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   April Gentry-Sutterfield
Rachel Schrag   Christina Riggins
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   TC Elliot
Amber James   Salomon Itza
Dan Kostopulos   Shelley Ledbetter
Jessica Pitchford   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  
Alex Anderson    
Kathy Babcock    
Revis Edmonds    
Tara Flanagan    
Jim Rush    
Phillip Spivey    
Ta-Neisha Verley    
Area III: Personal and Social Development  Phillip Melton, Coordinator  
Melinda Beith    
Fred Boosey    
Elizabeth Eason    
Richard Gobble    
Debbie Hibbs    
Spencer Sutterfield    
Chad Terrell    





April Gentry-Sutterfield and Christina Riggins
The Drama students in the 2011 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 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 overall objective is development and appreciation of choral singing as an artistic expression.


Tom McDonald, Rick Dimond, Gerry Gibson, and Kevin Sanders
The AGS 2011 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 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, 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.  

The Role of Literature in the Quest for Social Justice - Amber James
Students 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. 

Contemporary American Short Story - Dan Kostopulos
Contemporary 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. 

Flash Fiction - Jessica Pitchford
In Flash Fiction, our focus will be on the briefest of fiction forms: the short-short story (also known as fast fiction, flash fiction, or micro fiction, among others). These extremely short stories, which can vary in length but are on average no more than 750 words, are increasingly popular, if difficult to achieve—a real creative challenge. This course both introduces participants to the art of the short-short story and prepares them to participate in traditional workshops and even fiction slams. In-class activities include reading discussions, individual and group writing exercises, as well as peer workshops. The ultimate goal is to get students reading one of the most progressive forms of fiction being written and published today and trying their hand at creating their own.



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 Seme
Though 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.



Topics in Neuroscience - T. C. Elliott
Despite 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:


  • neuropharmacology
  • addiction
  • evolutionary psychology
  • how we make decisions and why we’re not as rational as we think
  • how memories are stored and forgotten 


Physics Behind Medical Machines - Salomon Itza
It may seem like 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 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.

Whose Fault Is It? – Shelley Ledbetter
Students will explore the recent earthquake swarm activity in and around Faulkner County. AGS students will compare the recent seismic activity with the Enola Swarm of the 1980s. Students will decide if this is a natural phenomenon or is there a link to recent gas drilling into the Fayetteville Shale located in this area.  

Modern Physics - Nicholas Seward
The world we live in is a strange place. Time slows down the faster you go. Objects can be in two places at the same time. If you know how fast an object is moving then you can't know where it is.  The accepted sciences of QUANTUM MECHANICS and RELATIVITY are so counter-intuitive that most quickly dismiss them as being too complex to understand. However, both fields are derived from just a small handful of basic ideas. This class will work to demystify the seemingly magical. We will examine...

  • the history behind the ideas.
  • who developed the ideas.
  • why they developed them.
  • how the ideas were tested and verified.
  • what effect the ideas have.  



Introduction to Sociology – Dr. Raphael Lewis
A 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.  

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 which results in a new paradigm for all. 

Developing Nations - Kondwani Phwandaphwanda
Students 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 Scranton
This 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.”
What to bring with you to every class:  something to write with and paper to write on.