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Villanova University Hosts First-Annual Greater Philadelphia High School Ethics Bowl

Competition enables high school students to engage critical skill sets in a discussion of important, ethical issues

VILLANOVA, Pa. – High school students from across the Greater Philadelphia region will descend upon Villanova University on Saturday, Dec. 1, to discuss the ethical dilemmas of current events and issues most pertinent to young students at the first-annual Greater Philadelphia High School Ethics Bowl. The competition utilizes case studies relevant to high school students such as questions concerning use and abuse of social media, peer pressure, plagiarism, privacy, relationship responsibilities, etc. Political, social and bioethical issues are also common case themes in the competition. Teams advancing from regional competitions, including Saturday’s Greater Philadelphia event, will compete in the national high school ethics bowl competition in April.

The High School Ethics Bowl is modeled off of The Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl (IEB) program that has been in existence for 17 years. Villanova students have participated in the Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl competition every year since 2000 and in fact, a number of former Villanova participants are returning to serve as judges for this year’s competition. Several years ago, high schools began sponsoring ethics bowls, and today, the Parr Center at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill (UNC) is the headquarters for a nationwide effort on the high school level.  UNC will host April’s national high school ethics bowl competition.

“In partnership with the Greater Philadelphia Philosophy Consortium, the Ethics Program in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Villanova University is delighted to welcome 60 young people from high schools around the tri-state region to our campus for the first-annual Greater Philadelphia High School Ethics Bowl,” said Mark Doorley, director of the Ethics Program at Villanova University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “Villanova students have competed in the intercollegiate ethics bowl competition for years and have found the event to be an excellent medium through which to hone their analytical and public speaking skills, not to mention their moral decision-making skills.  All three sets of skills are critical components of any education.”

The High School Ethics Bowl competition provides students a platform to deepen their understanding and appreciation of interesting ethical and philosophical issues. The goal of ethics bowl is not to win, as in having the “right” answer. Rather, the goal is to demonstrate that one understands the issues at stake, relies on a framework to analyze the issues and to direct one’s actions, and answers the question posed.

Added Doorley, “Several years ago the organizers of the High School Ethics Bowl competition approached me about Villanova playing host to a Philadelphia regional high school ethics bowl competition. Villanova is happy to host an event like this that enables high school students to engage these critical skill sets in a discussion of important issues.”

Teams participating in Saturday’s competition include students from Bishop Shanahan High School (West Chester, Pa.); Camden Catholic High School (Cherry Hill, N.J.); Central High School (Philadelphia, Pa.); Cherry Hill East High School (Cherry Hill, N.J.); Conestoga High School (Berwyn, Pa.); Moorestown Friends High School (Moorestown, N.J.); Padua Academy (Wilmington, Del.); Phoenixville High School (Phoenixville, Pa.); Radnor High School (Radnor Township, Pa.); and Wilmington Friends High School (Wilmington, Del.).

The High School Ethics Bowl competition is not a debate in which teams advance opposite positions. The competition is based on the abilities of a team to articulate the main ethical dilemma, identify strategies for thinking those through, and arriving at a reasonable response to them.  The two teams competing may have the same conclusion, so the emphasis is on the thinking and articulating of one’s position and thought process. 

Sponsors of the Greater Philadelphia High School Ethics Bowl include the Ethics Program in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Villanova University, Villanova University Office of Admissions, Villanova University Dining Services, The William T. Dunn ’55 Ethics Program Endowed Fund, and the Greater Philadelphia Philosophy Consortium. 

Greater Philadelphia High School Ethics Bowl Schedule

December 1, 2012 – Villanova University

8:15 a.m.               Plenary Session (Driscoll Auditorium)

Morning Rounds

8:45 a.m.               Round One

10:10 a.m.             Round Two

11:35 a.m.             Round Three

(Morning rounds will take place in Bartley Hall, Rooms 2072, 2073, 2074, 2044, 2045, 2046)

Announcement of Advancing Teams

1:45 p.m.               Announcement of Advancing Teams (Driscoll Auditorium)


2 p.m.                     Semi-Final Rounds (Bartley Hall, Rooms 1001 and 2001)


3:20 p.m.               Final Round and Presentation of Awards (Driscoll Hall Auditorium)

About Villanova University: Since 1842, Villanova University’s Augustinian Catholic intellectual tradition has been the cornerstone of an academic community in which students learn to think critically, act compassionately and succeed while serving others.  There are more than 10,000 undergraduate, graduate and law students in the University's five colleges – the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Villanova School of Business, the College of Engineering, the College of Nursing and the Villanova University School of Law. As students grow intellectually, Villanova prepares them to become ethical leaders who create positive change everywhere life takes them.