What's Happening in Character?

Choosing Your Core Values

Posted by Rebecca Sipos on Tue, Dec 8, 2015 @ 11:12 AM

by Becky Sipos

Which is better: honesty or integrity? empathy or compassion?

Of course, it’s a bogus question. Both are good. At first glance, principle one sounds easy “Choose your core values.” But there are so many good qualities out there, how do you choose?  And how long do you stick with your choices? When should you change?

Over the years that I have been evaluating schools for our Schools of Character program, core values seem to follow trends. In 2007 most of the schools had some variation on these: respect, responsibility and honesty. But in recent years, schools have been including values such as empathy, compassion or kindness. Is that because of the times? The Great Kindness Challenge got over 2 million students to perform acts of kindness last year. Did it also influence schools to change their core values?

Do events in the news affect what schools choose? Smith Street School’s whole education program came about because of their environment. “The stakes are so high,” says Dr. Triplett, “Because of the realities outside of our school, many kids in our area are in danger ... good character is, in many cases, a matter of life and death to our kids. They have to make good choices in life -- and we want them and their parents to understand the connection. For this reason, we see these students as OUR children. CE is so, so much deeper here for that reason.” They chose “reflection” as one of their core values as they really want their students to think through their actions.

Schools seem to fit into three categories when it comes to selected core values.

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Topics: president's post, core values


Posted by Mark Hyatt on Fri, Jan 10, 2014 @ 08:01 AM

Dear CEP Friends,

My many thanks to all of you. Yes, it is gratitude that overwhelms me this week as I step down as CEP President and CEO.
I accepted this position two years ago with the blessing of CEP founder Sandy McDonnell, who sadly passed away less than 80 days after I took office. Every minute since has been an honor and a privilege for me here to carry on Sandy's torch and to devote myself to advancing his defining life mission for this organization: to provide the vision, leadership and resources for schools, families and communities to develop ethical citizens committed to building a more just and caring world.

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Topics: character education, president's post, Hyatt Mark

Can Cyber-citizenship Tame the Digital ‘Wild West’?

Posted by Mark Hyatt on Tue, Oct 29, 2013 @ 10:10 AM

The sudden emergence of a plethora of cyber issues that literally defines K–12 policy toward technology integration has created a dire need for ethical clarity and behavioral policy. The digital age beckons us to usher in a new era of character education, aimed directly at addressing the opportunities and challenges of living a digital lifestyle.
                                                                                         Jason Ohler, author
                                                                                         Digital Community, Digital Citizen

Amazingly, those timely words were written more than two years ago. But many parents, educators and other stakeholders—including some social networking sites—have been much too slow to dive into the rushing cyber currents already tossing youngsters to and fro online. So now, as another school year chugs toward the holidays and social media from coast to coast gears up for yet another tsunami of teenage emotions, unfiltered comments and inappropriate pictures, I hope more of us are ready to engage in our children’s digital lives.

In other words, even adults who feel woefully behind the e-curve now are coming to the grudging realization that they can’t bury their heads in the sand forever. And they cannot deny that they have an important role to play in guiding young people through what some have called “the Wild West” of the internet. And just as that bygone era of American history was known for its frontier justice before law and order could migrate from the East, today’s digital free-for-all is notoriously short of enough monitors to protect it from its own worst impulses.

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Topics: character education, president's post, Hyatt Mark, cyberbullying

The Content of Our Character

Posted by Mark Hyatt on Mon, Aug 12, 2013 @ 21:08 PM

By Mark Hyatt
President & CEO

This Aug. 28 will mark the 50th anniversary of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s iconic “I Have A Dream” speech—or as we like to refer to it at CEP, his “Content of Character” speech.
From the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, addressing more than 250,000 civil rights supporters who had gathered in 1963 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, Dr. King reportedly had not intended to list examples of his “dream.”

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Topics: Character Education News, role models, character, character education, leadership, president's post, teachable moments

Happy Campers Building Character

Posted by Mark Hyatt on Mon, Jul 29, 2013 @ 20:07 PM

By Mark Hyatt, President & CEO

Before the summer slips away from us all, I would be remiss if I did not take a moment here to talk about the wonderful experience that occurred June 16-21 at CEP’s  second Leaders of Character Camp (LoCC), hosted once again by my alma mater, the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. Many thanks to our individual sponsors and the SD Bechtel Foundation for making this camp possible.

Despite another unsettling Colorado summer clouded by the threat of continuing wildfires, 19 high school juniors and seniors from across the state were able to put their worries aside for a week and concentrate solely on improving themselves and each other. Led by five AFA cadets and four students from other colleges, the group took part in a range of classroom discussions and competitive outdoor activities designed to promote teamwork, trust, creativity,accountability and other core values. 

“It’s a way to equip youth with habits of honorable character,” explained Maj. Dale Sanders, LoCC director and deputy director of the AFA Center for Character and Leadership Development. This year’s challenging group exercises included hiking, biking, rafting, geocashing and paintballing.

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Topics: CEPLeaders, character, character education, leadership, president's post, core values

Empathy: To lead is to listen and to learn

Posted by Mark Hyatt on Thu, Jul 4, 2013 @ 14:07 PM

Thank goodness my wife opened my eyes to the importance of empathy before I became a father and a school leader. To be honest, for the first half of my life, I was so driven to achieve the task at hand that I struggled to understand why some people just couldn’t show up, get to work and do what they had to do. By definition, “empathy” is accurately understanding what another person is feeling.  If we understand the content of what the other person is saying, but cannot correctly identify the emotion that person is feeling, then we are not demonstrating empathy and we are not even aware of our deficiency. 

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Topics: CEPLeaders, role models, Forum Speakers, school climate, parent involvement, president's post, moral character, core values, National Forum, empathy

Happy Holidays and A Call to Action from Mark Hyatt

Posted by Mark Hyatt on Tue, Dec 25, 2012 @ 10:12 AM

Dear CEP Family—


On behalf of the entire CEP staff and Board of Directors, I wish you all a wonderful holiday season and New Year. 

Like most of America in these uncharacteristically somber days, we at CEP are filled with great sadness as the K-12 community from coast to coast takes its winter break and bids farewell to 2012. We are sad because we know that too many young people are still suffering in our society, due to many factors, not the least of which is violence in schools and surrounding neighborhoods.

Earlier this month, in the wake of the monstrous tragedy that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said, “Our schools should and must be one of the safest places in society. Now is the time for another, ‘quieter heroism’ in our schools—the courage to move forward, to continue to teach and lead children, and to take smart precautions to minimize the risk of future tragedies.”

We share this commitment to press onward with both courage and character. In 2013, CEP will take up this cause with hope and renewed purpose to help more families, schools and communities surround our young people with life-affirming experiences, role models and media that encourage them to be their best selves.

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Topics: role models, parent involvement, leadership, president's post, school safety

Another Sports Hero Turned Fraud? ‘Say It Ain’t So’

Posted by Mark Hyatt on Fri, Nov 16, 2012 @ 10:11 AM

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Topics: character, character education, president's post, moral character, cheating

President's Post: Leadership’s Most Essential Ingredient

Posted by Mark Hyatt on Fri, Oct 12, 2012 @ 13:10 PM

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Topics: CEPLeaders, Education News, leadership, integrity, president's post

President's Post: Off We Go!

Posted by Mark Hyatt on Tue, Oct 2, 2012 @ 13:10 PM


Young people everywhere who are educated, inspired and empowered to be ethical and engaged citizens.


Providing the vision, leadership and resources for schools, families and communities to develop ethical citizens committed to building a just and caring world.

Exciting times for CEP!  On August 27th, we officially entered our 20th year of operation. To mark this milestone and further honor the enduring legacy of our late founder, Sanford McDonnell, we have expanded our mission and vision now to include families and communities, everywhere!

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Topics: Character Education News, family, leadership, president's post, National Forum, community of character