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“A” Grade for Ethics Bowl 101

The Cincinnati Ethics Center (CEC) held its first community engagement event when it hosted Ethics Bowl 101, an informative introduction to National High School Ethics Bowl (NHSEB) featuring UC students from the 2021 National Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl Championship Team.  Increasing area high school participation in NHSEB is a high priority for the Center. Founded in 2012, NHSEB is a competitive yet collaborative event in which students discuss real-life ethical issues. In each round of competition, teams take turns analyzing cases about complex ethical dilemmas and responding to questions and comments from the other team and from a panel of judges.

While many area high schools participate in debate clubs and competitions, ethics bowl is importantly different. As noted on the National High School Ethics Bowl, “an ethics bowl differs from a debate competition in that students are not assigned opposing views; rather, they defend whichever position they think is correct, provide each other with constructive criticism, and win by demonstrating that they have thought rigorously and systematically about the cases and engaged respectfully and supportively with all participants.” Data from NHSEB surveys shows that this event teaches and promotes ethical awareness, critical thinking, civil discourse, civic engagement, and an appreciation for multiple points of view. Andy Cullison, Executive Director of the CEC, likens Ethic Bowl to cross-fit training, but for your mind. “It touches so many learning goals we have for our kids, and ethics bowl is one of the best things I’ve seen at developing these valuable life skills.”

Photo of signage directing people from CCM garage to Teachers Dyer Complex

Held in the Annie Laws room of the Teacher’s Dyer Complex on the main campus of UC 58 students and adults were in attendance representing Cincinnati Public School’s administration offices; high schools Walnut Hills, Dater, Mt. Healthy, Beechwood (KY), Saint Ursula Academy, and Madeira; University of Cincinnati staff; a community organizer from Connecting for Impact, and the students from UC’s PHIL 3015: Ethics Bowl, who won the 2020 APPE Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl National Championship in UC’s first time entering a team. 

Prior to the event registered guest were sent Boy, Bye: Or, On the Ethics of Ghosting, a case used in a previous NHSEB regional competition to review as part of the evenings activities.  At registration check-in adults were given a black folder that contained the 2021-2022 rules manual from NHSEB and a document that list resources the Cincinnati Ethics Center will make available to high schools forming teams.  The student’s red folder contained the book Ethics in a Nut Shell The Philosopher’s approach to Morality in 100 Pages by Matt Deaton, Ph.D.  Both folders contained the NHSEB Match Scoring Criteria, Score Sheet, and two additional cases that would be used for the live demonstration of an Ethics Bowl.

Following dinner the UC PHIL 3015 and Saint Ursula Academy students lead the small group discussions on the Boy, Bye: Or, On the Ethics of Ghosting case. Saint Ursula Academy is the only area high school participating in NHSEB. The students showed their group how they would analyze a case and prepare to present it at a competition.

Following the small group discussion Andy Cullison instructed the audience on the criteria used to judge an Ethics Bowl round and how to fill out score sheet as they would be acting as the judges for the live demonstration of one round of a NHSEB competition performed by the UC PHIL 3015 students.

UC Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl teams leads a mock round for high school teachers and students at Ethics Bowl 101

The following day we received an email from Tyler Barrett, Mt. Healthy High School teacher who brought six students with him, that said in part “I can’t thank you enough for that opportunity last night! I have not been this energized in quite some time. I look forward to implementing this program at our school!” In days that followed the event we learned that Tyler will be offering an Ethics based social studies elective course in the fall semester of 2022. He is not alone. Nick Kroger, Dater High School teacher who brought five students, shared he will also be starting an Ethics elective course in the fall.

Based on survey responses 5 of the 6 high schools that attended plan on fielding Ethics Bowl teams for the 2022-2023 competition cycle. Based on this feedback the Cincinnati Ethics Center plans to start a regional competition in Cincinnati to remove one of the barriers of participation facing area schools.

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