Ethics Bowl for High School Students

January 18, 2019

The Ethics Bowl is coming soon to BC high school students. Assistant professor, Nic Fillion is leading an SFU-based initiative that will bring the critical thinking event to the province, helping students learn and practice the skills they need as global citizens.

What is an Ethics Bowl?

The Ethics Bowl is a competition that brings students together to learn and argue about ethical issues. Fillion describes it as similar to but more constructive than traditional debate clubs. Instead of relying solely on debate skills, an Ethics Bowl requires students to engage in dialogue. Instead of winning an argument, Ethics Bowl success prizes critical thinking, collaboration and intellectual improvisation as teams propose a position or solution for resolving the ethical conflict.

Teams engage with moral and philosophical questions, taking turns to present, ask questions and respond to a series of ethics case studies. The students need to critically and collaboratively engage with each other to prepare and present a position then respond to questions or points raised by the opposing team. The two teams take turns to lead and respond to the case studies during the competition. A panel of judges question and then score each team based on their presentation and responses.
Instead of winning by skilled opposition, an Ethics Bowl encourages dialogue and collaboration.

Why a BC Ethics Bowl?

The core competencies for new BC curriculum emphasize a number of key skills that prepare students as global citizens in the 21st century. These include communication, critical thinking, social responsibility and personal awareness.

Taking part in the training towards an Ethics Bowl and in the competition itself covers all the competencies, teaching students to collaborate, think critically and deepen their understanding of key philosophical and ethical questions.

BC Ethics Bowl teams also have an opportunity to take part in the national Ethics Bowl to be held in Manitoba on April 25th, 2019.

How do I get involved?

In preparation for an Ethics Bowl, high school teams work on ethical case studies supplied by the main competition organizer. They meet regularly to get familiar with the dilemmas and improve their ethical discussion skills while learning how to work collaboratively with each other. Mentors help guide teams in synthesizing discussion, and responding respectfully and productively to disagreement. In this way, teams work on all the case studies they might meet in competition.

Canada’s first national High School Ethics Bowl takes place in Manitoba on April 25th, 2019. There will be a regional championship ahead of this at SFU.

  • Schools: Ethics Bowl is for high school students Grades 9 to 12. Each team has five members with two alternates. If you are a teacher and would like to learn more so your school can be involved, please contact nfillion [at]
  • Volunteers: Volunteers are needed to coach teams study the assigned case studies. If you have Ethics Bowl experience or are a keen SFU Philosophy Major or grad student, please volunteer with nfillion [at]

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