The two-day High School Ethics Bowl is giving UNC the chance to showcase its campus, as well and shopping and dining options in Chapel Hill, for hundreds of out-of-town visitors this weekend.
The most important thing, though, it’s that it’s educating young people about the power of reason.
The Second Annual National High School Ethics Bowl will take place April 4 and 5, at the Kenan-Flagler Business School of the University of North Carolina.
The event is co-sponsored by UNC’s Parr Center for Ethics and The Squire Family Foundation.
Eighteen teams from around the country, including one from East Chapel Hill High School, will compete. More than 2,000 students from across the country competed in regional and sub-regional bowls leading up to this event.
Parr Center Director Jan Boxill compares the Ethics Bowl to team debating, but with a different format.
“There are teams,” she says. “But the teams are given 15 cases to sort of research and look at and find the moral dilemmas in them and try to reason through them.”
The format is both collaborative and competitive. There are 15 cases. Some of this year’s topics include segregated proms, access to online pornography, and rights of gender identification.
The students know the cases in advance, and have time to work on them. But they have no idea what questions they will be asked.
“The challenge is to give a reasoned argument,” says Boxill. “It’s not about emotion, but logical reasoning and ethical reasoning, using theories and using some research.”
And there’s a twist.
“The opposing team can say, ‘Well, yeah, I agree with your conclusion, but your argument is flawed.”
Teams are then free to offer suggestions about how the opponents’ argument could have been better. It’s not so much about the ability to make a convincing argument. It’s about the ability to make a reasoned argument.
And it’s about something that’s often missing from today’s discourse: civility.
The panel of judges will include advanced graduate students and faculty from UNC, as well as community members.
Boxill says the event will bring about 300 out-of-town guests to Chapel Hill. Those will include families, teachers, and guest judges.
Friday’s event at UNC’s Kenan-Flagler school begins at noon. Members of the public are invited to attend both the Friday and Saturday rounds.