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Introducing NHSEBBridge


In the 2020-2021 school year, NHSEBBridge, a new initiative from the Parr Center for Ethics, will bring the Center’s celebrated National High School Ethics Bowl program to new areas of the country, with a focus on under-resourced schools and underserved communities. Each year, the Parr Center-based NHSEB brings together over 4,000 high school students from across the United States to think, discuss, and work together about some of the most complex and controversial moral issues of our time.


In its first year, NHSEBBridge will bring together 12 first-year high school Ethics Bowl teams from those places across the country where NHSEB Regional Bowls do not yet exist. Those first-year teams are invited to (virtually) participate in a new, borderless Regional Ethics Bowl administered by the Parr Center in collaboration with NHSEB organizers and experts from across the country. Participating schools will be provided with a tailored experience for students and coaches who are new to the activity—with the additional provision of training, orientation, and formative feedback from UNC undergraduate coaches along the way.


The Parr Center has partnered with the UNC Department of Philosophy to integrate NHSEBBridge with a service learning course for UNC undergraduates. PHIL 292: Ethics Bowl and Democratic Deliberation, in addition to being a course on the fundamentals of moral theory and the essentials of deliberative democracy, will place students with schools participating in the NHSEBBridge program in order to coach participants (both students and teachers) on moral theory, ethical reasoning, argument construction, bowl mechanics, etc., in a series of virtually conducted 1:1 site visits.


Students begin the semester by developing a toolkit of various theories, concepts, and distinctions in moral, social, and political philosophy to ask and answer normative questions. Students then learn about the theory and practice of deliberation (and disagreement). Students will aim to model democratic methodologies and virtues in order to promote and foster them among NHSEBBridge participants. As a service component, undergraduates will coach NHSEBBridge teams directly and work with new coaches on the pedagogical essentials of Ethics Bowl. They will also design pedagogical materials and experiences (such as a culminating Practice Bowl in November) to help teams workshop, improve, and prepare.


Michael Vazquez, Teaching Assistant Professor in the UNC Philosophy Department, says: “My PHIL 292 class is excited to promote access not only to intellectual resources that contribute to human flourishing, but also to formative opportunities for high school students to exercise their moral and civic agency. From an institutional perspective, this strikes me as a contribution to the important work of dismantling systemic barriers to the full benefits of democratic citizenship and collective self-rule.”


“The purpose of the Ethics Bowl is, to me, an actualized version of what I think is most important for a healthy society,” offers Isaac Hughes, a Junior Philosophy Major in PHIL 292. “Namely, that being and admitting you are wrong shouldn’t be crushing, that disagreement doesn’t have to be vicious, and that we need to critically evaluate ourselves and our culture constantly in order to improve. These ideas seem forgotten or ignored in the world of mass media and popular culture, especially in pre-college education. I want to change that, so here I am!”


Learn more about NHSEBBridge.