The Ethics Bowl is a competition that allows students to critically examine ethical issues and formulate responses to several ethical dilemmas. The Ethics Bowl was first introduced as a collegiate activity, but the National High School Ethics Bowl program has adopted the model for use with high school teams. To learn more about the ethics bowl, visit NHSEB.

The Ethics Bowl is unique in that it is an interactive forum in which students can develop skills in critical thinking, public speaking, and ethical deliberation. Rather than reward students for theatrics, reasonable thought and logical argumentation are the keys to success. And, as with other competitive events, students will learn important lessons in how to both win and lose with integrity. Finally, students hoping to attend college can have a unique activity to discuss on their applications.

For each round, a school can have up to five active participants. That is, five students who can sit at the table and communicate as a team during any one session. The teams themselves can consist of more than five students. These additional students can help with case preparation, serve as alternates, or present in other rounds. Teams must have at least three members.

Early in the school year, teams receive the set of cases that will be in play in the competition. The case topics cover a broad range of issues, such as ethics in the classroom (e.g., cheating, plagiarism), personal relationships (e.g., dating, friendship), social and political ethics (e.g. free speech, gun control), professional ethics (e.g., whistleblowing), and global issues (e.g. the impact of globalization, global warming).

Over the next several months, the team meets to discuss the cases, working out who will speak on which case(s), what counterarguments might be, and learning the format.

Competition day usually consists of multiple preliminary rounds in the morning, a break for lunch, then announcement of quarter-finalists who compete in the quarters, semis, and finals in the afternoon. By late afternoon, a champion team is hoisting a trophy.

If you are interested in participating in the Ethics Bowl or you have any questions about the event itself, contact the Parr Center for Ethics at parrcenter@unc.edu or (919) 843-5641. The Parr Center also offers outreach services for teams who do not have a coach or advisor and/or need guidance with moral theory. If you’re interest in additional assistance, please contact Steven Swartzer.