Logo for Greater Cincinnati Regional High School Ethics Bowl

Greater Cincinnati Regional High School Ethics Bowl

Saturday, January 21, 2023 – Digital Futures Complex

Ethics Bowl is a debate style competition, but is very different from debate. Its founder, Bob Ladenson, views it as scoring a conversation and teaching people how to engage in dialog. The predictor of who wins a round is often based on which team receives the highest score for considering thoughtfully viewpoints from people that may disagree with their team’s position. 

The Cincinnati Ethics Center and University of Cincinnati will host the inaugural Greater Cincinnati Regional High School Ethics Bowl on Saturday, January 21, 2023. The event will take place at the new Digital Futures complex, 3080 Exploration Ave. All area high school’s are encouraged to participate. An ethics bowl is a competitive yet collaborative event in which students discuss timely real-life ethical issues. In each round of competition, teams take turns analyzing ethical cases and responding to questions and comments from another team and a panel of judges. 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.

The National High School Ethics Bowl (NHSEB) was founded in 2012. NHSEB’s aims and ideals at the time of its founding were essentially three-fold: (1) to take seriously the contribution that teenagers make as members of their communities, (2) to cultivate skills and virtues central to democratic citizenship, and (3) to prepare students to navigate challenging moral issues in a thoughtful and open-minded way. In its inaugural year, it served around 1,000 students from 89 schools in 11 states. 12 regional competitions sent their victors to the inaugural national competition, held on the UNC-CH campus in 2013. As of 2021, the NHSEB serves nearly 4,000 students from over 500 teams, which represent 335 schools, nationally. There are 41 regionals in 31 states and Greater Cincinnati is joining that growing list.

Data from NHSEB surveys has shown that that participating in ethics bowl teaches and promotes ethical awareness, critical thinking, civil discourse, civic engagement, and an appreciation for multiple points of view in students. Teachers also believe students involved in ethics bowl have improved standardized test scores when compared to non-participating students.

Volunteers Needed

Picture taking at the CPD Summer Youth Cadet Mini Ethics Bowl
CPD Summer Youth Cadets participated in a mini-ethics bowl competition this summer. Community leaders and UC graduate students acted as judges, moderators, and coaches.

Success of the inaugural Greater Cincinnati Regional High School Ethics Bowl will not be possible without a strong showing of volunteer support. Volunteers can come from many walks of life: community members, local current or retired professionals or faculty, staff, graduate, and undergraduate students from UC or other nearby academic institutions. In addition to general volunteers that can help with event logistics, three key roles that must be filled for each match are: Judges, Moderators, and Room Staffer.

Judges

A panel of three judges is used to score each match of the competition. A judges role is gauge a team’s breadth and depth of thought as applied to a specific case and score it on and official scoresheet based on scoring criteria provided by NHSEB. A judge cannot not have any obvious conflicts of interest, i.e. be a coach or parent of a participating team, teachers from the school of a participating team, etc. A judge does not need to have a background in philosophy or ethics education nor come from the field of academia. They should be familiar with the case set in advance of the competition, listen earnestly and take notes during the team’s presentation, so they are prepared to ask thought provoking questions based on the case and the presentation of the presenting team during the Q&A portion of the round. These questions are geared to force the teams to think on their feet, since that can’t prepare in advance for the questions. They also give judges more insight into the breadth and depth of the team’s analysis of their case.

Moderators

Moderators, one per match, are the time keepers of the match; helping the event stay on schedule and ensuring that all teams have equal opportunities to express their arguments. Moderators are provided with a script they are strongly advised to adhere to and minimize the impulse to improvise. The ability to read and manipulate a stopwatch are the are the skill sets needed to be an effective moderator. Also teams may be nervous, so a calming, at ease, demeanor is beneficial.

Room Staffer

Room staffers are assigned to each competition room to make sure judges and moderators have all the tools (cases, pens, pads, water, etc) needed for the round. They make sure the teams, judges, and moderator are in the right room at the right time. They work to solve minor issues that may arise and if they can’t solve them they quickly seek out a primary event organizer. They are the first person people see when entering a room and thus set the tone by bestowing smiles, pleasantries as people enter the room. A room staffer should be prepared to step in as a Judge or Moderator if the need warranted.

Frequently Asked Questions

Content provided on this page was obtained, in large part, from the National High School Ethics Bowl website.
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