by Dr. Terry Stoops
Director of the Center for Effective Education, John Locke Foundation
July 25 will be the closing day of the 2018 session of Governor’s School. According to the N.C. Department of Public Instruction website, “The Governor’s School of North Carolina is a five and one-half week summer residential program for intellectually gifted high school students, integrating academic disciplines, the arts, and unique courses on each of two campuses. The curriculum focuses on the exploration of the most recent ideas and concepts in each discipline, and does not involve credit, tests, or grades.” Governor’s School East at Meredith College in Raleigh and Governor’s School West is at Salem College in Winston-Salem.
A scan of the course descriptions and film list may cause some to question the need for the Governor’s School.
The Governor’s School East film list included:
Run, Lola, Run: In German with English subtitles. Lola has 20 minutes to save her boyfriend’s life. She jumps through parallel universes and along the way, becomes a moral person. This movies [sic] puts together a mish-mash of philosophical questions of what is moral, what is happiness, what is spirituality, and what is the good life. (R: language, a robbery scene, gun violence, partial nudity, mild sexual situations)
Lemonade, Beyonce – Lemonade is Beyoncé’s second “visual album” following her previous eponymous 2013 album, as well as a concept album accompanied upon its release by a one-hour film aired on HBO. Primarily an R&B album, Lemonade encompasses a variety of genres, including pop, reggae, blues, rock, hip hop, soul, funk, Americana, country, gospel, electronic, and trap music. This text will be paired with other examples of contemporary protests in pop culture including Colin Kaepernick and Childish Gambino’s This is America (NR, includes profanity, threats of violence, partial nudity)
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Lead: John Oliver examines the legacy of lead and lead poisoning in the United States in the wake of the Flint Water Crisis. Rated TV-MA for language. (Boyne)
Not all films on the list are bad or biased. That said, I question the decision to subject kids to Mona Lisa Smile.
The course descriptions for Governor’s School West included:
Natural Science. Effects of Climate Change: In this course, students will be prompted to describe the impacts of changing climatic conditions on human health and apply systems thinking to create a visual model of the various health implications arising from climate change. Their studies will also consider the benefits of climate mitigation on human health and are thus introduced to the concept of co-benefits. Students are invited to identify and evaluate adaptation strategies that are protective of human health. They will investigate if climate change can also cause earthquakes by creating structures that will be tested to withstand climatic changes in a specific region, as well as seismic activity of that region.
Spanish. Derechos Humanos y Movimientos Sociales (Human Rights and Social Movements): Students will read, hear, and see current events affecting the lives of people living in Latin America, as well as Spanish-speakers in the United States. Grounded in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, students will identify current violations of human rights. As they unpack these violations, they will attempt to identify whose rights are being violated, the transgressors of these rights, and the historical and social contexts behind these infringements. In conjunction, students will research the government, citizen, and individual responses to these violations with the purpose of analyzing and critiquing their effectiveness. To culminate the course, students will choose one of the thirty rights guaranteed in the UDHR, research a transgression of that right in the Spanish-speaking world, connect it to a current event or movement in the United States, and disseminate the information in the format of one of the social movements we have studied.
Area III. This course is designed as a way for students to communicate with their peers and explore issues in contemporary society together. Students will complete activities, read articles, and journal about their experiences. The bulk of the class, however, is designed to facilitate student discussion via whole-class seminars and small-group discussions. Students will reflect upon their personal experiences and explore how they have shaped their viewpoints on topics such as insecurity, religion, race, education, and privilege.
Again, not all courses appear to have an ideological bent, but I do wonder if conservative viewpoints received fair treatment.