Albert Einstein at School by Patrick Pringle

‘Albert Einstein at School’ is a narrative essay written by Patrick Pringle. The essay centres around Albert Einstein who is known all over the world as one of the greatest scientists of all the time. The essay discusses how Einstein was unfit at school and how he made a desperate attempt to get away from school.

The essay talks about the early life of Albert Einstein at school. In the school, Albert’s simple and honest behaviour was taken as his rude behaviour. Thus, the teachers hated him and so he ended having no friends at all.

As this essay starts, we see Albert Einstein arguing over the learning of dates with his history teacher. His teacher makes him responsible for being lenient and distracting others from the study. He also ridicules Albert for knowing all these things and calls him an embarrassment to the entire class.

This incident annoyed Albert and he left school that afternoon. He never wanted to study in a school that focussed more on cramming rather than understanding concepts and ideas.

Albert always despised the prevailing education system in his school, as less focus was paid to subjects of his interest. He was rational. He believed in reasoning, he wanted to learn the ‘Why’ not ‘How’ and ‘When’ behind the things. Perhaps his mathematics teacher Mr Koch was the only person in the institute who recognised the latent potential in him. It was the only class which Albert cherished in the school. He used to live in a poorer quarter of Munich. His landlady used to beat up her children ruthlessly and her husband used to beat her up every Saturday. She forbade Albert to play the violin, something he loved and enjoyed to the full. He hated the crime in the slum, and its atmosphere.

Albert Einstein had only one good friend, Yuri, who understood him well. Yuri advised him not to quit school. Yuri and Edla (his cousin) tried their best to compare his situation to the people who were worse off than him but failed to make any difference.

He met a doctor who helped Albert to get a fake certificate claiming he had a nervous breakdown and needed a break from school. Albert informed the doctor about his plans to go to Italy to join an Italian College to learn mathematics. Doctor Ernst Weil handed him over that certificate and certified that he needed rest for six months which could help him get rid of his school forever.

After receiving the certificate, Albert felt happy. He went to meet his mathematics teacher Mr Koch who gave him a written reference so that he can get admission in a good college. His teacher considers him a prodigy and claims he is no longer willing to teach him. He also praises Albert for highlighting his teaching ability as a teacher of mathematics.

On the day at school when Albert was about to submit the certificate to his head, the headteacher summoned him and ordered that he had been expelled from the school since his presence disturbed others in the classroom, and when he is there, no serious work can be completed.

Albert was furious at the wrong blame on him, but he did not say a single word and left the school with pride and happiness. Now there came no need to show up his medical certificate. His sense of logic made him expel from school without creating any mess. He cheerfully walked out of the school, which had become his prison for the previous five years and finally he went to the country wherein he wanted to build his dreams.

Albert Einstein at School : Summary and Questions With Answers 1

Questions and Answers of Albert Einstein at School

Q.1 What is Einstein’s was not ready to learn facts?
Ans. Einstein’s was not ready to learn facts because in his opinion learning facts was not the real aim of education. Einstein’s theory of Education states that ideas matter the most and not the facts. The real education should lay emphasis on the development of logical and reasoning power. There is no point in learning facts because it does not help in improving the potential IQ in any way. One can always look up in the book to know the facts.

Q.2 Why has the school being described as a hateful place?
Ans. In this extract, it has been told that Albert hated his school & didn’t want to go to that hateful place. School was a hateful place for him because he was forced to learn facts all the time. The system demanded him to learn the things without knowing or understanding them. When he wasn’t ready to learn he was given punishment almost every day and was considered a disgrace to the school. So it became unbearable for him to go to school.

Q.3 Why did Einstein think that he would never pass the exam?
Ans. Einstein was nervous about his school and did not want to go to that hateful place. But he knew that his father would not allow him to leave the school unless he passed the exam for a school diploma. It was his biggest worry that he thought that he could never pass the exam. He was never interested in learning facts but he was forced to learn the things in order to pass the exam. Whenever he showed his disinclination and unwillingness to learn, he was considered a lazy and disgraceful student. Albert thought that is was not possible for him to learn like a parrot and reproduce it for an exam. So he could not see any way in which he could pass the exam for a school diploma.

Q.4 Why was Albert adamant on meeting a doctor?
Ans. Albert thought that he was wasting his time at school because he could not learn to pass the exam. One day he thought of an idea to leave the school and even his father would not force him to go back to that hateful place. He thought that if a doctor certified him that he could have over breakdown because of school and it was necessary for him to stay away from school, he would be able to go back to Milan. In that case, no one would force him to go back to school. So he was adamant on meeting a doctor and requested his friend to find out one for him.

Q.5 There is nothing to wonder…….. yourself. What did Mr Koch actually mean?
Ans. After getting the medical certificate, when Albert went to his Maths teacher to get a written reference so that he could get admission in an Italian college, Mr Koch, the mathematic teacher surprised him saying that he already knew that Albert was going to leave. Albert was wondered at the statement Of Mr Koch. Later on, he came to know that he was expelled from the school. Mr Koch knew the decision of the headteacher and h already knows that Albert was going to leave.

Q.6 Why was the headteacher not ready to have Einstein.
Ans. Albert Einstein did all the hard work to get a medical certificate so that he could leave the school but his efforts went in vain because
the school had already decided to expel him. The headteacher was not ready to have Einstein in school because he said that Albert’s work was terrible and his presence in the classroom made it impossible for the teachers to teach other students to learn. The headteacher also accused Albert of being a constant rebellion. He said that no serious work could be done in his presence. So it was decided to expel his from the school.

Q.7 Give a brief sketch of Albert Einstein.
Ans. Albert Einstein was very different from others right from his school days. As a student, he could not relate himself to the education system that was followed in his school in Munich. His school only focused on learning facts because according to him it was of no use in developing ideas and reasoning power. He was rational. His interest was in the books of science in the town. The school had become such a hateful place for Einstein that he wanted to leave it as soon as possible. He wanted to get admission in an Italian college to study higher Mathematics. There was a frank honesty in his behaviour.

Extra / Additional Questions and Answers

1. What made Einstein unhappy at school?

Ans. Einstein was a misfit in school and couldn’t cope with the traditional education system. He was different from other boys of his generation. He despised the school’s oppressive atmosphere and was certain that he would fail in the exam. He liked learning only those topics that were of interest to him.

He thought that memorizing stuff didn’t make a case. When asked when the Waterloo War was going on, Albert honestly replied that he had forgotten the date. In addition, he added that he did not see why people should learn the dates because they could be looked up conveniently in a book. Albert’s honesty is mistaken for arrogance. He is punished and said that he is a disgrace to the school. Albert was depressed and desperate because of the teacher’s attitude and the negative atmosphere and yearned for an escape from school.

2. Did Albert succeed in leaving school? How?

Ans. Albert longing to escape got an idea. He wanted to play a small drama. He decided to pretend as if he had had a nervous breakdown. He would say that he had been advised by the doctor to discontinue studies. With the help of his friend, Yuri, Albert was able to find a doctor who was kind and understanding. The doctor gave a certificate of illness which said that he needed rest for six months. But even before he was about to submit the certificate, he was called by the headteacher, who told Albert that all the teachers were vexed with his rebellious attitude and wanted him to leave the school. Albert internally felt very happy as there was no need to give or show the certificate. He happily walked out of the school which he thought a prison.

4. What were Albert’s views regarding rote learning? Why is mere rote learning useless?
Ans. Albert was different from other boys of his age. He was rational and reason seeking. He firmly believed that the mind is there to think most not to memorize most. He was unable to cope with the conventional system of education, which laid a lot of emphasis on learning by rote. He believed that mere memorizing facts were useless. Facts and figures can be looked up in books. Thus on being asked when the Battle of Waterloo took place, he replied that he had forgotten the date and when it was there in the books, why he should struggle for it. He also added that it would be more useful and interesting to find out why the soldiers had killed one another, rather than to memorize a string of facts. He told his cousin Elsa that he could not learn things by rote like a parrot. One must attempt a proper understanding and analysis of a subject. He thought that machine power is limited but mind power is unlimited.

5. The great thinker Socrates once said: “I can’t teach anybody anything. I can only make them think.” Do you think that the teacher role should be primarily to make students think?

Ans. The aim of education should not be to get a degree and take up a job which is
often found in the conventional system of education, where the teacher is expected to impart fact-based knowledge or information transfer to do well in the
examination. Drilling, cramming, dictating reproducing and marking important questions are some of the conventional tasks in rote learning. But in reality, the role of a teacher is not to teach facts but to impart skills which can make the student think. He has to ignite the spark lying within the student. It’s not hyperbolic to say that the teacher shows the student how to think and not what to think. A true teacher encourages the individual to be inquisitive and to analyse the various facets and implications of an issue. The aim of education, therefore, is to produce learning individuals, not merely and necessarily learned ones, in an environment of freedom and creativity. It is not at all the aim of education to create academic or educated robots. It should make pupils think. Otherwise, the very purpose of education would be lost. Here the words of a world-famous writer, Mark Twain are quite notable and quotable: “I have never let my schooling get in the way of my education”.


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