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Class XI: Snapshot - Albert Einstien at School

Albert Einstein at School


By Patrick Pringle

Introduction

Albert Einstein was born in Ulm, in the Kingdom of Wrttemberg in the German
Empire on 14 March 1879. His father was Hermann Einstein, a salesman and
engineer. His mother was Pauline Einstein. In 1880, the family moved to Munich,
where his father and his uncle founded Elektrotechnische Fabrik J. Einstein & Cie, a
company that manufactured electrical equipment based on direct current.

Albert attended a Catholic elementary school from the age of five for three years. At
the age of eight, he was transferred to the Luitpold Gymnasium (now known as the
Albert Einstein Gymnasium) where he received advanced primary and secondary
school education until he left Germany seven years later.

In 1894, his father's company failed. In search of business, the Einstein family
moved to Italy, first to Milan and then, a few months later, to Pavia. When the family
moved to Pavia, Einstein stayed in Munich to finish his studies at the Luitpold
Gymnasium. His father intended for him to pursue electrical engineering, but Einstein
clashed with authorities and resented the school's regimen and teaching method.

At the end of December 1894, he travelled to Italy to join his family in Pavia,
convincing the school to let him go by using a doctor's note. This biography
describes Einsteins struggles at Luitpold Gymnasium, his clash with teachers and
his stay as a paying guest, his noisy landlady, his securing a doctors certificate that
suggested a change of school.

Summary

The father of modern physics, Albert Einstein is famous to have discovered the
theory of relativity which marked a revolution in physics. However, how many of us
know the fact that in his early school days he was a dull student and got expelled
from his school. No teacher liked him and he too, in turn, disliked attending school.
This led to the school finally taking a decision in chasing him away.

The narrative begins with Albert being asked about a date by his history teacher.
This was when he was very abrupt and crude in replying that he found it pointless to
memorise dates when one could flip through the necessary pages whenever one
needed to. He believed in education but didn't consider learning facts as education.
He hated school because he hated the conventional form of education and the
teachers found him to be a 'disgrace.' Finally, the teacher, disgusted and fed up,
asked him to be taken away by his father. Einstein also hated going home, not for
the obvious reasons of bad food and lack of comfort, but because he hated the
atmosphere of 'slum violence.'

He was so against the idea of going to school and adopting to the set educational
pattern that he once confided in his friend that he thought he would never pass the
exams for the school diploma. He once told his cousin Elsa that he wanted to study
science simply because he liked it. He didn't need additional reasons to study the
subject he was interested in. He was sent to Munich to study where within six
months he grew disinterested and found it wrong to waste his father's money,
especially when it was so unfruitful and unproductive.

This was the moment of Albert's childhood epiphany when he gleamed with a
sudden bright idea of averting school forever. He asked his friend Yuri to search for a
friendly doctor who would write him off as a lunatic at school. He wanted the doctor
to certify him as a person suffering from nervous breakdown so that he could stay
away from school. To this doctor, Albert revealed his love for mathematics and his
maths teacher. Later, in school, he asked for a reference letter from his maths
teacher. This is when he heard the most surprising comment from his maths teacher
who said: I knew you were going to leave before you knew yourself.

Finally, the day when Albert was called by the headmaster he was not worried when
this happened. However, he was taken aback when the headmaster said that he
couldn't tolerate Albert's attitude towards education and his behaviour in the
classroom which disturbed an ideal environment for studying. Thus, he wanted
Albert to leave school. Albert felt the medical report burning a hole in his pocket.

He left the school where he had spent five miserable years, without turning his head
to give it a last look. He felt like seeing only Yuri before he left Munich. Elsa was
back in Berlin when he left. Yuri bade him farewell and wished him good luck.


Short Answer Questions

Q. What was Einstein's theory about education?


Ans. Einstein believed that the then existing education method was incapable of
meeting the purpose of education. He believed that learning facts and dates was not
education. He was against learning facts and dates by heart. He was really
disappointed that there was no research in his school.

Q. What were Einsteins views regarding rote learning? Why is mere rote
learning useless?


Ans. As a student at Munich, Einstein was different from the other boys of his age.
He was unable to cope with conventional system of education which says a lot of
emphasis on learning by rote. He believed that there was no point in memorizing
facts. Facts, he felt, could easily be looked up in books. Thus, on being asked when
the Battle of Waterloo takes place, Einstein replied frankly that he had forgotten the
date. He added that it would be more interesting to find out why soldiers had killed
one another, rather than to memorize a string of facts.

Q. Who was Yuri? How good a friend was he for Einstein?


Ans. Yuri was the only friend Albert had in Munich. Yuri had great concern for Albert.
It was Yuri who understood Albert's helplessness in the school and his desire to go
to Milan to join his family. Yuri was greatly helpful for Albert, especially in getting a
medical certificate.

Q. What made Einstein unhappy at school?


Ans. Einstein was a misfit at school and was unable to cope with the conventional
system of education. As a student at Munich, he was different from other boys of his
age. He hated the oppressive atmosphere of the school and was sure he would fail
in the examinations.


Q. What made Einstein's life miserable in the slum where he lived?


Ans. Albert Einstein lived in a slum where his landlady made his life a hell. She most
often beat her children and then occasionally she was beaten by her husband. She
was so rude with Einstein that she didn't allow him to play his violin for a relief from
all this stress. Apart from this, he was constantly sad for the thought of having to go
back to the school where he had not a friend.


Q. Why couldn't Einstein think of going to Milan without a serious reason?


Ans. Einstein's father was a struggling businessman in Milan. He had asked his son
to return to Milan after completing his studies in Munich and was very stubborn about
that. To go to Milan, therefore, Einstein needed a very strong reason to leave his
school in Munich.

Q. What for did Einstein require a medical certificate?


Ans. Einstein enquired his friend Yuri about a friendly doctor, who would certify him
falsely for a nervous breakdown as he longed to escape from the school. Einstein
hated the school at Munich and longed to escape. But he knew that if he left his
studies and went to Italy to join his family, his father would get angry and send him
back. One day he gets an idea. He decides to play a small drama. He would pretend
that he has had a nervous breakdown. He would say that he has been advised by
the doctor to discontinue studies. He asks his friend, Yuri, if he knows a kind and
sympathetic doctor.

Q. What surprises awaited Einstein in the Principals room?


Ans. Einstein got a false medical certificate and was about to go to the head
teachers office to submit it. To his surprise, however, the headmaster himself sent
for him and informed that the school had decided to rusticate him for his hostile
presence in the school. The head teacher explained that all the teachers were vexed
with his rebellious attitude and did not want him in the school any longer. He then
suggested the simplest way out for Einstein to leave the school on his own.


Q. Who was Mr. Koch? How did he help Einstein in his future life?


Ans. Mr. Koch was Einsteins mathematics teacher. He was a great man, probably
who was not jealous of Einsteins knowledge. He admired Einsteins knowledge and
thought probably Albert would soon be able to teach him. Apart from this, Mr. Koch
gave him a certificate that helped Einstein secure a seat in a university.

Q. Did Einstein succeed in leaving school? How?


Ans. Yes, finally Einstein got rid of his school. With the help of his friend, Yuri,
Einstein found a doctor who was kind and understanding. The doctor gave a
certificate stating that Einstein needed rest for six months because he was under
extreme stress. In a dramatic turn, Einstein was called to the head teacher's room
and was told that the school had decided to expel him from the school.

Q. Today's school system curbs personal talents and ignores the genius in
students, imposing a teacher-school centered approach upon the students.
Discuss.


Ans. Einstein studied in a school in Munich, where he was unhappy with the
teaching. He was particularly averse to the idea of learning facts by heart. When his
history teacher asked him when the battle of war was fought, Einstein was unable to
give the answer. The history teacher rebuked him for this and said he should know
the answer as it had been mentioned many times in the class. Einstein replied that
he did not believe in memorizing facts, He was more interested in answering the
why questions rather than how and when questions.

Q. How do Einsteins views clash with those of his cousin Elsa?


Ans. What Einstein tells his cousin Elsa that he just cannot learn things by heart like
a parrot. Mere recall of facts would not be any use. One must attempt a proper
understanding and analysis of subject.

Q. What system of education cripples the genius of a student?


Ans. In the Conventional System of Education the aim of the student is to get a
degree and take up a job. The task of the teacher, in such a system, is mostly to
impart fact-based knowledge and help the student to do well in the examination. For
this purpose the teacher may dictate notes, mark important questions and repeatedly
drill students. Such a system crushes the creative genius like Einstein.

Q. Do you think that the teachers role should be primarily to make students
think?


Ans. But in Reality, the role of a teacher is not to teach facts but to impart skills
which can make the student think. It would not be an exaggeration to say that the
teacher shows the student how to think and not what to think. The true teacher
encourages the individual to be inquisitive and to analyze the various facts and
implications of an issue. The aim of education therefore, is to produce learning
individuals, not necessarily learned ones, in an environment of freedom and
creativity. Otherwise, the very purpose of education would be lost. We would be
reminded of Mark Twain who remarked I have never let my schooling get in the way
of my education.

Q. What made Einstein unhappy at school?

Ans. The Present Essay Albert Einstein at school is an interesting narration taken
from Patrick Pringles book The Young Einstein. It describes in a moving way
Einsteins suffering at school. We often think that great and famous thinkers must
have well behaved, in born talents, studious in school, Excelled in studies from an
early age and received recognition and encouragement from teachers. But this
essay shows how a creative genius like Einstein was ridiculed by his teachers and
expelled from school for daring to be different.

Einstein was a misfit at school and unable to cope with the conventional system of
education. As a student at Munich, he was different from other boys of his age. He
hated the oppressive atmosphere of the school and was sure he would fail in the
examinations. He liked to study only the subjects which interested him. He believed
that there was no point in memorizing facts. Thus, on being asked when the battle of
waterloo took place. Einstein replied frankly that he had forgotten the date.
Moreover, he added, he did not see why one should learn dates as they could easily
be looked up in a book. Einsteins honesty is mistaken for arrogance. He is punished
and told that he is disgrace to the school. Einstein thus, felt miserable at school and
longed to escape.

Q. Did Einstein succeed in leaving school? How?

Ans. Einstein hated the school at Munich and longed to escape .one day he gets an
idea, he decides to play a small drama. He would pretend that he has had a nervous
breakdown. He would say that he has been advised by the doctor to discontinue
studies. With the help of his friend, Yuri, Einstein is able to find a doctor who is kind
and understanding. The doctor gives a certificate stating that Einstein needs rest for
six months. But even before Einstein can submit the certificate, he is called by head
Teacher.

Your presence in the classroom makes it impossible for the teacher to teach and for
the other pupils to learn. You refuse to learn, you are in constant rebellion, and no
serious work can be done while you are there.

The head teacher tells Einstein that all the teachers are vexed with his rebellious
attitude and want him to leave the school. Einstein realizes that there is now no need
to show the medical certificate. He cheerfully walks out of the school which has been
his prison for the last five years.

Q. What were Einsteins views regarding rote learning? Why is mere rote
learning useless?

Ans. As a student at Munich, Einstein was different from the other boys of his age.
He was unable to cope with conventional system of education which says a lot of
emphasis on learning by rote. He believed that there was no point in memorizing
facts. Facts, he felt, could easily be looked up in books. Thus, on being asked when
the Battle of Waterloo takes place, Einstein replied frankly that he had forgotten the
date. He added that it would be more interesting to find out why soldiers had killed
one another, rather than to memorize a string of facts.

You dont need to be good at it. Anyone can learn like a parrot. Einstein tells his
cousin Elsa that he just cannot learn things by heart like a parroit. Mere, Recall of
facts would not be of any use. One must attempt a proper understanding and
analysis of subject.

Q. The great thinker Socrates once said: I cannot teach anybody anything. I
can only make them think. Do you think that the teachers role should be
primarily to make students think?

Ans. In the Conventional System of Education the aim of the student is to get a
degree and take up a job. The task of the teacher, in such a system, is mostly to
impart fact-based knowledge and help the student to do well in the examination. For
this purpose the teacher may dictate notes, mark important questions and repeatedly
drill students. Such a system crushes the creative genius like Einstein.

But in Reality, the role of a teacher is not to teach facts but to impart skills which can
make the student think. It would not be an exaggeration to say that the teacher
shows the student how to think and not what to think. The true teacher encourages
the individual to be inquisitive and to analyze the various facts and implications of an
issue. The aim of education therefore, is to produce learning individuals, not
necessarily learned ones, in an environment of freedom and creativity. Otherwise,
the very purpose of education would be lost. We would be reminded of Mark Twain
who remarked I have never let my schooling get in the way of my education.