Albert Einstein and his eye view towards history

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The Nightmarish!

“I have nightmares of history exams!” declared one of my esteemed friend. He represents the set of students, who would prefer suicide over reading History. This phobia towards history is also substantiated by statistics. The below image gives a glimpse of the dropping trend of history graduates in The United States.

Back in India, the mentality towards history is worse. At times parents or even history teachers vilify the subject, terming it as ‘boring’, which leaves some serious questions about the attitude towards the subject. A beautiful dialogue from the life of Albert Einstein gives some insights on this:

A very interesting dialogue: Einstein and his teacher.

“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.

“Why not?”

“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 realize that one can always look most things up in books? That applies to all the facts you learn at school.”

“Yes, sir.”

“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.”

The difference between knowledge and wisdom

Einstein was a very personification of Mark Twain’s quote “I have never let my schooling interfere with my education”. Modern day education is more about learning facts over interpreting them and extracting wisdom. How worthy is it to learn gory details of war and missing out on the root cause of the conflict? How sane it would be to judge the actions as good or bad without knowing the context and motivation to perform that action. However, is it only the education system to blame? Doesn’t individual curiosity and judgment count for anything while being placed at the highest level of the evolution ladder?

It would be unfair to say that modern-day education is completely worthless. It is good enough to generate a working force that conforms to standards and protocols of the economy. However, it can suppress creative geniuses, lateral thinkers and the ‘creators’ as Ayn Rand refers to groundbreaking men. What is needed in such setup is individual curiosity and dent of craziness as Steve Jobs once said, “Those who are crazy enough to think they can change the world usually do”

Read more related articles:

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Prasad Kulkarni is a Data and Analytics professional. At work, he analyses historical data and ponders over historical events otherwise.


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