Though he had found the conversation relaxing and enjoyable, Albert decided it was time to bring up the topic he really wanted to discuss. Taking a bite of his pot roast, Albert became serious. “Max, may I confide in you?”
The smile faded from Max’s face and was replaced by a look of concern. “Of course, you can tell me anything. What is it, Albert? Is something wrong with your parents?”
“No, no, my parents are fine. They are in Italy. I am staying with my aunt and uncle, who live not far from here.” Albert paused and took a long drink of beer as he gathered his thoughts. He was trying to figure out just how to tell his story, but when no inspiration appeared, he just plowed ahead. “It’s just that I feel I am wasting my time at the Gymnasium. I pass my math and science examinations easily because I taught myself the things we’re studying in class years ago.” Albert pulled the Gymnasium Direktor’s letter from his pocket, saying, “But when I ask to be given more advanced work to study, I am met only with anger.” He handed the letter to Max, who frowned as he read it.
Dear Herr Einstein,
You are requested to attend a meeting at 10:00 a.m. on December 15, 1894, at the Office of the Direktor to discuss your future at the Luitpold Gymnasium with the Academik Committee Council. Please be prompt.
Max shook his head as he folded the letter and gave it back to Albert. “I’m not surprised, Albert. I suspected you would have a hard time at the Gymnasium.”
Max nodded. “Yes. You’re right in the middle of a struggle within the school system itself. The schulkrieg, the war over the schools, is a fight between proponents of the classical values associated with education in Latin and Greek and supporters of instruction in modern languages and natural sciences.”
Albert leaned back in his chair, surprised at this revelation. “I had no idea.”
“How could you know?” Max sighed, “But, you see, I struggled too as I went through school to become a doctor.”
“Really?” Albert was taken aback.
“Mmm hmm. Believe it or not, the Luitpold Gymnasium has had a reputation as an enlightened school. All of Germany celebrates its ‘institutes of learning’ because of how prosperous it has become in the last three decades. Germany leads the world in what people are calling the industrial revolution.”
Albert waved his hand as if brushing away Max’s statement. “Institutes of learning? Bah! They are just factories of rote instruction.”
Max did not argue. “Be that as it may, Germany boasts of its schools.” As Albert scowled, Max continued. “But, my friend, I can tell you that there are schools in Switzerland that may be of interest to you. I attended one of them before I went to the University of Munich.”
Albert raised his eyebrows. “Switzerland?”
Max nodded. “The Polytechnic in Zurich, where I studied. And I have an uncle who lives in Zurich. He was instrumental in having me attend the Polytechnic, and I believe he would be willing to assist you as well. It would give you the education I think you are looking for.”
Albert’s face brightened. “That would be wonderful... if it would not be too much trouble, I mean.”
Max touched Albert’s arm, reassuring him, and said, “As far as I’m concerned, you’re family, Albert. I would be glad to help you. No trouble at all. It is the least I can do for people who treated me with such kindness.”
Albert sat back in his chair. For the first time in months, he felt like he could breathe.
Albert and Max went back to reminiscing as they finished their supper together. Feeling a refreshing wind in his sails blowing him in a new direction, Albert was now more than ready to meet the direktor and his lieutenants. When the two finished the last of their beer, Albert prepared to pay the check.
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