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Albert Einstein at School

Objectives
• Einstein’s philosophy of education
• Character of Yuri
• Slum violence and Einstein’s disgust with it
• Ernst Weil and Mr. Koch’s character

2 marks
Why was Mr. Braun speechless for a few minutes?
Mr. Braun asked Albert in what year had the Prussians defeated the French at Waterloo.
Albert replied that he didn’t know. Mr. Braun retorted that he had been told about it a
number of times. Albert replied with his usual unthinking honesty that he didn’t see any
point in learning dates as one could always look them up in a book. Mr. Braun becomes
speechless for a few minutes.

Do you think Albert was being impolite to Mr. Braun? Give reasons.
Albert was straight forward and honest as his convictions were strong. This was
however considered rude by Mr. Braun.

What was Einstein’s view on Education?


For Einstein ideas were important. Facts did not matter as they could be looked up in
books. He did not see any point in learning the dates of battles but in learning why the
soldiers were trying to kill each other.

What characteristics of Einstein’s nature are highlighted by the conversation


between him and his history teacher?
Einstein was a boy of strong convictions with firm opinions. He was frank with logical
reasoning. He expressed his views regardless of the punishment that would follow.

Why did Albert feel miserable when he left school that day?
Albert felt miserable because he hated the school and would have to return there the
next day as well. Secondly, the idea of going back to his lodgings and atmosphere of
domestic violence which prevailed there did not cheer him up.

What did Albert conclude after six months alone in Munich?


After six months alone in Munich, Albert knew that he must get away from there. He
felt as he was wasting his father’s money and everyone’s time.

Why was Albert equally unhappy at his lodgings?


Albert got no comfort at his lodging. The food was bad, there was dirt and squalor but
he did not mind that as much as he hated the atmosphere of violence in slum. His land
lady used to beat her children regularly and every Saturday her husband came drunk
and beat her.

Who was Elsa? What did she advise Albert?


Elsa was Albert’s cousin who lived in Berlin. She assured him that he could learn
enough to pass the exams. All he had to do was to learn like a parrot and repeat it in the
exams.

What sudden idea did Albert hit upon to get away from School?
Albert was convinced that he did not want to continue school. He thought that if he had
a nervous breakdown and the doctor certified that it was bad for him to go to school; he
could easily get away from it.

How did Yuri help him in his plan?


Yuri knew that Albert was miserable and referred him to his friend Dr. Ernest Weil.
This young doctor had a license to practice and so he gave Albert the certificate he
wanted.

How would the medical certificate help Albert?


Yuri, Albert’s friend thought that the medical certificate would help Albert to enjoy six
months leave from the school. He would not actually be leaving the school and if the
worst befell he could return and continue studies for the diploma.

How did Albert plan to join college without a diploma from school?
Albert went to Mr. Koch, his teacher of mathematics to get a recommendation. Mr.
Koch wrote that Albert was ready to enter a college for the study of higher
mathematics. This would help him get admission in college.

What did the head teacher tell Albert?


The head teacher told Albert that his work was terrible and he was not prepared to have
him in the school any longer. He added that Albert’s presence in the classroom made it
impossible for the teacher to teach and for the other pupils to learn. Albert refused to
learn and rebelled. So no serious work could be done while he was there.

How did Albert leave the school where he had spent five years?
Albert left school by walking straight on, without turning his head to give it a last look.
He could not think of anyone he wanted to say good bye to.

What opinion do you form of Dr. Ernest Weil?


Dr. Ernest Weil had just qualified to be a doctor, but he was intelligent. He understood
Albert’s problem. He said that had Albert not been close to a nervous breakdown, he
would not have gone to a doctor. Dr. Weil was sympathetic and certified that Albert
should be kept away from school for six months.

Why did Albert see no point learning dates and facts?


Dates and facts are parts of knowledge which are content based. Albert thought there
was no point in learning dates and facts because these could be confirmed from books
any time. Secondly for him learning facts was not education. For him ideas were more
important.

What reasons did the head teacher offer for expelling Albert from school?
The head teacher gave many reasons for expelling Albert from school. Albert’s
presence in the classroom made it impossible for the teacher to teach and other pupils to
learn. Albert himself refused to learn. Albert was in constant rebellion.

10 marks
Discuss the character of Albert Einstein as revealed in this extract?
Albert Einstein showed the sparks of genius even at a young age. His miserable years at
school revealed how a talented creative mind feels trapped and cloistered in the rigid
system of education. The classroom had no place for individual aspirations brilliance or
aptitude. It discouraged Albert’s genius and originality.
Albert’s defiance is misunderstood by his teacher’s. His “unthinking honesty” is seen as
a refusal to confirm to the education and not the learning of facts. His maths teacher had
a high opinion of him. He said. “I can’t teach you more and probably you’ll soon be
able to teach me’. Albert was humble and unassuming and he was uncomfortable with
the excessive praise. The teacher seems to recognize Albert’s rare intellectual genius
and his aptitude for maths. Albert has an enquiring mind and a curious nature. He had a
thirst for information and he liked to study books on science. He loved music and
played his violin regularly. Albert had a frank and honest temperament and was quite
sensitive and emotional. He was considered a rebel by most of his teachers. He did not
compromise and adjust to the system of education which encouraged learning without
understanding. For him, ideas and enquiry were more important than facts or dates. He
was expelled from school for his views which did not match the existing pattern.

Notes
• At the school, the teachers did not seem to be interested in helping Einstein & in
bringing out his potential.
• His history teacher could not convince him of the relevance of his subject & became
sarcastic.
• Einstein did not like his school at Munich at all. He considered it a hateful place
where he did not wish to go back the next morning. Most of the days were filled with
unpleasant experiences. He had been sent there to take his diploma, but he wished he
could leave the school.