Albert Einstein at School
By Patrick Pringle
About the Author
He was born in 1935 in Rochester, New York. Pringle grew up in Mendon, a rural town just south of his birthplace. He was educated in a one-room schoolhouse, where one teacher handled the first through eighth grades. In 1945, the schoolhouse closed, and Pringle was sent to a central school in Honeoye Falls. This school, the author recalled in SAAS, “had a library that fed my hunger for books.
After graduating from high school, Pringle worked for a year in the kitchen of the county hospital. In 1954 he enrolled at Cornell University, majoring in wildlife conservation. At Cornell, Pringle’s interest in nature was nurtured by his classes and by vacations with friends.
In 1958 Pringle began a master’s degree program at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. While his research on cottontails earned him a degree, he continued to pursue his interest in mammalian predators.
In 1968, Pringle published his first book, Dinosaurs and Their World. A basic treatment of selected dinosaurs, their evolution, and how paleontologists learn about them.
In 1970 Pringle became a freelance writer and during the remainder of the 1970s continued to publish well-received titles on nature and ecological subjects.
Pringle has been praised as one of the top writers of informational books for readers from elementary through high school. Educated as a wildlife biologist, Pringle is noted as the author of authoritative, well-researched works that inform readers about the natural sciences and the environment.
Pringle’s works provide information on nature and the environment while emphasizing the dangers that threaten the earth and its resources. Several of these books are about the world’s rivers, forests, oceans, and deserts as well as about man-made hazards such as nuclear energy, nuclear war, global warming, oil spills, pollution, acid rain, and radiation. Pringle also writes about what people can do to protect their environment, such as recycling, fighting world hunger, and protecting biological diversity. In addition, he has addressed such subjects as mammals, insects, birds, and fish as well as related topics, including the animal rights movement and what happens to tame animals released in the wild. He has also authored biographies of prominent naturalists, illustrating their work with such animals as wolves, scorpions, bats, dolphins, and elephants.
Albert Einstein was born in Ulm, in the Kingdom of Württemberg 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 Einstein’s struggles at Luitpold Gymnasium, his clash with teachers and his stay as a paying guest, his noisy landlady, his securing a doctor’s certificate that suggested a change of school.
- Albert Einstein –a student
- Mr. Braun –a History teacher at Albert’s school
- Yuri –a friend of Albert in Munich
- Mr. Koch –a Mathematics teacher at Albert’s school
- Landlady –a woman who rented a room in her house to Albert
- Head Teacher –head master of the school
- Dr. Ernst Weil– a doctor who specialize in nerves
- Elsa –Albert’s cousin
Einstein was studying in a German school in Munich. His History teacher Mr. Braun asked him in which year Napoleon was defeated at Waterloo by the Prussians. The boy confessed bluntly that he didn’t know the year, and he must have forgotten. The teacher wanted to know if Einstein ever tried to learn. Einstein again said with usual honesty that he did not see any point in learning dates. He argued that one can always look up the dates in a book. There was no sense in learning facts which was not the aim of education. The teacher then asked the boy to tell the class his theory of education.
Albert Einstein told the class that in his opinion it was more important to know the ideas than to learn dates or facts. He would rather like to know why the soldiers tried to kill one another. The teacher shouted that Einstein was a disgrace to the school, and he had better ask his father to take him away.
Albert felt very miserable. It was a bad day. He didn’t feel like going back to that hateful school the following morning. But his father was not likely to take him away until he (Einstein) had taken his diploma. Being poor, he was putting up in a room in the poorest part of Munich. He hated that place also because of slum atmosphere. His landlady beat her children regularly, and on weekends she herself was thrashed by her drunk husband.
Albert was lucky to have a very sincere friend—Yuri. He discussed his problem of schooling as well as lodging with him. He doubted if he would ever pass the exams for the school diploma. He discussed his problem with his cousin Elsa when she came to Munich. She advised him to take heart and just repeat what he learnt, in the examination. But his problem was that he was not good at learning things by heart. She enquired which book he was carrying under his arm. It was a book on Geology, and not a textbook at all. He studied it because he liked the subject. His second interest was music. He played upon his violin regularly until his landlady asked him to stop that noise. She had already enough of howling by the kids.
Albert told Yuri after six months that he must get away from there. It was absurd that he should waste his father’s money. He wished to go to Milan, Italy. He requested Yuri to get him a doctor’s certificate that he had a nervous breakdown and he must leave the city. Yuri contacted his friend Dr. Ernst Weil, though not a specialist in nervous disorders. He asked Albert to be honest about his intention on meeting the doctor. The doctor agreed to certify that Albert had a nervous breakdown, and he must stay away from school for six months. The doctor didn’t charge any fee for his service. Six months was a pretty long period. Albert won’t be leaving the school, and need be, he could come back to do his diploma.
Albert planned to take that medical certificate to the head teacher the next day. But Yuri advised him to get a reference in writing from his Mathematics teacher, Mr. Koch, first. Mr. Koch agreed with Albert that the latter was wasting his time in that class in Munich because he knew much more than even his teacher. He gave a certificate that Albert was ready to join some college for the study of higher Mathematics.
The head teacher sent for Albert and told him that he wanted the boy to leave the school at once. It was a sort of expulsion. The other way was that Albert should go of his own accord. The head teacher’s point was that Albert refused to learn, and he was in constant rebellion. Albert declared that he was going to leave even otherwise. He walked out of the office and the school where he had spent five miserable years. Yuri saw him off with good wishes and good luck. He hoped that Albert would be happier in Milan.
Short Answer Type Questions
Q1. Why was 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.
Q2. Why was Mr. Braun speechless?
Ans. Mr. Braun was speechless because he asked Einstein in what year the Prussians defeated the French at Waterloo. Albert could not reply, when he (Braun) demanded the reason responsible for this he admitted that he did not learn the answer. Later he said that he could not see any point in learning dates which could be read in a book as well. This made Mr. Braun speechless.
Q3. 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.
Q4. 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 effort of the teachers to make the students think and analyze the subject in his school.
Q5. How did the history teacher insult Einstein?
Ans. Mr. Braun, the history teacher remarked that Einstein was an ungrateful boy and that his output to be ashamed of himself. He should ask his father to take him away. He punished him by making him stay in for an extra period in the school that day.
Q6. Who was Yuri?
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.
Q7. Why did Einstein not like the place where he lived?
Ans. Einstein lived in a rented room in one of the poorest quarters of Munich. He did not like the place because of the atmosphere of slum violence. His landlady beat her children regularly. Every Saturday her husband came drunk and beat her.
Q8. What was the problem faced by Einstein in passing the exams?
Ans. For passing the exams one didn’t have to know anything or understand what one was taught. One could easily pass the exams if one was able to repeat in the exams what one was taught. The problem with Einstein was that he was not good at learning things by heart.
Q9. What advice did Elsa give to Einstein to pass the examination?
Ans. Elsa is Einstein’s cousin who lived in Berlin where his father had a business. She thinks that just repetition of the lesson taught in the class during the examination is enough to pass the examination. No understanding is essential. Just learning something by heart may do the trick.
Q10. 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.
Q11. How did Albert feel at his lodging?
Ans. Albert was not at all happy in his lodging situated in the poor slum area. His room was in the poorest quarters of Munich. Even the atmosphere was quite miserable as the landlady used to beat her children. Her husband too returned on Saturday quite drank and beat her mercilessly. The atmosphere was full of noise and insanitary.
Q12. 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.
Q13. Why did the head teacher call for Albert?
Ans. 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 troubled 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.
Q14. Who was Mr. Koch? How did he help Einstein?
Ans. 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 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.
Q15. “Albert felt the medical certificate almost burning a hole in his pocket”. What does the author mean?
Ans. The author means to say that Einstein has worked so hard to get the certificate from the doctor, and then he was willing to show the certificate to the headmaster and see how he would react. However, the certificate had then become unnecessary as he was being expelled without its production.
Q16. 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.
Q17. Express your views on the prevailing system of education.
Ans. Education is in fact a process which brings out the best from within. But it’s an irony that the present system of education kills originality. It prompts a child to be more commercial and self centred. It encourages him to compete more and more without letting the original personality blossom the present system of education cultivates one sided personality. It stifles creativity and originality.
Long Answer Type Questions
Q1. What made Einstein unhappy at school?
Ans. This lesson describes Einstein’s suffering at school in a moving way. It 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. Einstein’s 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.
Q2. Did Einstein succeed in leaving school? How?
Ans. Einstein hated the school at Munich and longed to escape. One day he gets an idea and discusses it with his friend, Yuri. 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, 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. The head teacher tells Einstein that all the teachers are troubled 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.
Q3. What were Einstein’s 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 lays a lot of emphasis on rote learning. 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. 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 the number of soldiers killed in the battle. He was really disappointed that there was no effort of the teachers to make the students think and analyze the subject in his school.
Q4. Do you think that the teacher’s 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.
Q5. 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 scolded 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.