Colin Chapman – Educator of the year 1946-1982

In the late 1940s, the world of motor-racing was dominated by a few factory-backed machines. They were well funded and chose the best drivers, supporting a belief that money and size creates better racing cars – and winners. Then one man from an ordinary background started to design better racing cars, because he started thinking about aeroplanes not cars.

With no history or ‘position’ in the incumbent racing hierarchy, Colin Chapman lead motor racing before he’d even left his Royal Airforce Engineering life.

Not only did his ideas win, they pounded the opposition into submission.

During the 60s and 70s – Lotus dominated Formula One. Quite an achievement when we consider todays technologically empowered racing development – that a guy could work two jobs while changing a culture.

Education doesn’t really believe in individuals yet – and positively view them with policy-backed suspicion. They believe in ‘the grid line up’ where those at the top, require those at the bottom to give them a sporting race, but by and large, changes in leadership are marginal, and rules created to define these margins to suit the overall organisation.

It does this most often by acting at a gate keeper of innovation – as Chapman found out in 1978.

In 1978 Chapman unveiled the Lotus 78 Formula One race car and again the rule books would have to be rewritten as would history. The Lotus 78 used bodywork on the underside that effectively created a venturi, thus as the air rushed under the car the air was forced to accelerate and the pressure of the air was lowered dramatically. The result was downforce never before imaginable, in excess of 2000 pounds of downforce was created in addition to Lotus 78’s 1250 pound weight. The Lotus 78 was said to corner as if truly on rails and it took six Grand Prix wins in 1978. The impact upon racing created by ground effects cars were so astounding that by the end of 1981 the ground effects Formula One cars were banned and replaced with flat bottom cars in 1982.

So we have to be aware how systems are more than willing to kill innovation; if they deem it to be place any change to their understanding or belief of what the race should be. In education, this is called curriculum and policy, which currently believes that exams are the best way to filter social mobility in education.

Technology has the potential to act as educational downforce – but it re-writes history. Let’s not be candid here. A tech enabled school with innovative leaders doesn’t fit with politics. It challenges them.

There are major gaps and limitations in using tests to collect data alone – and even more problems in how we are beginning to report them. National Curriculum, NAPLAN-Wars – all a diversion from the big problem ahead.

How are we going to put Australian kids on the grid, when we are Lotus, fighting for a future against countries with greater resources and population?

I vote we re-classify schools into divisions and be done with the bullshit. Oh wait – 3Rs, a focus on Grammuh? – The Grammuh School reborn! Schools of Excellence! Selective High Schools! Private (Rich), Private (not so rich) and of course Private (Secular) … we are dealing here with divisions. So we have to deal with our own reality here – what is the best we can do today?

Exams and websites don’t tell us what children learn that is useful in their present or future lives. They don’t take into account the childs starting point, or the obstacles that they might have had to overcome in order meet the outcome and exams are widely considered biased against marginalised groups. Exams and periodical tests assume education is a linear process; and ignore tangential or other external factors that may boost or hinder learning.

Exams give us a view similar to a racing season – the teams and the leader board. If you a team-manager – winning races and being at the top of the table is the best way to continue being a racing-team manager.

Chapman died suddenly of a heart attack in 1982. What is missed by automobile enthusiasts around the world is the feeling of great anticipation of what the brilliant mind of Colin Chapman would bring to the roadways.
School leaders to recognise – though their hiring criteria and operational plan – that qualifications (since when is knowing your Pastor an indicator) don’t enable the Colin Chapmans of this world – and that you have to advocate for a change to allow new opportunities for everyone, not just yourself.