The Governor's Program for Gifted Children

GPGC 2019 | JUNE 9 – JULY 27


Weekly Reports – Humanities, Week One

Here are some reports from the teachers of each of our Humanities classes for last weeks in the Program. We have organized them by class:

Freshmen Humanities (Ms. Kristen Harrell, Instructor)

On Monday, we began classes by discussing the Latin phrase on their t-shirts and what that meant in the context of this class and the program. This led into what the Latin and Greek languages were/are and why they were important to Western Civilization. They were given a Greek alphabet sheet as well as a list of ancient Greek names and their meanings. Their homework for the next few days was to choose a name from that list to be their own for the class. This usually leads to a discussion on etymology and the understanding of English words with Greek roots. I also gave them a cheat sheet of sorts that they can use for their cursive handwriting. I do this so that all of my students will be able to read a primary document which may be in cursive in the future. So far, I’m incredibly proud of their work. Also this week, we delved into the pre-Greek culture; the Minoans and the Mycenaeans. We discussed their beliefs their structures and inferred a great deal about their lives by looking at the ruins and artifacts from the palace complex of Knossos and Mycenae. They understood that with a lack of written history, understanding archaeology and art history can help fill in the gaps. The Greek ‘middle ages’ discussion was dominated by the Iliad and the Odyssey and how that sets a standard for any epic tale or journey story for the western world even into modern society. I quizzed them over this material with an Open Notes Quiz and was able to gauge their progress in composition with a free response worksheet. We finished the week by watching excerpts from the miniseries, “The Odyssey”, and discussing everything from its accuracy, the set design, to the ‘Hollywood’ changes.


Sophomore Humanities (Ms. Lauren Howton, Instructor)

This week we did introductions and preliminary discussions of the great ideas so that we may refer back to the ideas while reading and participating in discussions. We took several days to discuss at length the ideas of Utopia and Dystopia. We began a pre-reading discussion of A Wrinkle in Time. We used daily journal assignments as a “jumping-off point” for those students who were more hesitant to participate out loud.


Senior Humanities (Ms. Lauren Howton, Instructor)

This week we started with introductions and the concept of the Great Ideas. We continued on with in-depth discussions of Utopia and Dystopia. Many of the students were interested in my past employment at Disney World (which I briefly mentioned during the first day introductions) so we spun that into a debate about whether or not Disney World could be considered a utopia or dystopia. This debate really informed our pre-reading discussion of Sir Thomas More’s Utopia. We closed out the week with a discussion of the book after the first assigned reading was complete.


Grad Level, Civil Rights/Civil Liberties (Ms. Jessica Markstrom)

This week I introduced students to basic judicial concepts regarding the Supreme Court and constitutional interpretation. Additionally, we addressed the “free exercise” and “establishment” clauses of the 1st Amendment. I placed special attention on the Court’s recent decision in Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Commission for Civil Rights. We ended the week evaluating 1st Amendment issues in Louisiana including Cole v. Webster Parish Board and Louisiana Senate Bill 512 (which passed the state legislature in May 2018).

Important News from GPGC

On Tuesday, July 12, a McNeese student group in conjunction with the local Lake Charles chapter of the NAACP will be holding a prayer vigil on the McNeese campus (in the Quad) starting at 7 PM. Unfortunately there have been rumors of other groups planning to protest the prayer vigil and although we don’t expect any trouble we have decided, after consultation with the McNeese administration and our security officer, to keep our students in the dorm Tuesday night after dinner. As parents, you are of course welcome to come check your student out of the dorm for any reason Tuesday night but we wanted to let you know that the students will be restricted to the dorm for the night. If you have any questions or concerns about this please feel free to call or email me (Joshua Brown) –, 337-475-5446.

Weekly Reports – Grad Classes – Weeks Three and Four

Our older students (9th and 10 graders usually) are called “Grads” here at the Program. That’s a long story for another day but these students take college-level classes in the morning. This summer we are offering English (Creative Writing), Psychology in Film, and Special Topics in Criminal Justice.. Here are reports from Weeks Three and Four for each of those classes.

Creative Writing (Mr. Avee Chaudhuri, Instructor):

Week Three: 

We began our poetry workshop this week. Students generally treated one another’s work with respect and made useful and insightful criticisms. My main responsibility in this workshop is to identify how an individual poem is working in or against a certain aesthetic tradition, if the class is unwilling or unable to do so. Otherwise, I sit back and let the students manage the discussion, and so far they have done a good job. On Thursday, we discussed what distinction, if any, exists between art and obscenity. This had the potential to devolve very quickly into hysterics and giggles and attempts on the students’ part to talk about their experiences viewing pornography, but the class did a good job of paying attention and demonstrating maturity. We read through Judge Woolsey’s majority decision in United States v. One Book Called “Ulysses,” which is a landmark obscenity case. On Friday we talked about flash-fiction, its emergence in the digital age, and how the brevity of the form lends itself to either 1) macabre humor or 2) existential meditation. Students have a 500 word response paper due for Monday.

Week Four:

On Monday, the students discussed their homework – a 500 word typewritten response to either Primo Levi’s “A Tranquil Star” or Amelia Gray’s “Date Night.” “A Tranquil Star” is concerned with the limits of language in describing the physical universe. “Date Night” is far more ambiguous and led to a good class debate about whether literary works have to contain “a deeper meaning” or whether they can be read for purely aesthetic or formalist reasons. On Tuesday, we discussed Realism as a literary movement. I lectured briefly about how Realism was a response to Romanticism and attempted to portray “ordinary life” in a way that was sincere and impartial. Then we discussed “The Destructors” by Graham Greene (which I did not realize was the inspiration for the Grad Fruit Drop) and “Are These Actual Miles?” by Raymond Carver. The students noted the plain, unadorned style, the impartial tone, and the lack of abstraction which these works share. On Wednesday, I introduced the concept of metafiction by showing the class a self-referential sketch from a British comedy show. We then talked about metafiction in a historical sense, and I pointed out that texts have been markedly self-referential since antiquity. I also shared with them Paul De Man’s belief that all fiction is metafiction since all fiction is at the very least implicitly concerned with language. As a corollary to metafiction, we also discussed Ars Poetica, poetry which describes poetics. The students read “A Continuity of Parks” by Julio Cortazar as their textual introduction to metafiction. On Thursday, we continued our discussion of metafiction by discussing Margaret Atwood’s “Happy Endings.” We then transitioned to literary Postmodernism by discussing Donald Barthelme’s “Some of Us Had Been Threatening Our Friend Colby.” The class seems to respond well to stories which involve macabre humor. I attribute this to their youth and intelligence.

Special Topics in Criminal Justice (Mrs. Jessica Markstorm, Instructor):

Week Three:

This week focused on problems encountered with police work. Issues such as aggressive patrol and excessive force were discussed. The students were presented with a thorough explanation of the 4th Amendment that included coverage of numerous Supreme Court cases. The exclusionary rule, “plain view” doctrine, and warrantless searches were evaluated.

Week Four:

Students learned the basic requirements of Miranda Rights and the exceptions to those requirements. The roles of the prosecutor, judge, and defense counsel were explored for a criminal case. Jury selection was discussed. A special emphasis was placed on issues regarding bail and plea bargains.

Psychology (Dr. Linda Brannon, Instructor):

Week Three:

During the third week, we finished our examination of perception with a discussion of the difficulties of recovery of vision. We saw scenes from the movie Blink, which is a fictionalized story that involves this topic.

Our main topic for the week was memory. We discussed memory systems, including their limitations and failures. Students saw two movies about memory: Inception and Memento. Inception is about implanting false memories, and Memento is about a person with anterograde amnesia, which is not the typical movie portrayal. Students enjoyed both, and we spent time critiquing the movie version of amnesia, which pretty much no movie does correctly.

Week Four:

We finished our examination of memory with a discussion of the misinformation effect, which is a process that results in false memories. This phenomenon is important for false criminal convictions based on eyewitness testimony as well as many memory failures.

We continued to the topic of sleep, which we discussed mostly in terms of the physiology of the stages of sleep and the brain structures that are activated during the various stages. We talked about the relationship between dreams and the rapid eye movement (REM) stage of sleep. No discussion of dreams is complete without Freud’s theory of the symbolic content of dreams, so we talked about that view, but we also considered a physiologically based theory of dreaming called the activation-synthesis theory. We also discussed some of the effects of sleep deprivation.

GPGC gave me a sense of community,

a place where being smart was acceptable, where bullying was not the norm, and where creativity was welcomed.

– Cashman P., Alumnus