Ethics Initiatives

Ethics Case Writing Project

Description

Any middle or high school student from any country can participate in PLATO’s student ethics case writing project. 

The purpose of the project is to develop an open-access library of case studies focusing on ethical dilemmas relevant to middle and high school students that can be used in middle and high school classrooms and other ethics forums.

Accepted cases are published on PLATO’s website, with credit to the writers. Writers of accepted cases will also receive a one-year PLATO membership.

All published cases become the property of PLATO.

Case Library

  1. Are Private Schools Inherently Unethical?
    • Melina Mickelson, age 14
      Cleveland STEM High School, Seattle, Washington
  2. Relying on Civilian Intelligence in the Russo-Ukrainian War
    • Zachary Lin, age 17
      Huron High School, Ann Arbor, Michigan
  3. Should We Watch True Crime Dramas?
    • Claire Cherrill, age 15
      Kent Place School, Summit, New Jersey
  4. The Ethics of Using Facial Recognition Technology
    • Jennifer Tang, age 15
      Huron High School, Ann Arbor, Michigan
  5. Evaluating Historical Figures Through a Contemporary Lens 
    • Joonyoung Heo, age 16
      Phillips Exeter Academy, Exeter, New Hampshire
  6. Should Artists’ Ethics Affect Our Artistic Judgments?
    • Nikki Gao, age 16
      Academy at Palumbo, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  7. Is Euthanasia Ethical? 
    • Mason Cheng, age 17
      American Heritage Broward, Plantation, Florida
  8. The Benefits and Harms of Gene Editing
    • Prudence Frein, age 16
      Haverford High School, Havertown, Pennsylvania
  9. Honesty v. Loyalty Among Friends
    • Sophia Galova, age 18
      Langley High School, Langley, Virginia
  10. Respect for the Dead: Displaying Human Remains in a Museum
    • AKW, age 16
      Ballard High School, Seattle, Washington
  11. Should the Military Recruit in Schools?
    • AKW, age 16
      Ballard High School, Seattle, Washington
  12. Informed Consent in Survey Research
    • Daliya Rizvi, age 18
      Langley High School, Langley, Virginia
  13. Using AI in the Classroom
    • Avi Skuben, age 13
      Astra Nova School
  14. The Ethics of Tipping
    • Mason Cheng, age 17
      American Heritage, Plantation, Florida
  15. Defacing Art as a Form of Protest
    • Claire Cherrill, age 15
      Kent Place School, Summit, New Jersey

Guidelines for Submissions

Guidelines: Each case should focus on an ethical issue, current or perennial, relevant to middle and/or high school students. The case must consider the ethical issue from at least two viewpoints presented fully and generously, so that the complexity of the case is made clear. Each case must include 3-4 discussion questions for students analyzing the case.

Length: 300-500 words

Sample case:Standing for the National Anthem.”

Authorship: Cases can be written by individuals or a group of students (all contributors will be credited).

Submission Limit: Students may submit up to two cases.

Judging Criteria and Deadline

All submissions are anonymously reviewed by a committee of judges according to the following criteria:

  • Does the case clearly articulate the ethical issue and its ethical complications?
  • Does the case explicitly consider at least two viewpoints in a balanced way?
  • Is the case well-written and clearly organized?

DEADLINE FOR 2024 SUBMISSIONS: August 31, 2024

Submit Your Case Here












    Ethics Education

    Description

    According to a 2022 Pew Research Center survey of US parents, 94% of parents say it’s extremely or very important to them that their children grow up to be honest and ethical adults. 

    Ethics bowls are increasingly popular around the country, including the relatively new middle school ethics bowl. To meet the need for more ethics education, in 2024-25 PLATO will introduce several new initiatives for middle and high school students, offering a varied menu of opportunities:

    • Ethics Clubs – school based with no predetermined format.
    • Online roundtables – facilitated discussions that can include students from around the world.
    • Ethics Open – an in-person event with a more formal structure.

    Ethics Clubs

    For the 2024-25 school year, PLATO is offering stipends to public school teachers interested in serving as Ethics Clubs sponsors. The clubs can be composed of students from a single school or from several, changing venues as desired. Members decide how to structure the clubs.

    Club sponsor stipends for the 2024-25 school year are $250. A limited number are available and will be awarded in the order in which accepted applications are received. Applications will be available in August 2024.

    Ethics Roundtables

    For several years, PLATO has been running free, online, one-hour roundtables for educators focusing on philosophical and other topics. In winter 2025, PLATO will expand the series by launching a pilot program featuring roundtables devoted to ethics discussions for middle and high school students.

    Roundtable moderators will introduce a topic and then facilitate the discussion.  No preparation is necessary, and any middle or high school student will be welcome to register and attend any or all of these free events.

    Ethics Open

    The Ethics Open is a new event format developed by PLATO, which will be piloted in one or more locations in 2025. The event will be a free, in-person event open to students who register in advance, either as individuals or in teams of 3-5 members. (Individual students will be assigned to teams upon arrival.)

    A set of six ethics cases will be posted here in fall 2024 for use by anyone who is interested in organizing an Ethics Open. The event is intended to be easily accessible, with advance preparation optional.

    The Open will follow a modified Ethics Bowl format:

    • The event will be comprised of three rounds.
    • One case will be discussed during each round. Cases will be drawn from the six published cases and may include “cold” cases no one has seen. 
    • Each round will include 1-3 judges and one moderator.
    • Round structure:
      • Both teams confer for 10 minutes
      • Each team presents its position for up to 5 minutes
      • Both teams engage in an open dialogue for up to 10 minutes
      • Both teams respond to the judge’s questions for up to 10 minutes

    After each round, the moderator will facilitate a whole group discussion involving the two teams, the judge, and audience members.    

    Awards will be presented to first- and second-place teams. 

    Ethics Bowl

    Description

    “The Ethics Bowl has prepared me to go into a conversation ready to have my mind changed.”
    – Seattle high school student

    Created nearly thirty years ago in a college classroom by philosophy professor Robert Ladenson, the Ethics Bowl now involves thousands of students across the country and the world. Ethics Bowl is a collaborative yet competitive event, similar to debate but different. Teams do not take adversarial positions but rather work together to analyze and clarify ethical issues. Ethics Bowl prepares students to appreciate the virtues of living in a deliberative democracy and nurtures habits of mind that strengthen local, national, and global citizenship.

    Teams of students are presented with a series of wide-ranging ethical dilemmas, and they prepare responses to the cases in advance. During the Bowl, teams are judged on the quality and depth of their ethical and practical reasoning, including their ability to present coherent arguments and recognize and consider likely objections to those arguments. Teams are also evaluated on their ability to engage in ethical discussion while maintaining a collegial, respectful tone.

    CASE LIBRARIES

    PLATO Ethics Case Case Writing Project 

    Free, open-access library.  New cases and study questions, written by middle and high school students, are added to the library yearly.  

    National High School Ethics Bowl (NHSEB)

    Each year, the National High School Ethics Bowl publishes a set of new cases.  Cases from previous years are also archived on the website.

    The Kent Place School Middle School Ethics Bowl

    Each year the school publishes cases, including some written by students and coaches.

    There are also other Ethics Bowl communities that write their own cases.

    Note: Please credit the source of any case(s) you use. Thank you!

    “I think exposure to ethical problem solving makes for wiser, more thoughtful and civic minded teens.”
    – Parent of High School Ethics Bowl student

    Innovations

    The basic ingredients for a successful ethics bowl haven’t changed much since Bob Ladenson created the event in his college classroom: two teams, a moderator, a panel of judges, some cases to discuss, a format outlining who will converse with whom and for how long, scoring sheets and rubrics, and the understanding that the dialogue remain civil.     

    Experimentation and innovation have always guided the Ethic Bowl’s development.  Over the years, many variations have been tried. Successful innovations, most of which were developed by the Washington State High School Ethics Bowl, include: 

    • Use of “cold cases” which students have not seen or prepared, including extra time for them to discuss the cases before the match begins
    • An “open dialogue” portion of the round, during which teams engage in a self-moderated discussion
    • Discussing one case per round rather than two (developed by Kent Place School for the Middle School Ethics Bowl)
    • Not announcing winners at the end of each round
    • Altering the round procedure to include new elements such as:
      • A “final question” to both teams asking about which point(s) made by the other team they found most compelling
      • Altering the time allotment for each portion of the round
      • Modifying the scoring rubric and score sheet

    For questions about or resources for any of these innovations, contact us at info@plato-philosophy.org.

    Middle School Ethics Bowl

    The National Middle School Ethics Bowl (MSEB) began in 2019 at the Kent Place School (KPS; Summit NJ) under the auspices of the Ethics Institute directed by Dr. Karen Rezach. Middle School Ethics Bowls are now taking place around the United States, using a variety of formats.

    Middle School Ethics Bowls

    California
    Gideon Hausner Jewish Day School, Palo Alto
    Contact Jana Mohr Lone:  jana@plato-philosophy.org

    New England
    Northeast Middle School Ethics Bowl
    Contact Erik Kenyon:  ekenyon@friendsacademy1810.org

    New Jersey
    Kent Place School
    Contact Karen Rezach:  rezachk@kentplace.org

    Oregon
    Oregon Middle School Ethics Bowl
    Contact coming soon

    Pennsylvania
    Philadelphia Middle School Ethics Bowl
    Contact Dustin Webster: dustinw1@upenn.edu

    Washington State
    Evergreen School, Seattle
    Contact Jane Shay: jshay@evergreenschool.org

     

    Sample Resources

    Rules and information

    Moderator script

    Scoring rubric and score sheet

     

    Philosophy Across the Ages

    Description

    PLATO regularly runs intergenerational philosophy events, with a focus on ethics. These include programs for students and family members (example here), seniors and young people (example here), and high school and undergraduate students.

    PLATO’s Philosophy Across the Ages program was inspired by the Maine outreach program of the same name created by philosophy professor Kirsten Jacobson. The Orono-based program has brought together high school students, undergraduates, and, when possible, retirement community members, to engage in biweekly seminar-style discussions of philosophical texts.

    Philosophy is for everyone. We provide resources and opportunities for people of all ages and walks of life to engage together with some of life’s deepest questions. In a world that is increasingly spatially and socially segregated by age, it is more important than ever to talk to each other across generations. 

    The structure for PLATO’s events begins with a brief description of PLATO and philosophy with young people. We then introduce a prompt that is appropriate for a wide variety of age groups and provokes philosophical thinking, usually about a difficult ethics question. Following the prompt, we facilitate a discussion in much the same way we do in classrooms around the country — first in small, mixed-age groups with a discussion leader, and then in a whole group conversation.

    These programs empower families, students, seniors, and other participants to engage philosophically outside of classrooms and provide an opportunity for participants to expand their awareness about the perspectives of other generations. 

    These events are free, open to the public, and located in accessible community locations (such as libraries, universities, and public schools).

    For more information, contact info@plato-philosophy.org.

    How to Run an Event

    How to Organize an Intergenerational Philosophy Event:
    • Think about what groups you would like to have in conversation with one another. Some possibilities include:
      • Retirees and high school students
      • K-12 students and parents and/or grandparents
      • High school students with K-5 students
    • Find and partner with local groups who serve these populations. For example:
      • Retirement/elder care facilities
      • Local organizations for retired people
      • Local K-12 schools
      • Religious communities
      • Philosophy clubs at middle and high schools
      • Ethics bowl teams at local middle and high schools
    • Select a location that is convenient for most people who will participate.
      • Public libraries
      • Public schools
      • Community centers
      • Senior centers
      • Someplace with easy parking, transit access, and that is accessible for people with disabilities
    • Find volunteers familiar with facilitating communities of philosophical inquiry to lead small groups
      • Ideally, you want one volunteer per table of 6-8 participants so that someone can help guide and facilitate the conversation at the tables.
    • Choose someone to be the lead facilitator for the event.
      • This should be someone with significant experience leading communities of philosophical inquiry.
    • Choose the prompt for your discussion.
      • Ethics Bowl cases (excellent for intergenerational philosophy sessions with older students and adults)
      • Picture books
      • Songs, poems, art, activities, etc.
      • For inspiration, see the PLATO Toolkit and Literature Library
    • On the day of the event:
      • Pre-arrange who will sit at each table group. Make sure to have a good balance of participants from each age range.
      • Have name tags for participants.
      • Serve some light snacks/beverages.
      • Have available for everyone copies of the prompt, if applicable.
    • At the event:
      • The lead facilitator welcomes everyone and gives an overall description of the event plan and goals.
      • The lead facilitator (or someone else) reads the prompt aloud.
      • Each table is then asked to spend the next 30-40 minutes discussing the prompt and the questions it raises for the participants.
      • The lead facilitator walks around the room monitoring how each table is doing, offering ideas and questions where helpful.
      • The group comes back together for a whole group discussion, led by the lead facilitator.

     

    Suggestions for a successful event:
    • Choose your prompt carefully.
      • You want something that can generate discussion across generations, so the prompt needs to be something to which both groups can connect. For example, social media ethics might not work for a group consisting of high school students and retirees.
    • Set clear expectations of how to do philosophy together.
      • The goal is a discussion, not telling people how they should think or trying to teach them about the topic.
      • Listen carefully, share ideas respectfully, ask for clarification when necessary.
      • Discuss in the spirit of curiosity and wonder.
      • All participants have something valuable to contribute whether they are 5 years old or 80 years old.
    • It’s best to have a person trained in facilitating communities of philosophical inquiry sitting with each group of participants. These volunteers help guide the conversation and gently redirect participants who may dominate the discussion, try to “educate” others out of a perceived misunderstanding, or hastily dismiss others’ ideas.

    • Do a wrap up at the end, summarizing what was discussed, where the conversation went, and offering people a question or thought to take with them as they leave.