What's Happening in Character?

Renewing commitments, battling bullies, and celebrating servant-leaders

Posted by Mark Hyatt on Wed, Oct 16, 2013 @ 20:10 PM

Mark HyattAnother school year is now in high gear, and like you, we at “Character.org” once again find ourselves energized and empowered by all the new, hopeful faces we see each day and the
rejuvenated, resilient promise of the teaching profession, itself.

Making a difference.

That is your raison d’être and it is ours, as well. More precisely, our goal essentially is to help you achieve your overriding goal—to develop “ethical citizens committed to building a more just and caring world.” With that in mind, we know how incredibly busy you all are. So we are truly honored that so many of you will spend valuable time with us this month at our 20th National Forum on Character Education, Oct. 24-27, at the Washington Renaissance Hotel. Rest assured, we are committed to making this conference as useful, as interesting and as enjoyable for you as any professional development you have ever experienced.

As most of you know, October is “National Bullying Prevention Month,” so the timing of our event could hardly be more appropriate. And certainly, many of the breakout sessions and
presentations at this year’s Forum will focus on bullying in one form or another. We all acknowledge that it is a significant problem in our homes and communities, exacerbated by the technological boost of myriad social media platforms that can enable 24/7 harassment. But character education is about much more than just reducing bullying. At the end of the day, it involves the social and emotional development of the whole child.

That common theme could hardly be more pronounced than it is in the work of our 2013 National Schools of Character and State Schools of Character, whose award-winning best practices will be on display at our Forum, accompanied by many of the educators responsible for them. It also figures prominently in the lifelong contributions of our two main individual award winners this year, Dr. Maurice Elias, director of the social and emotional learning laboratory at Rutgers University, and Mr. Richard Pieper, a philanthropic entrepreneur and community leader responsible for the Pieper Foundation Endowed Chair For "Servant Leadership" at the University of Wisconsin-Madison College of Engineering.

The admirable concept of “servant leadership” is one that puts the other before self and, as taught, helps “students perceive the larger world in which they exist and how they may help
others through ethical decisions and genuine service.”

Such words echo the founding thesis of the character education movement, itself, which can be traced back to The Aspen Declaration. Signed in the summer of 1992 in Aspen CO, the ambitious agreement among concerned educators and business leaders stated: People do not automatically develop good moral character; therefore, conscientious efforts must be made to help young people develop the values and abilities necessary for moral decision-making and conduct.

Many of the original signatories of the document will be at our Forum, including Dr. Thomas Lickona, and Dr. Michael Josephson.

Together, we plan to renew The Aspen Declaration and to update and broaden our collective charge to help develop “young people everywhere who are educated, inspired and empowered to be ethical and engaged citizens.”

Of course, we realize that character education is much more than a piece of paper. Nor is it a lesson plan that can be confined to a weekday schedule of 8 am to 3 pm. On the contrary, it is a 24/7 endeavor that requires support and energy from all of us who are invested in our children. So, please, think of us as your servant leaders. Let us at “Character.org” serve you so that you may lead future generations toward a better world that was still only a lofty dream in 1992.

Topics: character, ethical and engaged citizens, bullying