The 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 III) 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   
Choral Music    Drama 
Bill Higgins   Brian Fahey
Rachel Schrag   Talleri McRae
Instrumental Music    Visual Arts 
Tom McDonald, Conductor   Jason McCann
Rick Dimond   Jessica Peterson
Gerry Gibson    
Kevin Sanders    
Area I: Academics  Stacy Key, Coordinator  
English/ Language Arts    Natural Science 
Wesley Beal   William Chesser
Laura Bowles   Chris Durham
Amber James   TC Elliot
Dan Kostopulos   Nick Seward
Social Science    Mathematics 
Raphael Lewis   Stacy Key
Robert Low   Lars Seme
Kondwani Phwandaphwanda   Josh Ulrey
Peggy Scranton    
Area II: General Conceptual Development  Mark Elrod, Coordinator  
Kathy Babcock   Jim Rush
Bryan Cwik   Phillip Spivey
Revis Edmonds   Ta-Neisha Wright
Tara Flanagan    
Area III: Personal and Social Development  Phillip Melton, Coordinator  
Melinda Beith   Richard Gobble
Fred Boosey   Spencer Sutterfield
Elizabeth Eason   Chad Terrell
April Gentry-Sutterfield    






Talleri McRae and Brian FaheyThe Drama students in the 2010 Arkansas Governor’s School will explore several foundational components of modern performance, examine the role of performance within society, and critically analyze a selection of texts across contemporary and classical canons of drama. The students should be prepared to engage themselves intellectually, artistically, physically and collaboratively while they refine skills like focus, leadership, team work, commitment, and communication. 



Bill Higgins and Rachel SchragAGS 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 overall objective is development and appreciation of choral singing as an artistic expression.


Tom McDonald, Rick Dimond, Gerry Gibson, and Kevin SandersThe AGS 2010 students in Instrumental Music will be involved in rehearsing and performing works of prominent 20th and 21st century composers.  Focus is directed exclusively on 20th and 21st 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 or 21st 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 and 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 with 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, both to its composers and its styles.


Jason McCann and Jessica Peterson
The focus of the Visual Arts program at AGS is to develop student artwork 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.  The hope is 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 BealWhat 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, Disney theme parks, and works of propaganda, 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.


Laura BowlesCreative non-fiction uses creative writing techniques to tell true stories.  Forms of creative non-fiction include narrative non-fiction, the personal essay, memoir, literary journalism, travel/nature/science writing, and biography/profiles.  Dramatic, true stories use scenes, dialogue, detailed descriptions, and other techniques usually employed by fiction writers.  Creative non-fiction allows a writer to employ the diligence of a reporter, the shifting voices and viewpoints of a novelist, the refined wordplay of a poet, and the analytical modes of the essayist.  In this course, we will both read and discuss a number of these works, and try our hands at writing in this genre.  This course will focus on writing creative non-fiction, and employ such techniques as free-writing, revision, and workshopping.


The Role of Literature in the Quest for Social Justice - Amber JamesStudents will explore the theme of social justice through the scope of various types of literature that aim to achieve justice for all people. Students will examine the role of writing in respect to topics of social justice including but not limited to racism, immigration, gender, and economic status. In addition, students will read contemporary and established writers that have tackled social justice as a theme and will discuss their ability to use writing as a media to explore causes for humanity in their own communities.


Dan KostopulosContemporary Short Story has two objectives.  First, students will discuss the nature and history of the short story as a form of fiction and then read a variety of stories published during the last forty years by familiar American authors such as Tim O'Brien, Richard Ford, Alice Walker, Raymond Carver, and Cynthia Ozick, as well as several writers who are perhaps less familiar to young readers.  Specifically, students will examine how these short stories reflect the changing dynamics of contemporary American culture with respect to significant historical events, gender, race, class, nationality, and a variety of other social and cultural issues.  Students will read the stories in class, analyze their fictional elements, as well as identify the dominant ideas they feel the authors are trying convey, and then discuss their own interactions with the text in an attempt to understand their subjective and varying responses to different works of fiction.

The second simultaneous objective involves having students engage in the writing process by asking them to first imitate different writing styles they have encountered, and then to workshop to produce several original short works of fiction.




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 as beginning with the work of Fermat and Pascal in the early 1600s, 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.


How Big is Infinity Anyway? – Lars SemeThough infinity is not actually a number in the usual sense, in this class we will discuss the different ways infinity can be approached mathematically, including the arithmetic of the infinite.  Along the way, we will consider the construction of the Natural, Rational, Real, and Complex Numbers and their properties.  For example, we will define what we mean by addition and use this to prove why 1+1 = 2.  The class will conclude with the treatment of infinity using both Cardinal and Ordinal Numbers.


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.




How Did We Get Here?  - William ChesserOne fundamental question humans have always asked themselves has been, “How did we get here?” This question is fairly open ended, but several branches of science address it in various ways. Starting with the Big Bang Theory, we will discuss possible ways that the universe was formed, how our own solar system was formed and how the earth was formed. Lecture and discussion will also cover the nature of time and space and geo-mechanics. Having established a universe, solar system, and planet on which to exist, the course will continue with discussions of geologic time and the nature and operation of life.


Topics Covered:

  • The Nature of Science
  • Stellar/planetary evolution
  • The Nature of Time
  • Basic Geologic concepts (Geologic time scale, methods of dating, the rock cycle, continental drift, fossilization)
  • 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)
  • Carbon/Water Cycle
  • Weather
  • Global Climate Change

Gulf Clean Up Mission – Chris Durham
This class will simulate a mission to assist with the current crisis in the Gulf.  We will examine how science can help with decision-making as well as prioritization of the efforts.  We will also examine what has been done so far and propose alternative solutions.  Some of the specific areas that will be addressed are:

- Teamwork and collaboration on scientific projects
- Impact of science education on the current decision-makers
- Designing specific solutions, both mechanical and chemical
- Assessing the needs of the impacted ecosystems
- Determining the extent of the damage through estimation
- Evaluating options to restore population equilibrium 


Topics in Neuroscience - T. C. ElliottDespite all the progress and advancement in understanding the human body, the brain still remains a mystery. Only in the last decade, for example, have we pieced together a woefully incomplete picture of neurological diseases that have plagued humans for centuries. Finally, scientists are opening the flood gate to neuroscientific discoveries and each day we gain new insights. In this course, students will gain an understanding of how their brain works and become aware of our cognitive limitations.


During the first week students will examine the cellular and molecular components of the central nervous system: chemical and electrical signaling, synaptic transmission, and neurotransmitters, for example. During the second week, students will learn about the “mind” and--integrating what they learned from the previous week--understand how higher levels of cognition work.

Specifically, the second half of the course focuses on:



-evolutionary psychology

-how we make decisions and why we’re not as rational as we think

-how memories are stored and forgotten


The Edge - Nicholas SewardScience, technology, and the future are all tied together in an ever growing knot.  It is getting increasingly hard to distinguish future possibilities from today’s realities.  This course is not about “doing” the science. (Sorry, no take home rocket propulsion calculation homework.)  It is about examining science and technology's effect on the society, the economy, and the environment.  On the same coin, the course will look at the effects our society, our economy, and our environment have on science and technologies.  Many discussions will be spent on “what ifs.” What would today be like if small changes had been made in the past?  What range of possibilities are there for the future and who/what is at the wheel to make the decisions about what turn we are going to make?

Class topics will be drawn from below.  Each individual class will be customized to more fully match the interests of the comprising students.  By no means will all the topics be covered and the list is subject to change just like science and technology are subject to change.

Quantum Mechanics
String Theory
Human Computer Interfaces 


Introduction to Sociology – Dr. Raphael LewisA specific methodology centered around critical thinking, while at the same time engaging the patterns of thought of the early sociologist.  It has been always a matter of curiosity how people get along with others, what they do for a living, and who and how people select leaders. Over the years there have been countless observations about human behavior. This course attempts to examine some of these in terms of content and consequences.  Each student will be required to complete at least two requirements.


1. They must select one of the early sociologists and discuss their philosophy and methodology and the reasons for their choice.  All of this should be prepared and presented in an essay or some other form, based on the student creativity.


2. Develop a research design or a plan to investigate a sociological problem at sometime in the future. 

Developing Nations - Kondwani PhwandaphwandaStudents will explore 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.

Power of Words in Political Conflict and Debate - Dr. Peggy ScrantonThis class explores how the meaning of words and the choice of words affect not just who wins and who loses political conflicts but also the meaning of winning and losing. Our purpose is to examine how words influence “who gets what, when, and how,” which is 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 or cause. Language used in political speech conveys multiple meanings and creates differential outcomes as some listeners hear threats while others hear promises. Following the insights of Murray Edelman, who pioneered the study of “politics as spectacle” and “the political uses of language,” we will examine how selected words call some to action and reassure others that they need not act.

We will consider the resource value and impact of words on conflict and political debate described in two case studies: 1) a violent military conflict between ancient empires, the Peloponnesian War, and 2) a nonviolent movement against a brutal dictator, the Serbian student OTPOR struggle against Milosovic in 2000-2001. Sources students will read/observe include the text of the Melian debate and Pericles’ Funeral Oration from Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War; and former Czech President Václav Havel’s 1989 acceptance speech, “A Word About Words,” written for the Peace Prize of the German Booksellers Association, and a documentary video on OTPOR from the series “A Force More Powerful” about nonviolent conflict. Our approach to these two conflicts stresses the rhetoric of the powerful vs the (apparently) powerless, the use of symbolic speech along with “words,” the power dynamics of bargaining using force and words, and prospects for peace after violent and non-violent conflicts.

In terms of writing and participation, students will create individual and/or group projects concerning the meaning of the Melian debate, create a piece of propaganda for or against OTPOR, and maintain a personal journal about words and conflict. During the last two days of class, students will share entries from their journals, which may take a variety of formats: paragraphs of narrative text about the causes and dynamics of conflict and conflict resolution; images, such as comic strips/graphic novels, political cartoons, or pamphlets/propaganda; and/or creative writing about the nature of violent and/or nonviolent conflict. Some journal writing will take place in class and some will be done as “homework.”


Contemporary Issues in Business: Social Responsibility - Lyle Rupert
After a brief introduction into the current U.S. economic atmosphere and the structure of the modern corporation, we will examine different levels of social responsibility from the point of view of a business.  How far up the Social Responsibility Pyramid should a business climb?  With different stakeholders' needs, which stakeholder should have priority over the others?

International Relations Paradigms: Power or Cooperation? - Mark Elrod
An introduction to the two basic theories that drive the study and practice of international relations.  Day one focuses on realism, which is based on the assumption that 1) the most important actors in the international system are nation-states, 2) power and security drive state interests, and 3) the international system is anarchical in nature.  Day two focuses on neo-liberalism which assumes 1) cooperation between states, 2) growing economic interdependence, and 3) the increasing significance of non-state actors such as IGOs and NGOs.

Gaffes, Blunders, Slick Ads, Faux Pas, and Turning Points - Revis Edmonds
What turns modern presidential elections from the presidential elections of 1960, 1964, 1976, 1980, 1988, and 1992?  We will examine how various events, large and small, have turned both close elections and great landslides.  News clips and vintage television ads will be featured.  Students will discuss how the issues, methods, and technologies have changed the mechanics of modern campaigns, while leaving intact much of the same campaign climates that have existed since the early days of the republic.

Issues in Civil Liberties - Richard Gobble
The students will participate in a seminar style discussion covering several topics on civil liberties.  One aspect of the class will be to examine the evolution of Supreme Court decisions over time on key issues.  From this we will try to reach an understanding of some of the underlying criteria that drive the Court's decisions, allowing us to better consider future implications.