Beyond the ivory tower: Co-operation with a local upper secondary school

When I was in upper secondary school (‘lukio’ in Finnish), two of my teachers organized a “Rome Club” (‘Rooma-kerho’), which could be taken as an optional course. In order to receive credit for the course, we needed to take part in a variety of activities, one of which was attending guest lectures by researchers and PhD students. I always found the lectures fascinating, and I thought that it would be great if, at some point in my life, I could do something like that myself.

In the autumn of 2014 the thought became a reality when I began my lecture series titled “The heirs of Rome” at my old school, Turun klassillinen lukio, where the Rome Club was still going strong. To be sure, the initial idea was to offer a single lecture to the club, but partly due to the nature of my chosen topic and partly due to the enthusiasm of the pupils it became clear that a series of lectures was in order.

The idea behind the series was to show how Roman (and, more generally, classical) culture had been kept alive following the collapse of the Roman Empire. This topic is especially relevant for my ongoing PhD research since I am interested in the status of Latin and Greek in 17th century England. Accordingly, the main focus of the lecture series was on Britain. The titles of the individual lectures were:

1. “The Classical languages in Britain”
2. “The status of the Classical languages in 17th century Britain”
3. “Classical education in the early modern period”

The second lecture was given in conjunction with the school’s 135th anniversary celebration in November. The fourth and final lecture, which will take place at the beginning of May, elaborates on the theme of education with examples drawn from my dissertation material.

I have found the lecture series a refreshing experience, and it seems that the pupils have enjoyed it as well. Although my dissertation focusses on theoretical matters, it has been surprisingly easy to come up with suitable topics for the lectures. One easily forgets that what seems self-evident to oneself may be completely new information to almost everyone else. I have also found it an excellent exercise to try and explain my own research in as simple terms as possible, because this makes it a prerequisite that I actually understand what I am talking about.

Rooma-kerho 3
The Rome Club with their visiting teacher, Aleksi.

Text: Aleksi Mäkilähde
Photo: Reija Pentti-Tuomisto

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