Students working together in lab

South Carolina High School Ethics Bowl

 RSRCA at night Ethics Bowl Logo
The Rosalind Sallenger Richardson Center for the Arts

The Wofford College Department of Philosophy is pleased to host the inaugural South Carolina Regional High School Ethics Bowl. The daylong competition will take place Saturday, Jan. 26, 2019, in the Rosalind Sallenger Richardson Center for the Arts on Wofford's campus in Spartanburg. Fourteen teams from 10 high schools from around the Upstate and the Charleston area will participate.


8-8:30 a.m. - Check-in and breakfast, lobby and cafe area
8:30-8:55 a.m. - Judge Training, Room 112
8:30-8:50 a.m. - Teams Session, theater
9-9:25 a.m. - Welcome and opening session, theater
9:30-10:35 - Round 1
10:50-11:55 a.m. - Round 2
Noon-12:45 p.m. - Lunch, lobby and cafe area
1-2:05 p.m. - Round 3
2:20-2:30 p.m. - Announcement of semi-finalists, theater
2:45-3:50 p.m. - Semi-finals, theater
4:05-5:10 p.m. - Finals, theater
5:10-5:45 p.m. - Awards ceremony, theater

Family and friends are encouraged to attend. 


High school students from around South Carolina have been enthusiastically forming Ethics Bowl teams this fall. Each team must have between three and five members, with up to two alternates, and an advisor, usually a teacher at the school. Across the nation, each Ethics Bowl team prepares the same 15 case studies (roughly between October and January), holding practices after school and on weekends to research and analyze each case in preparation for their Regional competition. In the Regional competition, teams from the same state square off against other in a series of rounds, issuing in a winner by the end of the day.National High School Ethics Bowl (NHSEB) was created in 2012 by the Parr Center for Ethics at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, when it was adapted from Collegiate Ethics Bowl. NHSEB is a collaborative competition where two teams of students discuss an ethical scenario and interact with a panel of judges. The goal is to present clear, consistent, and critical thinking about the ethical implications of the case, and to engage fruitfully and respectfully with the other team and judges. In 2019, South Carolina is proud to be the 25th state to join the NHSEB competition nationwide.

Teams that win a “Large Regional” Bowl advance directly to compete in the National High School Ethics Bowl Finals, to be held at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, from April 5-7, 2019. Teams that win a “Small Regional” Bowl (i.e., a bowl with fewer schools participating) must compete in an additional “virtual playoff” (by Skype) against a Small Regional winner from another state to determine which team goes on to the Finals. In its first year, Wofford’s bowl will be designated a “Small” Regional Bowl.


To participate in a Regional Bowl, high schools must first register with National High School Ethics Bowl on the UNC/Parr Center for Ethics website. Please register your school as early as possible to allow both national and regional organizers to know how many schools and teams will be participating. The fee for National registration is $75 per school, for up to two teams.

• You can find the link to National registration here.

After registering with NHSEB, each school must register separately for the Wofford Regional bowl.

• The deadline for Wofford registration is Dec. 10, 2018.
• The fee for Wofford registration is $40 per school.
• The Wofford on-line registration form can be found here.

Participating Schools 

Diogenes Sitting in his Tub by Jean-Léon Gérôme (1860) 
The study of ethics goes back to the Ancient Greeks

Spartanburg Area Schools:

  • Spartanburg High School
  • Dorman High School
  • Spartanburg Day School
  • Byrnes High School
  • Broome High School
  • Chapman High School
Greenville Area Schools:
  • J.L. Mann High School
  • Christ Church Episcopal School
  • Riverside High School

Charleston Area Schools:
  • West Ashley High School



Practice Bowl

Since everyone in South Carolina – students, advisors, judges, moderators, and organizers -- is new to High School Ethics Bowl this year, we will hold an optional practice bowl on Saturday, Nov. 10, from 9 a.m. to noon on the Wofford Campus. Save the date!

Dr. Steven Swartzer, outreach director for the Parr Center for Ethics, will join us for our practice bowl. He will run a training sessions for judges, and then give students and judges feedback during demonstration rounds that simulate real Ethics Bowl matches.


Judge Training Video

Dr. Steven Swartzer, teaching assistant professor in philosophy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and outreach director for the Parr Center for Ethics, led a training sessions for judges at Wofford on Nov. 10, 2018. This 49-minute video of the session includes an introduction to the competition followed by discussion of the five parts of an Ethics Bowl round scored by judges:

Presentation (Team A)
Commentary (Team B)
Response to commentary (Team A)
Response to judges’ questions (Team A)
Respectful dialogue (Team A)

The video also includes questions from participants.


What is an Ethics Bowl?

What is our obligation to future generations?

In High School Ethics Bowl, students are judged on the quality and consistency of their thinking rather than being “right” or “wrong” in their response. Each team is asked to choose and defend the position they find most plausible, rather than attack or “defeat” the opposing team. Points are awarded for clarity and consistency, understanding the moral issue at stake, awareness of multiple perspectives, and civil discourse in engaging with others. Topics for case studies are drawn from ethical issues in areas including media, politics, sports, science, law, medicine, business, arts, and personal relationships.

Students in Ethics Bowl learn to collaborate with others, to speak and listen carefully, to think critically, and to view issues from multiple perspectives. As one student in the “short video about NHSEB” (see link below) describes it, “even when your team loses, you still learn something.” Resources about HSEB are available by following the links below, and many more may be found on the Parr Center website.


What is an Ethics Bowl Match?

typewriter with the word ethics
Ethics is everywhere in everyday life.

At the start of a match, one of the 15 cases is announced and the first team (decided by coin flip) begins its analysis. The other team then has a chance to ask questions, followed by a 10 minutes Q&A period with the three judges. After 30 minutes, a second case is announced and the process is repeated with the teams in reverse positions. A complete match takes approximately 60 minutes. At the end, judges tally their scores and a winner is announced.


Milliken SCF Wells Fargo



For more information about South Carolina High School Ethics Bowl at Wofford College, including how to register a team for the Wofford bowl, please contact:

• Dr. Stephen Michelman, organizer; chair, Department of Philosophy, Wofford College

For information concerning sponsorships and donation to SCHSEB, contact:

• Mary Helen Wade, community liaison

For other details about the Jan. 26, 2019, bowl, including driving directions to Wofford, food options and parking information, contact:

• Joyce Blackwell, administrative assistant, Department of Philosophy, Wofford College

Useful Resources


There are several good on-line ethics and philosophy resources to help students prepare the Ethics Bowl case studies. The most detailed of these is the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Here students can find articles written by professional philosophers on a range of topics pertaining to ethics. The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy is another very good, free, online source, a bit less technical and more accessible than the Stanford Encyclopedia. Both are organized alphabetically with entries on topics from A through Z.  

In addition, there are several open-access podcasts and video sites about ethics and philosophy. Students and advisors are encouraged to explore what these sources have to offer.