Modeled after the Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl, the High School Ethics Bowl involves teams of students analyzing a series of wide-ranging ethical dilemmas.
The Ethics Bowl is about giving an insightful perspective on each case, one that an intelligent layperson should be able to follow. The competition values students’ reasoning abilities, so the emphasis is more on the broader ethical implications of the cases and less on a rule-oriented approach. It’s not about memorizing ethical theories or important philosophers, and teams should not focus on citing philosophers or moral theories.
Ethics Bowl is designed to promote thoughtful, civil dialogue about difficult questions. Teams should score highly when they demonstrate good ethical reasoning, clarity about and consistency in their views, and a willingness to engage thoughtfully with points made by the other team.
Structure of the event
The Ethics Bowl is composed of different rounds, typically with this structure throughout a one-day competition: 4 open rounds, a semifinal and a final round. Each round includes two teams (3-5 students per team, with up to two alternates: each team has a maximum of 7 students), three judges and a moderator (as well as any family, friends and other audience members).
1.Presentation – TEAM A
To start the round, Team A will announce the question to be answered.
Then, both teams have 2 minutes to confer; Team A has 6 minutes to present its argument
Worth 15 points (divided into 3 discrete questions, each worth 5 points)
2. Commentary – TEAM B
Both teams have 1 minutes to confer, Team B has 4 minutes to comment on Team A’s presentation
Worth 10 points
Note: During this portion of the round, Team B should not present its analysis of the case under discussion, but rather should comment upon Team A’s presentation with the goal of helping to strengthen it by commenting on the presentation’s strengths, noting its flaws, and pointing out what has been omitted or needs further development.
3. Response – TEAM A
Both teams have 1 minute to confer, Team A has 4 minutes to respond to Team B’s commentary
Worth 5 points
4. Judges’ Questions – addressed to the presenting team only, not individual students.
10 minutes; 20 points
Before asking questions, judges may confer briefly. If time remains, judges may ask additional questions. Judges will ask questions of not more than 45 seconds to give students sufficient opportunity to reply.
The judges will make individual scoring decisions for the first case after the question period for Team A. Then the moderator will announce the new case and the procedure repeats with Team B as the presenting team and Team A as the commenting team.
At the end of each round, the moderator will compile the scores and announce the round’s winner. The winner of the round will be the team that is deemed the winner by a majority of judges (either unanimous or 2 out of 3) – not according to total points.
Schedule for the day
NOTE: Judges not asked to judge the semifinal and final rounds are free to leave after the conclusion of the 4th round though you are most cordially invited to stay, especially for the 10 year celebration that will take place in [location TBD]
First place – winning team
Second place – finalist team that did not win
Third places – two semifinalist teams that did not advance to final round
The three honorary awards below are awarded to teams, excluding winners listed above, that scored the highest on these portions of the rounds:
• Judges’ questions
• Civil Dialogue – the Robert Ladenson Award
The winning team of the final round will advance to the National High School Ethics Bowl at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill in April. There are 49 regions across the US that hold regional ethics bowls; in 2018, over 5000 students from 480 high schools participated.
The 2022 National Competition will take place at UNC-Chapil Hill in April 8-10, 2022.