Schrum Reflects Upon Lyceums

Dr. Steven Schrum reflects upon his Lyceum earlier this year and what it’s like to be a secondary educator and scholar.


This past November, I was blessed with the opportunity to share some of my research in one of our faculty lyceums.  Part of the Faith and Culture series, these lyceums are one of the truly unique features of our school.  At each lyceum, a faculty member is invited to share part of his or her scholarship with the entire Cambridge community.  In my lyceum, I explored how seventeenth century England’s King Charles II wrestled with his country’s past and attempted to reshape his subjects’ memories of the previous twenty years of civil war and upheaval. 

When I first came to Cambridge from the world of higher education, I was worried that one of the things I would miss would be my research.  While I see teaching as my main calling, I also love research.  I have many fond memories of working in archives in London and The Hague.  Teaching at Cambridge, however, has not meant abandoning my work.

I enjoyed having the opportunity to revisit some of my research from graduate school for the lyceum.  Although I regularly incorporate parts of my research into my daily teaching, we have a busy schedule and there is only so much class time to devote to early modern English history.  While I could easily spend all year talking about the Tudors and the Stuarts with my tenth grade students, I also have about five centuries worth of other material that I we need to cover.

One of the unique things about the lyceums is that the audience is not just our students or faculty, but parents and friends of the school.  I enjoyed having the opportunity to chat with the parents of several of our recent alumni at my lyceum.  Even though their children have graduated, they are still active in the intellectual life of the school.

Before joining Cambridge, I taught at several universities in the St. Louis area.  During the decade I spent studying for my doctorate and teaching college students, I attended countless public lectures similar to our lyceums.  At those schools such events are an everyday occurrence and an important part of the intellectual life of the university. 

However, while public lectures are commonplace at universities, I cannot imagine that there are many high schools besides Cambridge that offer their students such opportunities.  We never had anything remotely like the lyceums when I was a high school student.  My teachers’ love for their academic disciplines was certainly on regular display in the classroom, but they never had a venue like the lyceum to discuss their own interests.

Cambridge’s lyceums serve as an important reminder that all our faculty are not just teachers, but also scholars. At lyceums, I have had the opportunity to learn about topics ranging from poetic vision to quantum physics.  I am always reminded of how truly talented my colleagues are.  I know when I was a high school student, I certainly never thought of my teachers as scholars.  It is easy to forget that our faculty are, especially as we speed towards the end of the year and get caught up in the day to day hustle and bustle of homework and exams. 

The lyceums are always a highlight of the Cambridge calendar and I look forward to our attending our next lyceum this week presented by Professor Hannah Nelson.