Why #Akpos is Smarter Than You Think

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square_bakremixSome time ago, in 1999, when CD players had just come out, very few people had them. Thus it was a cool thing to be seen holding a music CD instead of the soon-to-be-obsolete cassette tapes. I remember the story of a boy in secondary school who, after listening to a CD disc, tried to turn it over so he could listen to the other side. When he did that, everybody in the room laughed and called him “razz” – how could anyone possibly think of turning over a CD to listen to the other side? Everybody knew that only one side of the CD could be played. After all that was what we were taught, and that was what the cool kids knew.

But in March 2004, a group of record companies, including industry giants like MJJ Productions Inc. and EMI Music, developed a dual CD disc that could be played on…guess what…both sides. What was laughed at in 1999 in a small room in Lagos was heralded as a ground-breaking discovery in March of 2004 in America! Irony?

I would say so…because the uncool razz boy, as we would have called him…had actually thought of something revolutionary, but instead of being congratulated or encouraged, he was mocked. How many times does this happen across our nation? In my opinion, I would say far too many times. We have to put a stop to that; instead of laughing, we should say, “Hmmm, that is an interesting idea…why can’t the other side of a CD be played?” But we are too cool for that, so we laugh…repeating the same old mistake of not looking past the current reality or pushing the barriers.

Another obvious truth: “You can’t fit a square peg into a round hole.” Or can you? Again, this statement is flawed…yet we repeat it every single day…”you can’t fit a square peg into a round hole,” “you can’t fit a square peg into a round hole,” “you can’t fit a square peg into a round hole.”

But the truth is you can fit a square peg (and even an octagonal peg) into a round hole; all you have to do is make the hole bigger or the peg smaller…regardless of the shape, it will eventually fit.

NOTE: This is a Chapter Excerpt from How Intelligence Kills get the book here http://bit.ly/intelligencekills

And the truth is that our children’s minds are like the square pegs that are constantly being forced into the rigid round hole of our educational system. But it can and should be the other way round; our educational system needs to expand its round hole to accommodate our kids’ square-pegged imaginations. Sadly this is not the case, as our kids are the ones who have to limit their imaginations to fit our rigid educational system of memorization.

This has to change…because our most intelligent and creative minds are going through school believing they are stupid, when in fact they are brilliant. As Albert Einstein says “Everybody is a Genius. But If You Judge a Fish by Its Ability to Climb a Tree, It Will Live Its Whole Life Believing that It is Stupid!” And thus like fishes climbing trees, only a few of our children are able to make it through our educational system. This is doubly unfortunate, because it is not just the individuals that suffer, but society as well. The reason is that when memorization is the core determining factor of success in school…it ends up defining the society.

Just ask any Nigerian to give you road directions and you will be given a series of names back-to-back: go down this road, then turn at this corner, and then go here, and if you get lost just stop and ask for directions. The fact is that our road networks, like our educational systems are built on a system of memorization; you either know the directions or you don’t. There is no logic to navigating the roads…if you get lost…ask for directions or ask jeeves Jesus.

But in the western world, if you ask for directions, you are told to head north or south and then to take exit number X or Y. Even the exits are numbered according to the number of miles between exits. It is a very logical system; if you are on I-35S (interstate 35 south) you know that you are on an interstate road heading south. If you get lost, you can figure out how to get back on track. That is not to say that logic will get you out every time and that you will never have to ask for directions. But you do not need to fully memorize a road network before you can navigate it independently. Their roads were probably built by people who sucked at memorizing. So instead of giving the roads names, they give them directions and numbers. If you are headed to the southwest part of a city, you probably can take almost any road that is labelled south or west and figure out your way. This is how our educational system should be developed – aiming at the end goal. Students should be able to figure out things logically for themselves. If they learn to do so early on, as they mature and when they become leaders, they will be able to create systems that are flexible yet functional.

So what do we do? How can we reform our system? Let’s start by addressing the way we react to students’ “crazy” answers.

Remember the saying…there is no such thing as a stupid question. Well let’s extend that into our classrooms and let our students know that there is no such thing as a stupid answer. Because by so doing, we create a conducive environment where students are free to think and speak without being afraid of being wrong. When this happens, students will be able to take risks and think beyond the textbooks. This is how innovation is born; innovation comes from people who question the norm…people who say: Why can’t we make internet wireless? Why can’t CDs play on both sides? Why can’t a helicopter be used to cut trees? At first their ideas might seem ridiculous, but over time they just might evolve into reality and even become the status quo.

We need to ensure we are teaching students that it’s okay to come up with crazy ideas. And we need to let students and teachers know that it is absolutely not okay to laugh at others’ answers.

As well, we need to train teachers to not search simply for the right answers. Anyone can do that; what they need to do is analyze the wrong answers students give…even the ridiculous ones. Take this physics question for example:

Steve is driving his car. He is travelling at 60 feet per second and the speed limit is 40 miles per hour. Is Steve speeding?

Now this question requires the student to convert both speeds to the same unit so that a simple comparison can be made as to whether Steve was travelling above 40 mph or not. But in the national bestselling book F in Exams, the student simply writes: He could find out by checking his speedometer.

Now imagine this happening in a typical school setting. The student would not only get the answer marked wrong; he would also be reprimanded either with yelling or severe flogging for his audacity to write such an answer. But his answer, albeit it in a weird way, is correct. He has thought beyond the question. Because in reality if Steve wants to know if he is speeding or not he can simply check his speedometer…after all most speedometers have dual units on them!

This takes me back to a classic Akpos tale:

19242235f6d5476cbbb6463697643398_XLTEACHER: If I give you four balls of puff-puff in your hand, and I collect all of them back from you, what will be left in your hand?

AKPOS: Na oil naa

In truth, Akpos shows an ability to think beyond the obvious question, to not only focus on the mathematics but on the reality of the situation. And that is that if you have 10 puff puffs in your hand and all are taken back, then you would not only have zero puff-puffs left; but you would also have lots of oil on your hands. And Akpos, as silly as we may think he is, showcases a type of special intelligence that we can should embrace.

A teacher that is not focused only on right or wrong will see beyond the rote answer and realize that the student has a unique way of thinking. But even more importantly, the teacher may figure out that he needs to write his questions more clearly

All in all, if a nation Nigeria is to grow intellectually and start creating, it will need students that can think for themselves, students that can challenge teachers, and students that exhibit flexibility of thought.

Data from the World Bank shows that the last time a patent was registered from Nigeria was in 1990. That was a long time ago. We need to change that by giving students the power to think outside the box. Because the real world is not a perfect question, and as such has no perfect answers. As long as a person’s mind is flexible enough to try out multiple answers/solutions, they will always be able to answer the world’s toughest questions. Let’s gut the memorization and inspire creationization [sic] (just invented that word, but hey….flexibility).

This is a Chapter Excerpt from How Intelligence Kills get the book here http://bit.ly/intelligencekills

picture source: http://akpors.com.ng

sketch source: http://ofilispeaks.com

twitterWritten By Okechukwu Ofili. Follow him on twitter, Facebook or subscribe to his blog for more honest talk and as @ofilispeaks on instagram for more sketches! To bring Ofili to your school or organization as a speaker simply go here. His third book How Intelligence Kills will be coming out in December of 2013 pre-order here http://bit.ly/intelligencekills



Author: Ofili

Words by Okechukwu Ofili of ofilispeaks.com
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35 comments on “Why #Akpos is Smarter Than You Think

  1. This writeup made me laugh but I also totally agree with u; I’m also guilty of trying to squeeze people into round pegs when they are made to be different. Thanks for the eye- opener. December should come already so we can read all of the book!

    • “If only we could embrace these things, we won’t have unemployed graduates on the street. If only!” could not have said it better. Look at the Isrealis…they strive to innovate and be entreprenuers and because of that their graduates create jobs rather than seek jobs.

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  3. Little wonder why there has been no “invention” from our universities, our professors can’t think outside the box and any student that attempts to, will either get a carry over or even extra session. My law of contract lecturer used her old note she had as a student about ten years earlier to teach us and you dare not give her any answer outside her note if success was your aim and guess what her reward was? She has been made a judge.
    Naijamum latest post is Who says Stella Oduah does not need a bullet proof car?My Profile

  4. Lynnpopes on said:

    Now I’ve read this here. Later I will think I read it somewhere else.

    Its amazing how many times my bosses use think-outside-the-box in their statements, but try thinking outside the box and you might just end up in one… smh

  5. Love the way ur mind works.and this is truly true!
    Yes! Square pegs can fit into round holes!
    Yes,yes,yes,dat seemingly hilarious idea is actually a brilliant one in disguise.nothing should be taken for granted or laughed away.
    Thanks 4sharing.btw,how can one get d book? If dis is just an excerpt then d book will b amazing!

  6. ”Hymmmm” …Great one here as always”. Ofili – minds are also filled with filthy thoughts that give no room for fresh ideas… I believe Parents have a key role to play from d very tender age. . not leavin it all alone for the teachers’ … Think abt d idea of Double Or Triple promotion for percvd smart kids Ta!… **

  7. Mind blowing once again Ofili…I actually had the same thought about the square peg in the round hole once…Make the peg the right size 😀

  8. preach it! everyone needs to read this. Sometimes, people think others have to see things the way they do and refuse to respect the opinion of others. It’s somehow that some lectures/teachers give tests or exams and tell you they expect you to just’copy and paste’ the exact thing in the notes they gave. It makes me wonder how they expect the students to use their brains and get better. One of the ways things can get better is by believing in ourselves and in others too.

  9. preach it! everyone needs to read this. Sometimes, people think others have to see things the way they do and refuse to respect the opinion of others. It’s somehow that some lectures/teachers give tests or exams and tell you they expect you to just’copy and paste’ the exact thing in the notes they gave. It makes me wonder how they expect the students to use their brains and get better. One of the ways things can get better is by believing in ourselves and in others too.
    Anu latest post is once upon a timeMy Profile

  10. Wow!

    I did Technical drawing in secondary school and Engineering drawing in the university. I had constructed a square withing a circle and I never thought fitting a square peg in a round hole was possible. Chai!

    Every wall of Naija education that has being built around my brain to limit my imagination, fall (and die) like the wall of Jericho IJN!

    Here’s the plain truth and something has to change.

    And congratulations to the judge! With people like that in the judiciary, there’s hope for our judicial system. Keep freeing criminals!!!

  11. Ofili – keep on exploding minds… perhaps there might be a Structural Adjustment Program for the Nigerian Minds.

    Thinking only within the parochial limits of book knowledge is what has made 3rd Class & 2nd Class Lower graduates surpass many 2nd Class Upper & 1st Class graduates…

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