Summary of Refund
"Refund" is a play by Fritz Karinthy that satirizes the modern education system. The play follows the story of Wasserkopf, a man who demands a refund of his tuition fees from his former school, claiming that he didn't learn anything during his 18 years of education. To prove his point, Wasserkopf asks to take an exam in all the subjects he studied.
Despite giving ridiculous and clearly incorrect answers, the teachers accept them in order to preserve the reputation of the school. In the end, Wasserkopf has declared a distinguished graduate and is asked to leave the school. The play highlights the flaws in the education system, such as the focus on memorization rather than practical skills and the prioritization of grades over actual learning. It also suggests that the knowledge imparted by education may not always have practical relevance in one's day-to-day life.
Understanding the text
Answer the following questions.
a. Why does Wasserkopf demand a refund of his tuition fees from the school?
Wasserkopf demands a refund of his tuition fees from the school because he has lost his job and is broke. He believes that he received no value from his education and wants his money back.
b. Why does Wasserkopf consider himself good for nothing?
Wasserkopf considers himself good for nothing because he lost his job and is broke. He believes that his education at the school did not prepare him for the real world and that is why he is struggling.
c. What did the teachers decide to do when Wasserkopf asked for a refund?
When Wasserkopf asked for a refund, the teachers decided to give him a re-examination to see if he really did learn nothing during his time at the school.
d. Why did Wasserkopf give ridiculous answers? Why did the teachers accept these answers?
Wasserkopf gave ridiculous answers during the exam in the hope of failing and receiving a refund. The teachers accepted these answers because they wanted him to pass the exam in order to preserve the school's reputation.
e. How does the Mathematics Master describe Wasserkopf’s character?
The Mathematics Master describes Wasserkopf as a sly and crafty individual who will try to get the better of the teachers by any means necessary in order to get his money back.
f. How did the teachers outwit Wasserkopf?
The teachers outwitted Wasserkopf by agreeing beforehand to grade all of his answers as correct, regardless of whether they were actually correct or not. This allowed them to pass Wasserkopf and avoid the embarrassment of having a former student fail a re-examination.
g. What is the final judgment on Waserkopf’s demand for a refund?
The final judgment on Wasserkopf’s demand for a refund is that he has passed the re-examination with distinction in every subject, and is therefore entitled to the certificate he received upon graduation. The school principal tells Wasserkopf to leave before he has him thrown out, and the teachers congratulate him on his performance.
Reference to the Context
a. Read the extract from the play given below and answer the questions that follow:
“It’s possible I’ve changed. What the hell…! Your class records will show I’ve got a right to come here.”
i. Who is the speaker? Who is he speaking to?
Wasserkopf is the speaker. He’s speaking to the principal of his former school.
ii. Why is the speaker say these words?
The speaker says these words because he is dissatisfied with his educational records from his previous school, which he obtained eighteen years ago.
iii. Where is the speaker at this moment?
The speaker is at the school’s principal’s office.
b. Read the extract dialogue given below and answer the questions that follow:
“THE STAFF: (bowing, heartily) How do you do?
WASSERKOPF: Who the hell are you? Sit down, you loafers! (He grins waiting to be thrown out)
THE PRINCIPAL: How dare you –”
i. What is to be the response to ‘How do you do?’
The expected response to "How do you do?" is "I'm fine, thank you" or a similar phrase.
ii. Is Wasserkopf’s response polite enough to the staff?
Wasserkopf's response is not polite at all. He does not greet the staff and instead insults them by calling them "loafers."
iii. How does Wasserkopf rebuke the staff?
Wasserkopf rebukes the staff by speaking rudely to them and insulting them.
iv. What does the principal mean by ‘How dare you -’?
The principal is expressing shock and outrage at Wasserkopf's rude behavior towards the staff.
c. Explain the following line of the play:
“Because I didn’t get my money’s worth, that’s why!”
This line is spoken by Wasserkopf, a former pupil of the school, who is demanding a refund of his tuition fees from the school. He believes that he did not receive the value of the money he paid for his education, and that is why he is demanding a refund.
The reasons for Wasserkopf's dissatisfaction with his education could vary, but it is clear that he feels that he did not gain any valuable skills or knowledge from his time at the school. He may feel that the teaching was inadequate, or that he was not given the necessary support and guidance to succeed.
This line highlights the importance of ensuring that students receive a quality education that meets their needs and helps them to achieve their goals. It also raises the question of what constitutes a fair value for education, and whether it is possible to put a price on the knowledge and skills that students gain.
d. What is the theme of the play?
The theme of the play "Refund" by Fritz Karinthy is the value of education and the expectations that individuals have of the institutions and teachers that provide it. The play follows the character Wasserkopf, a former student of the school, as he demands a refund of his tuition fees because he believes that he received no value from his 18 years of education. The teachers and principal of the school are faced with the challenge of defending the value of their institution and the education they provided to Wasserkopf. Throughout the play, the characters engage in discussions about the purpose and value of education, as well as the responsibilities of both students and teachers in the learning process. Ultimately, the play suggests that education is a valuable and worthwhile investment, but that it requires effort and dedication from both the student and the teacher in order to be successful.
e. Sketch the character of Wasserkopf.
Wasserkopf is a former pupil of the school who has come to demand a refund of his tuition fees. He is a truculent and defiant character who does not hesitate to speak his mind or use insults. He has a confrontational and aggressive personality, as seen when he speaks disrespectfully to the staff and the principal. Despite this, he seems to have a sense of humor and a sense of mischief, as seen when he reveals that he was the one who tied a string across the aisle to trip the physics master. Overall, Wasserkopf is a rebellious and unpredictable character who is determined to get what he wants, even if it means causing a confrontation.
Reference beyond the text
a. The play is a satire on the present-day education system. Do you think that our education system does not prepare students for life? Discuss.
The education system in Nepal has been criticized for being heavily focused on rote learning and memorization, rather than practical skills and critical thinking. This can lead to a lack of preparation for real-life situations, as students are not taught how to apply their knowledge in practical ways. Additionally, the curriculum often includes subjects that are not relevant to students' future careers or personal interests, leading to a sense of disconnection and disengagement from their studies.
As a result, many students may feel unprepared for the challenges and responsibilities of adult life, leading to a lack of confidence and self-worth. In order to address these issues, it is important to reform the education system to prioritize hands-on learning experiences and practical skills, as well as to offer a more diverse range of courses that cater to the diverse interests and career goals of students. By doing so, we can better prepare our students for the challenges of life and enable them to succeed in their personal and professional endeavours.
b. Our education system focuses on memorisation rather than creative thinking. Do you think the knowledge imparted by education may not have practical relevance in one’s day-to-day life? Who do you blame for this?
Yes, I believe that the knowledge imparted by our education system may not always have practical relevance in one's day-to-day life. This is because our education system tends to focus more on memorisation rather than on developing critical thinking skills. As a result, students are not always able to apply the knowledge they have learned in real-life situations.
I think that there are several factors that contribute to this issue. One factor is the lack of practical, hands-on learning opportunities in our education system. Students are often required to memorise large amounts of information without being given the chance to apply that knowledge in a practical setting. This makes it difficult for them to see the relevance of what they are learning to their everyday lives.
Another factor is the emphasis on rote learning and exams. Students are often under a lot of pressure to perform well on exams, which often leads to a focus on memorisation rather than understanding. This can make it difficult for students to develop the critical thinking skills that are necessary for success in the real world.
In conclusion, I believe that the lack of practical relevance in the knowledge imparted by our education system is a result of a combination of factors, including the lack of hands-on learning opportunities and the emphasis on rote learning and exams. To address this issue, it is necessary to reform our education system to focus more on developing critical thinking skills and providing practical, hands-on learning opportunities.
c. Most of the students want to learn just for examination rather than knowledge. Do you think that certificate will help them in their future career?
It is not necessarily true that a certificate will automatically help a person in their future career. While a certificate may be a requirement for some jobs or educational programs, it is ultimately an individual's skills and abilities that will determine their success in a particular field. In certain industries, such as healthcare or law, a certificate or degree may be necessary to practice in a specific role. However, in fields like technology or creative arts, practical experience and demonstrated skills may be more valued than formal education.
Companies like Google and Tesla, for example, place a greater emphasis on skills and experience rather than formal education when hiring employees. It is important for individuals to consider their career goals and the requirements and expectations of their desired industry when deciding on their education and training.