Ethics Bowl is a competition in which students gather to discuss ethical issues and compete in offering arguments for the positions they take. The competitors are judged on their ability to offer articulate, well-informed, and reasonable arguments. Teams participate in multiple rounds of head-to-head competition. A panel of three judges—university faculty, graduate students, and other members of the community—score each round while a moderator manages the event.

In an ethics bowl competition (whether it is a regional bowl or the National), a predetermined, specific question about a specific case study serves to direct discussion about that case.  Each round starts with a random selection of two of the cases. The team that goes first (as decided by a coin toss) has a bit of time to talk together about the specific question for the first case and then they are to present their view of the ethical considerations relevant to the question. The other team is then given a bit of time to confer, after which they must respond to the first team’s position.  They are not required to disagree with the first team, although, of course, they may. The first team then responds to the second team’s position concerning the case. Finally, a panel of three judges asks the first team a series of probing questions, meant to challenge the students’ thinking and press them in fruitful ways to think more deeply about what is at stake in the case. Then the whole process is repeated for the second team, with the second case and question, and that team makes a presentation and responds to the questions of the first team and the judges. Importantly, no one is made to play devil’s advocate (unlike debate). Rather, the performance of each team is judged on the basis of how clearly, articulately, and perceptively the students have developed the positions they take. At the end of the round (a case/question for each team and follow-up questions and presentations), both teams are given points by the judges, based on how deeply they have probed the case and how well they have articulated and defended their position.

The Parr Center is the sponsor and governing body of the National High School Ethics Bowl (NHSEB). The NHSEB refers to both the National Championship Bowl in the Spring and the organizational hub of regional high school ethics bowls across North America.For the 2014-2015 NHSEB season, 1600 students, on 238 teams, representing 232 schools, competing in 22 regionals in 18 states, will have competed in the hopes of traveling to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for the Nationals.