It's almost twenty years since Peter and I started a journey to develop a model of mental toughness that is universally applicable. That journey has taken us to one of the model's most important applications—the development of young people—which is the theme of this book. For both of us this is perhaps the most satisfying application.
What is especially gratifying is that this application now receives acknowledgment all over the globe. It resonates with a good deal of current thinking. Dweck (2012), Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi (2000) and others all write about the same themes—although they give them different names—grit, character, resilience and mindset, these are all essentially the same as mental toughness.
We couldn't have made our contribution without the support and encouragement of many who have shown us aspects of the world of developing young people about which we had little knowledge. Pleasingly, most have agreed to contribute as authors in this book.
One contributor deserves a special mention. Kieran Gordon, CEO for Greater Manchester Connexions Partnership (GMCP), who in 2007, was the first to identify the potential for the model and the measure, MTQ48, in the development of young people. He organised the first trial. It worked and the rest, as they say, is history.
Anyone who has written or authored a book knows that this is a challenging task requiring copious amounts of mental toughness. All authors need collaborators. We are very grateful to Monika Czwerenko who has diligently coordinated the assembly of this work, liaising with all the featured authors to deliver on time! And once again we thank Helen Murray for her work in proofreading the compilation and tidying up our mistakes and grammatical errors.
Above all I dedicate this book to my grandchildren Jay, Charlie, Bella, and Axel who are exactly the young people for whom this book is written.
Peter Clough Doug Strycharczyk
Education in Britain, for the past couple of centuries, had a relatively simple task. Learning was seen as customising children and young people for their future role in a fixed, class-conscious Christian society, “the rich man in his castle, and the poor man at his gate” (Leavis, 1968,
p. 134). H G Wells called the 1870 Education Act as not so much an “Act for a common universal education [but] an Act to educate the lower classes … [for employment] on lower class lines.” (Dobson, 2009, p. 147) Later, the 1944 Education Act intended to provide a workforce for the post-war industrial economy. It was estimated that the country would need eighty per cent manual workers and twenty per cent clerical and professional staff. That narrow, static, insular world is no more.
As this book makes clear, we live in a globalised fast changing society. Children in school today will be employed in not one but several careers, many yet to be invented. Too often, however, the continuing strong focus on targets and league tables—most easily achieved by drilled exam technique, learning by rote and very little opportunity to exercise critical thinking—means that in the UK and in much of the rest of the world, what education systems provide is not what the majority of children require. A small but growing group of innovators in education, business, and related fields, (some featured in this book) are beginning to develop tools and methods to equip each and every child, irrespective of background, to make the most of their potential. Mental toughness, resilience, self-control, confidence, and drive (we know from research) can take a person a lot further than a peer with a higher IQ but few of these capabilities.
A foundation of self belief and persistence or grit plays a part in encouraging a child to think creatively for him or herself; to collaborate with others; to use initiative; to turn setbacks into opportunities and to have the kind of adaptability that means change is not feared but embraced as a chance to flourish further.
A recent academic paper by Richard E. Nisbett, James Flynn and colleagues endorses the findings of psychologists Martin Seligman and Carole Dweck (referred to in this book), that self-regulatory skills and other non-cognitive traits including delayed gratification and selfdiscipline married to a positive attitude of mind, “contributes not only to life outcomes but to IQ scores themselves”. Non-cognitive capabilities can improve IQ. In addition, mindset counts. If we tell ourselves a story of achievement and progress, we improve the chances that we will become that story. However, too often today, education fails to foster this frame of mind. On the contrary it breaks a prime rule of learning— first do no harm.
We can't afford to lose the untapped talent and abilities of all those thousands of children whom, too early, become dispirited and disengaged, written off instead of sparked so they perform well. At the same time, employers repeatedly say that even high flyers emerge from university lacking employability—the capacity to show initiative, work well with others, bounce back from disappointment and act maturely enough to see failure as an opportunity to learn.
How and why does mental toughness matter? Over the past thirty years or so, mental toughness has been given a number of definitions, Most include, to a greater or lesser degree, the non-cognitive capabilities of self-belief, resilience, a sense of agency, self-control and drive discussed here. This book endeavours to inject more clarity into what mental toughness means and to measure its impact when children and young people are taught how to acquire it not as a “chalk and talk” didactic exercise but experientially. In building an education system fit for the twenty-first century, we still have a very long way to go. But there are pioneers both in this book and in a growing number of classrooms, lecture halls and workplaces, across the globe, who are creating different and important methods to provide learning for the many not just the few. Literacy, numeracy, and academic qualifications are vital but they are only a part of this endeavour. Hugely innovative and enterprising and constantly evolving holistic partnerships are developing between educators and pupils that can and will provide a schooling for life. Understanding how that happens is providing invaluable lessons for us all.