Ethics Bowl as a Platform for Educational Advancement

Jonathan Ellis
UC Santa Cruz

Thomas Holden
UC Santa Barbara

Collaborating teams at UC Santa Barbara and UC Santa Cruz bring the Ethics Bowl to 13 underserved high schools in California. The Ethics Bowl is an alternative form of school debate which is rapidly growing in popularity across the country, due to the improvements it is thought to make over the adversarial and rhetorical nature of traditional (forensic) debate. Participants think deeply about real-life, pressing ethical questions (about the use of cutting-edge technology, social inequality, the environment, politics, friendship, etc.). The emphasis is on talking meaningfully and productively in contexts of disagreement, and not on arguing that your side is right. By bringing the Ethics Bowl to underserved high schools in the Santa Barbara and Santa Cruz areas, the project has three goals: (1) to help participating students to see themselves as belonging at college; (2) to make this special debate activity available to students who often don’t have any debate opportunities; and (3) to help ameliorate the pipeline problem in academic philosophy, by helping students from under-represented groups to identify with philosophy and philosophical thinking.