                      Tom McDonald, Area Coordinator

Jessica Sardashti
April Gentry-Sutterfield

Choral Music
Bill Higgins
Rachel Schrag

Instrumental Music
Tom McDonald, Conductor
Rick Dimond
Gerry Gibson
Denis Winter

Visual Arts
Jason McCann
Carey Voss

Area I: Academics            Stacy Key, Coordinator

English/Language Arts
Wesley Beal
Alicia Francis
Molly Herbert
Sandy Rankin

Stacy Key
Lars Seme
Josh Ulrey

Natural Science
Erin Itza
Salomon Itza
Erick McCarthy
Jason Wiles

Social Science
Raphael Lewis
Robert Low
Kondwani Phwandaphwanda
Peggy Scranton

Area II: General Conceptual Development     Mark Elrod, Coordinator

Kathleen Babcock
Ashley Cullum
David Scott Cunningham
Bryan Cwik
Revis Edmonds
Jim Rush
Michael Simeone
Phillip Spivey

Area III: Personal and Social Development    Phillip Melton, Coordinator

Melinda Beith
Fred Boosey
Richard Gobble
Debbie Hibbs
Morgan Hicks
John Shirron
Spencer Sutterfield
Chad Terrell



Jessica Sardashti and April Gentry-Sutterfield
The Drama students in the 2007 Arkansas Governor’s School will explore the direction of theatre in the 21st century and will focus on non-traditional forms of theatre.  The students will be asked to challenge current ideas of what theatre is and how the theatre artist can function not only as an actor, but also as a director, playwright, set designer, and dramaturge.  The students should be prepared to engage themselves intellectually, artistically, and physically.  The course will give the students a fundamental understanding of each instructor’s approach to devising theatre.  The students will be expected to extend this experience into devising a piece of theatre created from the skills of their specific group.


Bill Higgins and Rachel Schrag
AGS Chorale is a class specializing in the rehearsal and performance of modern choral music.  Though generally a performance-oriented class, general musical studies will be presented alongside the rehearsal of modern repertoire. The class will include a discussion of current musical trends, basic studies in theory and score analysis, and issues regarding language and poetry.  The development and appreciation of choral singing as an artistic expression is the overall objective.


Tom McDonald, Rick Dimond, Gerry Gibson, and Denis Winter
The AGS 2007 students in instrumental music will be involved in rehearsing and performing works of prominent 20th century composers.  Focus is directed exclusively on 20th century composers.  Focus is directed exclusively on 20th century music, styles of composing and circumstances surrounding the birth of these styles.  Issues such as color, texture, melody, harmony, rhythm and meter will be addressed in reference to each style and work.  Excellence in performance is something that individuals and groups always strive for; however; it is the process of learning music and understanding the creative process of composing music in a specific 20th century style that is of prime importance in our performing ensemble.  This knowledge and expertise will allow students to share with students in other Area I disciplines.  The discussions/lectures in Perspectives feature faculty and student presentations, discussions, and listening sessions which deal with significant music and musical trends of the 20th century and challenges in the performing arts in the 21st century.  The combination of ensemble performance and Perspectives classes at AGS is aimed at opening the students' minds to the incredibly vast world of music, its composers and its styles.


Jason McCann and Carey Voss
The focus of the Visual Arts program at AGS is to develop student art work in terms of concept and content.  Students will be encouraged to explore the process behind their artistic product in a variety of techniques and materials, guided by instruction and critique of art and theory through the ages.  It is our hope that students will acquire an understanding of how working artists achieve consistency and continuity in a large body of work.



Introduction to Cultural Studies - Wesley Beal 
What is culture?  The term is vexing, often described as among the hardest words to define in the English language.  There are several possible approaches to this subject, ranging from anthropology’s study of customs and practices to sociology’s reliance on statistics, but for the purposes of this course we will interrogate culture as a text for our own analysis.  In other words, we will be applying our literary tools toward the interpretation of culture.

The questions we investigate on a daily basis will sweep broadly under the ever-broad rubric of culture, observing the various and often conflicting uses and meanings of the culture concept.  We will start by exploring the very ideas of culture and literature, then familiarize ourselves with various theoretical approaches to the culture-text, and along the way study specific examples of those texts—Hendrix campus architecture, commercial advertisements, and cultural icons like Disney World, to name a few.  Finally, we will turn our attention to the ephemeral community of AGS and its prominent position in the Arkansas front of the culture wars as material for our introduction to cultural studies.

Exploring Creative Writing: Prose – Alicia Francis
John Steinbeck once said that “[People] believe in books when they believe in nothing else.”  Writing is powerful and can impact society in many ways.  Words can create vast divides, yet they can join together nations.  Craftsmanship is the key.  The questions writers face are: “What do I write about?” and “How do I write it?”  Many people will dangle around waiting on a muse, but Jack London once said, “You can’t wait for inspiration.  You have to go after it with a club.”  That’s exactly what we will do in this course.

The main goal of this course is to introduce various avenues for creative exploration and workshop to arrive at a final product.  We will intensely explore various techniques used in creative writing such as point of view and character development.  We will also examine how to move along and sustain plot.  Students will apply their own individual creative vision while writing short stories, memoirs, screenplays, and fan fiction.  Not only will we learn how to write, we will also look at why we write and why it is meaningful, not only to ourselves but to our cultures and societies.

Cultural Foundation Texts and Foundation Myths – Molly Herbert
The sixth century philosopher Xenophanes said that “From the beginning all have learned according to Homer.”  Shared text and myths form the fabric that allows human beings to consider themselves part of a shared culture.  The values promoted by these texts and myths become part of our education.  Homer’s Iliad taught the Greeks to ‘love their friends and hate their enemies,’ but it also taught them that their enemies were capable of great courage and sacrifice.  Euripides’ Hecuba deals with the betrayal of Greek humanitarian values and the relationship between the powerful and the powerless.  The Declaration of Independence established certain core American values, some of which did not achieve full expression for many years, and some of which are still coming to fruition. Chris Gardner’s “The Pursuit of Happyness” makes use of the rags-to-riches story form that is a key foundation myth for modern American culture.  We will read selections from the above works and others, and explore their sometimes contradictory lessons and messages through debate, role-playing, and writing exercises.

Alternative Worlds/Horizons of Hope: Science Fiction and Fantasy - Sandy Rankin
We’ll read numerous contemporary short stories, several poems, one or two excerpts from comic novels, and view a fairytale-animé film and a short comedy-drama-musical. Most if not all of the selections are science fiction and/or fantasy which means that they critically engage with our world from the vantage-point of an imagined alternative world and that they explicitly or implicitly contain some sort of symbolic utopian dimension or the anticipatory hope for a better world. We’ll discuss various figures, themes, and issues that frequently appear in science fiction and fantasy, and in critical theory, such as self/other, identity/difference, utopia/dystopia, heterotopia and hybridity. We’ll be sure to note the narrative techniques, emphasizing the possibilities that are less available to or altogether unavailable to mundane-mimetic realist writers. Students will furthermore have the opportunity to write science fiction and/or fantasy (in poetry and/or prose) and to present their alternative-world aesthetic creations in a supportive workshop setting.


Probability and Statistics: A Study of Uncertainty – Stacy Key
Life is full of uncertainty.  However, most people try their best to plan, predict and prepare for the future.  Some people rely on chance, fate and luck in their predictions, while others base their findings on logic and scientific methodology.  Our study will be based on this logical and scientific approach.  Probability has been defined as "the branch of science concerned with the study of mathematical techniques for making quantitative inferences about uncertainty."  Most historians consider this branch of science beginning with the work of Fermat and Pascal in the early 1600's, but the use of this science has grown exponentially over the last few decades.  This course will examine techniques and concepts widely used in probability and statistics from both a theoretical and practical perspective.  Examples from the "real world" in the areas of insurance, politics, finance, engineering, medicine, meteorology, and management will be used to add relevance and practicality to our study.

Number Systems - Lars Seme
We will consider the properties of numbers, both algebraically and topologically.  First, we will examine the so-called natural numbers (1, 2, 3,...) and expand this view to eventually include all Real numbers.  The students will prove the basic properties that we take for granted when dealing with everyday numbers, such as 0<1, 1+1=2, and so on.  We will then consider function and will conclude with a discussion on what it means to say that a set is of infinite size.

The Shape of Space:  The Geometry and Topology of the Universe - Josh Ulrey
The purpose of this course is to give students an insight into the current theories concerning the shape of our universe.  The course begins with the study of two-dimensional surfaces, with a specific focus on the geometric and topological properties that can be used to determine whether or not two surfaces are equivalent.  This discussion culminates in the complete topological classification of all two-dimensional surfaces.  These ideas are then expanded to higher-dimensional surfaces, with special attention given to the universe in which we live and recent studies about its geometry and topology.


The Beat Goes On: An Introduction to Human Cardiophysiology – Erin Itza
Students will have an opportunity to explore the workings of the heart.  We will discuss the anatomy of the heart as an organ and also explore the function of cardiac muscle at the cell and tissue levels.  At the cellular level, defects in ion channels can cause a number of serious disorders.  We will examine some of these inherited cardiac channelopathies and discuss the value and impact of genetic testing currently available for these conditions.

While much of the course will be in discussion format, students will also complete a laboratory component.  Students will learn to measure blood pressure and record an electrocardiogram (EKG).  Using these tools, groups of students will then design and conduct controlled experiments in cardiovascular physiology.  The results of these experiments will then be presented and discussed in a mini-symposium. 

Physics Behind Medical Machines – Salomon Itza
It may seem as if medicine and physics have little in common.  However, when looking at the medical machines used in hospitals around the world, we see we are wrong.  Students enrolled in this course will explore the basic physics concepts behind some medical machines (MRI, CAT, PET) and their use in diagnostic and medical treatment.  For the most part, the course will be conducted in an inquiry-based format, with a variety of activities that the students will perform in class and outside of class, giving them the opportunity to explore the concepts on their own, and maybe developing a desire to continue a career in the sciences.

Lifetime Health and Fitness - Erick McCarthy
This course is designed to help students learn more about the importance of adopting and maintaining healthy lifestyle habits.  The course is composed of two equally important components: a classroom lecture/discussion component and a laboratory/field experiences component to reinforce the classroom experience.  Classroom discussion topics could include: basic principles of physical fitness, health and fitness assessment, exercise program development, the six components of fitness (e.g., cardiovascular fitness, muscular strength, muscular endurance, body composition, flexibility, and balance), risk factors for cardiovascular disease, low back health, weight management, good vs. bad nutrition, stress management/relaxation techniques, and various health and fitness topics relevant to today’s teenagers (e.g., obesity, inactivity, and eating disorders).

Laboratory/field experiences could include: treadmill and cycle ergometer testing, 1.5 mile run/walk testing, height and weight measurements, resting and active heart rate measures, resting blood pressure, body composition testing, flexibility testing, muscular strength and endurance testing, balance testing, and group physical activity classes (e.g., stretching, circuit training, and nature trail running/walking).  A prominent feature with the health and fitness assessments will be in understanding what the numbers from these measurements mean and how they are affected by changes in nutrition, exercise, etc.

Change Over Time - Jason Wiles
The single most unifying principle of the study of living things is evolution. This class will focus on the physical data that give clues as to how the earth and its inhabitants have changed and continue to change over time.  We will look at how the understanding of evolutionary processes has changed and how this knowledge affects human society on both practical and cultural levels.  The course will include a loose lecture/open discussion format dealing with material from selected readings as well as lab-type activities, video presentations, small group problem solving, games, and other creative teaching and learning methods.

Topics to be covered include:

  • Stellar/planetary evolution
  • Basic Geologic concepts (Geologic time scale, methods of dating, the rock cycle, continental drift, fossilization)
  • Biodiversity
  • Physical evidences of evolution (fossils, comparative anatomy and embryology, biogeography, biochemical evidence, direct observation)
  • History of the study of evolution
  • Evolutionary mechanisms (natural selection, genetic drift, etc.)
  • Basic Concepts of Genetics (DNA, Mendelian and Modern Genetics, Population Genetics)
  • New techniques in studying evolution
  • Modern applications of knowledge of evolutionary mechanisms (medicine, taxonomy, etc…)

An Introduction to Sociology - Raphael Lewis
The course will include but not be limited to:
I. Knowledge
       Ability to Identify define and describe a core body of sociology
II. Comprehension                                       
       Ability to paraphrase , explain, compare, organize, and interpret
III. Application
       Ability to apply knowledge to existing situations 
IV. Analysis
       Ability to formulate arguments and responses  to current issues.
V. Evaluation
       Ability to evaluate and criticize arguments and reasoning
VI Synthesis
       Ability to apply skills of analysis and evaluations to knowledge
VII. Communication Skills
       1. Ability to acquire and preserve information from oral and written sources
       2. Ability to communicate knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis and evaluation
       3. Ability to communicate effectively and responsively

Economics, Technology, and Their Effects - Robert Low
This course involves an examination of fundamental economic concepts, different economic systems, and their effects upon the concepts of mercantilism, communism, colonialism, and capitalism. Several specific readings will be utilized from Adam Smith, John Maynard Keynes, Karl Marx and Frederic Engels. We will also contemplate and discuss the effects of technology on the globalization of capitalism, the shifting of the wealth of nations, and the ultimate flattening of trade barriers in the world economy of the 21st century that results in a new paradigm for all.

Economics and Development in Third World Countries - Kondwani Phwandaphwanda
Students will explore the nature of political systems in selected third world countries and examine how governments within those political systems serve their people to help them improve their lives.  Discussion will focus on a number of areas including education, employment, health, food production and security, and civic education.  Students will also discuss how international development impacts the lives of people living in poor countries.

Selected readings will be used for lectures and class discussion.  Different activities will be used to accommodate the learning styles of students to give each student a chance to maximize his/her learning process.  Students will also be encouraged to conduct basic research for their own further understanding of material discussed in class.

The Power of Words in Political Conflict - Peggy Scranton
This class explores how word choices affect not just who wins and loses in political conflict but also the meaning of winning and losing.  Our purpose is to examine how words influence “who gets what, when, and how,” Harold Lasswell’s enduring definition of politics.  Words can enhance or diminish a speaker’s message; they may enlighten some and confuse others.  Political labeling can help or hurt a person or group.  Language used in political speech conveys multiple meanings as well as differential outcomes.  Some listeners may hear threats while others hear promises.  Selected words may call some to action and reassure others that they need not act.  We will consider the resource value and impact of words on conflicts described in three classic and modern political texts.  Those selected this year are: the Melian debate and Pericles’ Funeral Oration from the Peloponnesian War; the non-violent resistance of “Bartelby the Scrivener:  A Story of Wall Street,” an essay by Herman Melville, and an essay about meditation and transformational conflict written by a peace advocate.      

Area II: General Conceptual Development

Description, Purposes, and Objectives

Area II introduces students to the intellectual skills they need to interrelate with others within their community and to some of the tools necessary to be good thinkers.  The ultimate objective of all Area II instructors is to discuss with AGS students the nature of epistemology by thinking about thinking.  The faculty will help students to be more conscious of their assumptions, the soundness of their logic, and the possibility of different points of view based on different assumptions. Students will learn to express their opinions as well as the importance of evidence, logical thinking, and clarity of definition and expression.

The Area II faculty recognizes the fact that participation in contemporary culture requires the ability to weigh the validity of theories, to understand new ways of thinking and to address complex moral and ethical questions.  Area II classes focus not on what students already know or on what they should think, but on how to develop critical thinking skills that allow them to base decisions and actions on an informed consideration of appropriate issues and evidence.  Likewise, Area II examines the assumptions that underlie our own thinking and the thinking that takes place within the various academic disciplines of AGS and the larger human community.  As in the academic areas, Area II focuses on the twentieth-century developments that have influenced our thinking about truth and knowledge and on identifying the challenges that might affect those developments in the future.

To this end, Area II explores the different approaches to knowledge that underlie the disciplines students encounter in their Area I classes. Since each Area II class is a mixture of students from the eight Area I disciplines, Area II presents students with the opportunity to explore connections between the AGS disciplines and to examine different approaches to truth and reality. By examining interconnections between disciplines, Area II will necessarily help students address the overall concept of human relations and will help prepare our students to begin to address and understand intellectual challenges.

Area II classes also draw on readings, speakers, and films as subjects for discussion. AGS students interact directly and frequently with leading figures in a variety of fields and learn to watch films, not simply as forms of entertainment, but as works of art and information open to critical examination.

Because Area II has no clearly-defined content or a set syllabus, faculty members must be creative and flexible enough to explore ideas and the thinking process by focusing on relevant issues as they arise in speaker presentations, films, and other classes. At the same time, weekly faculty meetings ensure that all Area II classes achieve the goals of the course.

By the end of the course, students should have more confidence in their beliefs and in their ability to address questions.  They should also be able to confront new ideas and new ways of thinking as they address complex moral and ethical questions.  It is hoped that in Area II, students will learn how to think and not just what to think. It is hoped that they will also understand other points of view, have an appreciation for well-formed and solidly-supported ideas even if they differ from their own.  In the end, the Area II course should enhance each individual student’s excitement about thinking so that they can fully participate in the community of diverse ideas that awaits them after leaving AGS.

If successful, this approach will prepare students to begin to understand novel ideas that arise in various fields and to recognize interconnections and implications that may pose various intellectual challenges and embark on the exciting experiences that college, graduate or professional school, or professional employment may present.

How the Area II Curriculum Works

Though each Area II class may differ somewhat due to classroom dynamics and to the particular expertise of the instructor, faculty members are expected to achieve the purposes and goals of the course in an organized and coherent fashion. The ideal class is one in which the students themselves explore relevant issues in a coherent, logical and respectful fashion. The instructor is expected to guide the discussion, provide intellectual background, place issues within a context, and ensure that all of the relevant topics are covered. Each class of 13-15 students meets for 1 hour and 20 minutes, three times per week.

Area III: Personal and Social Development

Description, Purposes, and Objectives

Area III is designed to foster the personal and social development necessary for the students to benefit fully from their Area I and Area II classes as well as the comprehensive cultural and social events of the AGS program.  The concept of Area III emerged from the need of students to process and discuss information and experiences.  This makes learning more active and meaningful and enables students to develop accountability for their own educational, social, and cultural environment.  By integrating all the academic classes and events, the curriculum of Area III strives to provide an opportunity for the students to see the importance of taking personal responsibility for one’s ideas and for one’s participation in a democratic society.  The student learns that ideas do have consequences and that "good thinking" means looking at the implications of ideas as well as the assumptions behind them.

Area III provides a forum for actively exploring the importance of community and civic responsibility.  It seeks to inspire a student’s understanding of his or her own personal potential and to impress upon the student the value of character, leadership, integrity, insight, and compassion, not only within the contemporary youth culture, but also in society.  These are certainly some of the characteristics that these students (and the rest of us) must cultivate if the challenges of the new century are to be successfully met.

Area III also provides an opportunity for students to reflect upon the featured films, guest speakers, current events, and cutting-edge topics from each of the Area I disciplines, with the goal of strengthening their sense of the importance of active participation in their community.  In doing so, Area III fosters the development of both the personal and social awareness the students will need as their knowledge expands and they encounter diverse worldviews.  By stressing the importance of personal self-awareness and individual accountability, along with the values of character, compassion, and social responsibility, Area III encourages a deeper commitment and understanding of what it takes to create and maintain a just and compassionate community – locally and globally.


  • Promote personal accountability and social responsibility
  • Promote awareness of different learning styles and methods of understanding
  • Promote appreciation of self and one’s relationship to family, friends, and community
  • Improve interpersonal skills
  • Introduce stress management techniques
  • Promote an awareness of global issues and responsibility