The What Bowl?

This is a post created by Cindy Brown after the 2020 Oregon High School Ethics Bowl. The original blog post can be seen here.

There’s the Super Bowl, the Rose Bowl, even the Puppy Bowl. That last one was my favorite until recently (and I still think it’s pretty dang cute). But a few weeks ago, I got to experience a different type of bowl: the Oregon High School Ethics Bowl, where teams of teens come together to explore ethical dilemmas. It’s a competition–the winner goes on to compete in a regional bowl, and that winner in a National High School Ethics Bowl (NHSEB)–but it’s not a debate, because there are no right or wrong answers. Instead, teams take turns analyzing real-life ethical dilemmas and responding to questions and comments from the other team and judges.

It’s fascinating to watch these thoughtful young people tackle complex issues with intelligence, grace and civility; and even more rewarding when you realize that they are learning to approach issues with an open frame of mind–a skill that can help them consider all aspects of future real-world dilemmas. “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,” says the NHSEB website. “NHSEB’s goal is to do more than teach students how to think through ethical issues: It is to teach students how to think through ethical issues together, as fellow citizens in a complex moral and political community.”

As one of my fellow judges said to me after the Bowl, “This isn’t just a competition. This is hope.”

Want to attend a Bowl, volunteer to help, or encourage your local high school or middle school to start an ethics team? Learn more here.

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