Get here the summary, questions, answers, textbook solutions, extras, and pdf of the poem (Chapter 4) “Albert Einstein at School” by Patrick Pringle of the Assam Board (AHSEC / SEBA) Class 11 (first year) English (Snapshots) textbook. However, the given notes/solutions should only be used for references and should be modified/changed according to needs.
Summary: For his high school diploma, Albert Einstein was transferred from Milan, Italy to Munich, Germany. His time spent at the German school is chronicled here, where he describes his disappointment with the education he received there. Despite his undeniable brilliance, Einstein hated school because he had to memorise historical facts and figures. Despite the history teacher’s repeated warnings, he continued to have trouble recalling important dates.
The history teacher, Mr. Braun, wanted to know what year the Prussians triumphed over the French at Waterloo. When pressed further, Albert told the frustrated educator that he didn’t see the point in learning dates because he could always look them up in a book, and he didn’t. He stated honestly that factual knowledge was not important to him. The instructor made fun of him by mocking his ideas as “Einstein’s theory of education.” Instead of memorising battle dates and casualty totals, Albert said he’d rather learn about the motivations behind wars.
The teacher, outraged and shocked, told Albert that he was a shame to the school and that he should leave rather than squander his father’s money. After a horrible day at school, Albert went back to his dingy apartment. It seemed like every day was the same for him. Everything about where he was staying was awful, from the neighbourhood to the bed to the food. The landlady’s drunken husband would beat her every Saturday, and she would regularly beat her children. His father could not afford better, but he insisted that Albert not come back until he had completed his education. Yuri was his only friend in Munich, and he told him everything that was wrong with him.
Elsa, his Berlin-based cousin, was his other friend. She paid him several visits and urged him to study for the exam, knowing that even a little bit of his time would help. The only problem was that Albert had to learn to speak like a parrot, which was actually his biggest disadvantage. Memory work was not his strong suit, so he often had trouble memorising information. He wanted to read science books but didn’t get much of a chance to do so in class. His landlord disapproved of his violin practice, which was his only other interest.
Albert decided he could not take it any longer and ended the ordeal. He told Yuri everything and asked if he knew a doctor who would write him a note saying he was having a nervous breakdown so he could go home. Although sceptical, Yuri promised to give it his best shot.
Albert appeared to have lost his good mood the next time Yuri saw him. Yuri scheduled a meeting with Doctor Ernst Weil, who had recently graduated. Yuri had known him for quite some time. He told Albert to be truthful with the doctor, despite the fact that he knew Albert was the worst liar. Yuri had already informed the doctor of Albert’s situation. The doctor recognised the issue and stated that Albert was on the verge of a nervous breakdown; otherwise, he would not have sought medical attention. As a result, he certified Albert’s absence from school for six months. Albert revealed his intention to return to Milan and apply for admission to an Italian college or institute. He was confident of receiving a written recommendation from his mathematics teacher to pursue further studies. The compassionate doctor refused to accept payment but agreed to treat Yuri to dinner. Before going to the head teacher, Yuri advised Albert to meet with the maths teacher.
Mr. Koch, Albert’s mathematics teacher, wrote a glowing recommendation for him, saying he knew so much that it was difficult to teach him. This recommendation was sufficient for Albert to enrol in any institution for further mathematics studies.
Before he could make an appointment, Albert was called to the principal’s office. He was instructed to leave the school. Albert inquired whether it meant expulsion, and the teacher replied that he could interpret it that way. However, he added that if he left on his own accord, the issue of expulsion would be avoided. Albert revealed that he was already planning on leaving. He also wanted to express his feelings about the school and the teacher. But he came to a halt. He walked out of the room, ignoring the teacher’s instruction to close the door. He walked out of the school where he had spent the previous five years of his life. Except for Yuri, no one was worth saying goodbye to.
Reading with insight
1. What do you understand of Einstein’s nature from his conversations with his history teacher, his mathematics teacher, and the head teacher?
Answer: Even as a child, Einstein was an original thinker who defied convention. He has no possible interest in historical events and dates. His dislike and defiance of the material covered in history class earned him frequent reprimands and mockery from his teacher. To paraphrase Einstein, “parrot learning” was something he strongly disapproved of. A different Einstein emerges, however, in the recommendation letter written by Einstein’s mathematics instructor, who gushed that the student already knew too much and that the teachers could learn from him. The principal failed to recognise his innate brilliance. Expelling Einstein from school, he labelled him a disruption in the classroom, a rebel, and a disturbing influence.
2. The school system often curtails individual talents. Discuss.
Answer: It’s ironic that we all have to go through this stage of life knowing full well that it limits our unique abilities. If we didn’t go to school, no one would consider us literate. Discipline and cooperation are two valuable skills that will be honed in this setting. However, there’s no room for personal taste. The potential or skills of a child are ignored. Therefore, it stifles children’s innate drive. The academic programme did not cater to their specific skills and interests. It’s common to see schools as an impediment to kids’ natural development and learning. There can be no new thoughts or concepts without the safety and security that freedom provides.
3. How do you distinguish between information gathering and insight formation?
Answer: Our educational system places more emphasis on memorization of facts than on developing critical thinking skills. Gathering information is simple but pointless. The history instructor was very particular about the accuracy of all facts and figures. On the other hand, Einstein argues that a deeper understanding of why wars are fought is more instructive. Books are a great resource for learning new facts, but mental exertion is required for the development of new perspectives. The current educational system does not instil in us a capacity for analysis or exploration. It offers shallow information that even Einstein would reject.
Additional/extra questions and answers/solutions
1. Why did Albert not see the value in memorising facts and dates?
Answer: If the information could be found in books, Albert didn’t see the point in learning it. There was zero need for analysis or thought. Information retention was not enlightening.
2. Aside from school, what else made him unhappy?
Answer: Albert’s living situation in the slum was terrible, and he felt unsafe there. The poor quality of food, the unpleasant sleeping arrangements, the dirt, and the general filth of the place seemed manageable in comparison.
3. Who was Elsa and where did she live?
Answer: Elsa was a cousin and a close friend of Albert’s. Her family had a business in Berlin, so that’s where she settled. The city of Munich was where she and Albert saw each other frequently.
15. Describe Albert’s meeting with the principal.
Answer: After Albert suffered a nervous breakdown, he sought medical advice from Dr. Ernst Weil, who issued a certificate recommending six months of rest. However, he was called to the principal’s office before he could display it. Because Albert was so bad at school, he was asked to leave. He was disruptive in class, acting defiantly and showing an aversion to education. When Albert asked if he was being expelled, his teacher told him to take it that way if he wanted to, but that it would be for the best if he left of his own volition. Although Albert was tempted to tell him how he really felt about himself and his school, he managed to keep his cool. He announced that he was leaving the room and the school because he had already made up his mind.
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