Washington State High School Ethics Bowl held virtually

Screen capture of Zoom Ethics Bowl Class

The UW Center for Philosophy for Children, like the rest of the university, pivoted to everything virtual last March, and this included the 2021 Washington State High School Ethics Bowl. Instead of the traditional one-day competitive event, nine high schools are engaging in a series of online scrimmages from April to June this year. Each scrimmage consists of two cases and lasts about two hours. Scrimmages are not scored; instead, the three judges provide detailed feedback to the teams at the end of the scrimmage.

This year’s cases asked the students to discuss such topics as:

  • Should schools hold classes virtually during the pandemic?
  • Should buildings and institutions be renamed if their namesake has a problematic past?
  • Is it ethical to dine-in at a restaurant during a pandemic?
  • Is it unethical to buy fast-fashion clothing?

Read these and the rest of the 2021 ethics bowl cases here.

An Ethics Bowl is similar in some ways to debate; however, unlike debate, teams are not forced to take adversarial positions or to hold fast to an assigned perspective. Instead, students have a forum in which to engage in dialogue, and they are judged on the quality of their analysis and the degree to which they engage in a thoughtful, civil exchange. Although the High School Ethics Bowl is traditionally competitive, it is intended to promote collaboration. Teams do not have to take pro/con positions; in fact, they can agree with each other. They are not required to refute each other’s points, but rather to offer commentary on one another’s arguments.

Teams are judged according to the quality of a team’s reasoning and how well team members organize and present their cases, analyze the case’s morally relevant features, anticipate and preemptively respond to commentary and questions, and thoughtfully consider opposing views. Judges for the Washington State High School Ethics Bowl are drawn from the local legal, education, and philosophical communities.

Thank you to all our teams for their hard work exploring these cases, and to our judges and moderators for their flexibility in scheduling, their generous contributions of time, and the valuable feedback they are providing to the students.