Albert Einstein at School – Patrick Pringle
A. Einstein believed that the then existing education method was incapable of meeting the purpose of education. He wanted the school to find out a student’s area of interest and empower that side of the students. 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.
A. As a student in Munich, Einstein was different from the other boys of his age. He was unable to cope with the 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. Rote learning only helps in scoring but on the other hand, the student stops thinking and exploring. Students take to learning what others have learned but creativity and inventions are disabled.
A. 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. He was always dissatisfied with the absence of creative learning in the school.
A. Einstein did not believe that learning facts and dates is education. In the case of the date of the Waterloo War, he said he did not remember the date for the very reason. In his opinion, students should not be made to memorize the dates of wars and events. Rather, he loved to learn why the war was fought. This means that Albert Einstein was in favour of applied knowledge over rote learning.
Q. Why was Elsa amazed at Einstein?
A. Elsa, Einstein’s cousin, once noticed that he was reading a book on geology. Geology was a subject taught at very higher classes and Einstein was still in the lower school in Munich. When he explained that he read the book because he loved to read, Elsa was amazed.
Q. Why couldn’t Einstein think of going to Milan without a serious reason?
A. Einstein’s father was a 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. Who was Yuri? How good a friend was he for Einstein?
A. 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’s life miserable in the slum where he lived?
A. Albert Einstein lived in a slum where his landlady made his life hell. She most often beat her children and then occasionally she was beaten by her husband. She was so rude to Einstein that she didn’t allow him to play his violin for 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. What surprises awaited Einstein in the Principal’s / head-teacher’s room?
A. Einstein got a false medical certificate and was about to go to the head teacher’s 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 cope with the school – leave the school on his own.
Q. Did Einstein succeed in leaving school? How?
A. 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. What for was Einstein called to the head teacher’s room?
A. Einstein expects to be punished for some lapse. But that is not the case. The head teacher tells Einstein that all the teachers are vexed with his rebellious attitude and do not want him in the school any longer. The simplest way out would be for Einstein to leave the school on his own. Otherwise, the head teacher would be forced to expel him formally.
Q.Who was Mr Koch? How did he help Einstein in his future life?
A. Mr Koch was Einstein’s mathematics teacher. He was a great man, probably who was not jealous of Einstein’s knowledge. He admired Einstein’s knowledge and regretted his not able to teach what he wanted to learn and sympathized with him for this school’s not able to provide his kind of education. Apart from this, Mr Koch gave him such a certificate that helped Einstein secure a seat in a university.
Q. How did Mr Koch certify Einstein’s calibre?
A. Mr Koch, the benevolent mathematics teacher, declared in a statement that he had taught Einstein all he knew and Einstein was in fact in a position to teach him. This, though a true statement, was a great certificate for Einstein’s future life and success.
Q. “I knew you were going to leave before you knew it yourself.” What does Mr Koch, the mathematics teacher, mean by this? What light does this shed on the ideal teacher-student relation?
A. Mr Koch was Einstein’s mathematics teacher. His was the only class that Einstein had liked in the school. When Mr Koch said he knew that Einstein was going to leave the school even before he knew he would one day leave, the great teacher meant what he had thought about Einstein. Mr Koch had, from the very first day, learned the student’s genius. He had a clear idea that the school would not stand strong in front of Einstein’s enormous genius. Like a good mathematician who makes correct calculations, Mr Koch had calculated and reached the solution – Einstein > School – Einstein was bigger than the school. This made him say that he had foreseen this end.
Q. What was the chief cause of Albert’s argument with his history teacher?
A. Albert was never interested in learning the dates already given in the books whereas his history teacher insisted on his learning for the same. Therefore, they both had a heated argument with each other.
Q. How did Yuri help Albert in getting rid of his school?
A. Albert had always wanted to leave his school as he was not, at all, interested in cramming the content being taught by his teachers at school. When he shared his problem with his friend, Yuri, he suggested him to meet one of his good friends, a doctor by profession, who helped Albert in getting a certificate of a nervous breakdown.
Q. Why did Albert not like to stay at his lodgings?
A. Albert was a studious child who wanted isolation and peace for his studies. On the other hand, his landlady used to howl at as well as beat her kids every day and, every Saturday, her husband came and beat her. That created a lot of chaos in his life, therefore, he did not like his lodgings at all.
Q. Who was Elsa? What did she advise Albert to do in order to pass? How did Albert react to it?
A. Elsa was the cousin of Albert Einstein who always encouraged Albert to do what he liked. Once, she advised Albert to cram the things and pass the exams as other foolish boys would do. Albert made it very clear that he would neither cram the things nor learn them as they were useless and of no importance.
Q. Who was Mr Koch? Why did Albert say that he liked only his classes in the school?
A. Mr Koch was a teacher of Mathematics who had been teaching Albert in his school for a long time. Albert had a keen interest in reading math, especially when taught by a teacher like Mr Koch. Therefore, when Albert went to take a written reference from his math teacher, he told his teacher that he enjoyed only math classes in his school.
Q. How did the certificate of nervous breakdown prove useless to Albert Einstein?
A. After taking the certificate of a nervous breakdown from Dr Ernst Weil, Albert went to his school for getting the reference from his math teacher so that he could leave his school on medical grounds. On reaching there, he was summoned by the head teacher and expelled from the school for his misbehave with his history teacher. Therefore, that certificate, taken from Dr Earns Weil, proved useless to him.
Q. Where the teacher interested in understanding Albert and bringing out his potential?
A. This extract mentions only two of the teachers of young Einstein. They are Mr Braun—the history teacher and Mr Koch—the mathematics teacher. The former was not at all interested in understanding Albert and bringing out his potential.
He followed the traditional methods and philosophy of education which laid more stress on an acquisition of knowledge. Dates and facts were more important to him than the causes which led to the events. Secondly, he had a sarcastic attitude and mocking tone towards Einstein. Instead of helping the development of a talented boy, he complained to the head teacher and got him expelled.
Mr Koch appreciated Einstein’s genius and had a good opinion of him. But he too was confined to his subject and didn’t take interest in the real person. All this was because of the curriculum centred approach.
He had his lodging in the poorest quarters of Munich. The food was bad. Lack of comfort, dirt, and squalor made his life miserable. The atmosphere of slum violence was oppressive. The landlady would beat her children. Her husband would come home on Saturdays. He would get drunk and beat his wife. Albert found young students fighting duels and killing others. The scars on the face were badges of honour for the victors.