What is an Ethics Bowl?
Created nearly thirty years ago in a college classroom by philosophy professor Robert Ladenson, the Ethics Bowl has become a three-tiered annual event involving thousands of students across the country and around the world.
Ethics Bowl is a collaborative yet competitive event, similar to debate but more nuanced. Teams of students are presented with a series of wide-ranging timely and timeless ethical dilemmas to analyze and discuss. Team members meet together with coaches to prepare their 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 the likely objections to those arguments. Teams are also evaluated on their ability to engage in ethical inquiry and discussion while maintaining a collegial, respectful tone.
“The Ethics Bowl has prepared me to go into a conversation ready to have my mind changed.”
– Seattle high school student
Ethics Bowl differs from debate because teams do not take adversarial positions but rather work together to clarify ethical issues and suggested courses of action. Teams have an opportunity to present their positions, comment on each other’s presentations, and reply to questions from a panel of judges. 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.
“I think exposure to ethical problem solving makes for wiser, more thoughtful and civic minded teens.”
– Parent of High School Ethics Bowl student