"It's a place where you stretch your mind to think about the world and yourself
in new ways…"
– Student, 2003.
The academic environment of the Governor's School thrives upon the intellectual curiosity of students and faculty, and teaching assistants/counselors. Students take no tests; teachers assign no grades. The faculty expect students to aspire to be "producers of knowledge, problem solvers, and problem finders" (Gallagher, 1994). Classes blend intellectual discussions with practical applications of theory.
Students take courses in three curricular areas: Area I, their focus discipline, meeting twice daily; and Areas II and III integrative classes with students from various disciplines, meeting three times a week on alternate days.
"They will hit you with earth-shattering topics…and there is no better place to
learn, laugh, and grow up."
– Student, 2003
Area I classes in the academics and the arts emphasize contemporary texts, compositions, artistic expressions, issues, ideas and the theories that flow from them. Study in each Area I discipline emphasizes theory over the memorization of fact, particularly contemporary theories that stimulate innovative thought in a rapidly changing culture. Courses are designed to stimulate student creativity, move students to explore basic assumptions, explore unanswered questions, and develop an acceptance of the process of change.
The Area I disciplines are below. Click on any to scroll the general descriptions and link to sample courses at each campus.
- Natural Science
- Social Science
- Choral Music
- Instrumental Music
Each student attends another class comprised of students from each of the Area I disciplines. Here students and teachers explore connections between and among these disciplines. As integrative concepts emerge, the class attempts to construct an understanding of contemporary ways of thinking and of the culture that arises from them.
"I feel like a stronger, and more self-aware person because of the extensive discussions
in my Area II and III classes. I am eternally grateful for the opportunity
that was given to me."
– Student, 2003
This third class is also comprised of students from each of the Area I disciplines. Here students attempt to ground what they are learning in their Area I and II classes in their own personal experience. Finally, they apply that understanding to their social worlds; that is, they try to discover links between ideas and actions, theory and practice.
CURRICULAR EMPHASIS: CONTEMPORARY THOUGHT
The Governor's School curricular emphasis on contemporary thought in each discipline has proved successful for over 50 years. This central aspect of the program is continually praised by educators, students, and alumni, and achieves the school's goal of "opening windows onto the future." Students encounter theories and concepts not typical of a high school curriculum and, in fact, often not encountered until graduate school.
"I have developed a more accepting attitude towards controversial material and opposing beliefs. I understand many more perspectives that others have, and this array of viewpoints has helped me to better establish and support my opinions."
– Student, 2003
Here are some of the benefits that have been found from the focus on contemporary theories at Governor's School:
- In a world of rapid change, the study of recent theories creates an increased
open-mindedness to that which is new, engendering an acceptance of the process
of change itself. In this context, new and developing paradigms are seen as
adventures for exploration rather than the force of change against which all
The study of vanguard ideas has the effect of raising questions
about basic assumptions of each discipline – exactly the kind of questioning
creative solutions to long-standing problems. For students and teachers, it
has a mind-expanding effect that far surpasses the enjoyment of simply learning
- The curricular focus on current thought in each discipline draws faculty, staff, and students into a common circle of learners, as teachers become explorers of uncharted territory along with students. In Area II classes especially, the search for connections between disciplines engages the faculty and students in dialogue over non-technical explanations of newest theories and common themes among them.
The classes are augmented by a rich array of visiting speakers, performances, expeditions, demonstrations, optional seminars, film series, and social and recreational events. Check these links: