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Albert Einstein at School – Patrick Pringle

Albert Einstein at School describes Einstein’s struggles at Luitpold Gymnasium, his school in Munich. About his clash with teachers and students. About his stay as a paying guest and his noisy landlady. Einstein had no peace in the school nor in his lodging. About his securing a doctor’s certificate that suggested a change of school. Learn Albert Einstein at School – Summary, Questions and Answers.

People we read in this lesson

  • Young Albert Einstein
  • His history teacher Mr. Braun
  • Yuri, his only friend
  • Dr. Ernst Weil, the doctor
  • Mr. Koch, his mathematics teacher
  • Elsa – Einstein’s cousin sister.

Albert Einstein

  • 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 (DC).
  • 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.
Opening – The Rebellious Student
  • Einstein doesn’t like the way facts are taught. He wants his teachers teach reasons rather than dates.
  • Teachers are fed up with Einstein. Einstein finds himself in a wrong place.
  • Thinks only about ways and means of getting expelled from the school.

Questions & Answers

  1. Why was Einstein’s presence in the school a persistent soreness for his teachers and classmates?
    Albert Einstein was not a good student at school when we judge his performance in the class. He was rather a rebel. His intelligent questions left his teachers with no answer. Most teachers entered his class with dread about the questions he would ask. His classmates, who were either jealous of him or disliked him for his questioning behavior, hated him, too. Albert Einstein was too genius for a school like the one that he attended in Munich. He pestered/troubled his teachers with questions that they were not able to answer and made his classmates feel jealous of his genius. 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. Besides, the head teacher told Einstein that all the teachers were vexed with his rebellious attitude and wanted him to leave the school.
  2. What was Einstein’s theory of education?
    Einstein believed that the then existing education method was incapable of meeting the purpose of education. He wanted the school 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.
  3. What were Einstein’s views regarding rote learning? Why is mere rote learning useless?
    As a student in 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. Rote learning only helps in scoring but on the other hand, the student stops thinking and exploring. Students take to learning what others have learnt but creativity and inventions are disabled.
  4. What made Einstein unhappy at school?
    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.
  5. Why didn’t Einstein take interest in learning the dates of wars? OR What was ‘Einstein’s theory of education?’ (2 marks)
    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 favor of applied knowledge over rote learning.
Elsa and Einstein

Questions & Answers

  1. Why was Elsa amazed at Einstein?
    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.
  2. What was Elsa’s advice for Einstein?
    Elsa was Einstein’s cousin sister. She believed that Albert didn’t try to learn at all. Her concept of learning was opposite to Einstein’s. She too believed in rote learning – learning by heart. She was of the opinion that any student can.
Yuri and Einstein

Questions & Answers

  1. Why couldn’t Einstein think of going to Milan without a serious reason?
    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.
  2. Who was Yuri? How good a friend was he for Einstein?
    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.
  3. What made Einstein’s life miserable in the slum where he lived?
    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.
Medical Certificate!
  • Yuri, Einstein’s only friend had some contacts. Dr. Ernst Weil was one of them. Dr. Weil was a new doctor.
  • Through Yuri, Einstein gets an appointment with Dr. Weil. And, lo, he gets the certificate!

Questions & Answers

  1. What for did Einstein require a medical certificate?
    Einstein hated the school at Munich and longed to escape to Milan where his family had settled down. He knew that if he left his studies and went to Milan to join his family, his father would get angry and send him back. By getting a medical certificate that certified that Einstein was mentally unfit, he could escape the school and go to Milan.
  2. Do you think Dr. Ernst Weil had given Einstein a fake medical certificate? Why do you think so?
    Dr. Ernst Weil’s certificate stating Albert’s mental condition as abnormal was not a fake one because Albert was in a way mentally not fit to attend the school. He said that Albert would not have come for a fitness certificate if he were fit and believed that by staying in his school, Albert had been really stressed and was close to a breakdown.
The Head Teacher

Questions & Answers

  1. What surprises awaited Einstein in the Principal’s/head-teacher’s room?
    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.
  2. Why was Einstein glad that the school management was expelling him?
  3. Did Einstein succeed in leaving school? How?
    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.
  4. What for was Einstein called to the head teacher’s room?
    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.
  5. Why was Einstein glad that the school management was expelling him?
    Einstein felt uneasy in a system which lay emphasis on rote learning. He was sure he would fail in the examinations.
Mr Koch

Questions & Answers

  1. Who was Mr. Koch? How did he help Einstein in his future life?
    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.
  2. How did Mr. Koch certify Einstein’s caliber?
    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.
  3. “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?
    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, learnt 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.
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