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Chapter 4: Albert Einstein at School
“IN what year, Einstein,” asked the history teacher, “did the
Prussians defeat the French at Waterloo?”
“I don’t know, sir,”
“Why don’t you know? You’ve been told it often enough.”
“I must have forgotten.”
“Did you ever try to learn?” asked Mr Braun.
“No, sir,” Albert replied with his usual unthinking honesty.
“I can’t see any point in learning dates. One can always look
them up in a book.”
Mr Braun was speechless for a few moments.
“You amaze me, Einstein,” he said at last. “Don’t you realise
that one can always look most things up in books? That applies
to all the facts you learn at school.”
“Then I suppose you don’t see any point in learning facts.”
“Frankly, sir, I don’t,” said Albert.
“Then you don’t believe in education at all?”
“Oh, yes, sir, I do. I don’t think learning facts is education.”
“In that case,” said the history teacher with heavy sarcasm, “perhaps you will be so kind as to tell the class the Einstein theory of education.” Albert flushed. “I think it’s not facts that matter, but ideas,” he said. “I don’t see the point in learning the dates of battles, or even which of the armies killed more men.
I’d be more interested in learning why those soldiers were trying to kill each other.” “That’s enough,” Mr Braun’s eyes were cold and cruel. “We don’t want a lecture from you, Einstein. You will stay in for an extra period today, although I don’t imagine it will do you much good. It won’t do the school any good, either. You are a disgrace. I don’t know why you continue to come.” “It’s not my wish, sir,” Albert pointed out. “Then you are an ungrateful boy and ought to be ashamed of yourself. I suggest you ask your father to take you away.”
Albert felt miserable when he left school that afternoon; not that it had been a bad day— most days were bad now, anyway — but because he had to go back to the hateful place the next morning. He only wished his father would take him away, but there was no point in even asking. He knew what the answer would be: he would have to stay until he had taken his diploma. Going back to his lodgings did not cheer him up. His father had so little money to spare that Albert had been found a room in one of the poorest quarters of Munich.
He did not mind the bad food and lack of comfort, or even the dirt and squalor, but he hated the atmosphere of slum violence. His landlady beat her children regularly, and every Saturday her husband came drunk and beat her. “But at least you have a room of your own, which is more than I can say,” said Yuri when he called round in the evening.
“At least you live among civilised human beings, even if they are all poor students,” said Albert. “They are not all civilised,” Yuri replied. “Did you not hear that one of them was killed last week in a duel?” “And what happens to the one who killed him?” “Nothing, of course. He is even proud of it. His only worry is that the authorities have told him not to fight any more duels. He’s upset about this because he hasn’t a single scar on his face to wear for the rest of his life as a badge of honour.” “Ugh!” exclaimed Albert. “And these are the students.” “Well, you’ll be a student one day,” said Yuri.
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NCERT Solutions Class 11 English Chapter 4 Albert Einstein at School
1. What do you understand of Einstein’s nature from his conversations with his history teacher, his mathematics teacher and the head teacher?
The conversation between Einstein and his teachers demonstrates that he was a truthful student. He acknowledges his flaws without hesitation. Though Albert’s History teacher thought he was a disgrace because he failed to learn the facts and figures, Albert never insulted him. He only said what he wanted in front of the teacher.
The Mathematics teacher, on the other hand, thought highly of him and stated that he could not even teach him any longer since he already knew everything. The headmaster wanted Albert to leave the school because it was nearly impossible to teach the other students when he was present. Albert was a bit of a rebel, but he was a good person.
2. The school system often curbs individual talents. Discuss.
According to the story, the school system is given priority on learning facts and dates over learning ideas. Rather than highlighting the fact that they had such a brilliant student among them, the headteacher expelled Albert from school.
This demonstrates how the school was only concerned with imparting bookish knowledge to the students. This type of education continues to exist today when children’s talents are ignored in favor of grades and marks. The education system is set up in such a way that brilliant students like Albert are regarded as inept and unfit rebels whose presence makes it more difficult for the teacher to teach other students.
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