Gravitas is pleased to announce a new partnership with the National High School Ethics Bowl to help the NHSEB increase access to the Ethics Bowl by hosting an online regional bowl and provided resources and coaching to students who cannot participate due to geographic location or lack of school resources.
The National High School Ethics Bowl’s mission is to train students in the art of respectful, rigorous dialogue on complex and often contentious moral and political issues. In an Ethics Bowl, thousands of students across the country work in teams to present arguments in support of conclusions they themselves have chosen. They are scored on their ability to nuance their arguments, acknowledge the weaknesses in their own arguments, and present opposing viewpoints in a charitable light. When responding to their opponents’ arguments, rather than taking an oppositional stance, they are encouraged to help the other team improve their argument through constructive criticism and collaborative inquiry. At the end of a given round, students must field questions from a panel of adult judges, often professional philosophers, professors, public servants, lawyers, and local business owners. After the scores are tallied, teams almost always leave feeling like they learned something from the dialogue, and judges usually express not only how impressed they are with the students’ depth and insight but also feeling more hopeful about a future with such students in positions of influence. As Jonathan Ellis and Francesca Hovagimian wrote in a 2019 New York Times opinion piece, “Are School Debate Competitions Bad for Our Political Discourse?“,”Disagreeing constructively is a skill — one of the most difficult and important there is. In encouraging students to practice this skill, the Ethics Bowl fosters what may be the most important intellectual virtue of all: openness to changing your mind.”
The Stony Brook School has participated in Ethics Bowl since 2012, winning four Long Island Regional competitions and several other awards. Ethics Bowl-style debates run throughout the SBS and Gravitas curriculum, most notably in our unique Health and Human Flourishing class and in our College-Level Ethics and Politics class. We have found it to be one of the most effective means of training students in both moral and intellectual virtue in the classroom setting.
Given our commitment to the liberal arts, free and civil discourse, and intentional character formation, Gravitas is excited to link arms with the NHSEBBridge initiative. Through Gravitas, a program designed to increase access to the kind of education our campus-based students receive, we can now offer Ethics Bowl to the students around the United States who need it most. Individual students who do not have a team can join a Gravitas team and school teams that need more coaching and the ability to compete in a regional competition without incurring travel expenses will be able to do so starting this year. Partnering Gravitas will allow the NHSEBBridge program that launched as a pilot program last year to expand its reach beyond North Carolina.