Ethics Bowl

The Ethics Bowl competition is an event that combines elements of debate, discussion, and impromptu speaking along with the very real challenge of sharing the speaking time with three or four teammates. The sponsors of Ethics Bowl, the Association for Professional and Practical Ethics, provide this summary of a contest that has both competitive and collaborative elements:

“The Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl (IEB) is a team competition that combines the excitement and fun of a competitive tournament with an innovative approach to education in practical and professional ethics for undergraduate students. Recognized widely by educators, the IEB has received special commendation for excellence and innovation from the American Philosophical Association, and received the 2006 American Philosophical Association/Philosophy Documentation Center’s 2006 prize for Excellence and Innovation in Philosophy Programs. The format, rules, and procedures of the IEB all have been developed to model widely acknowledged best methods of reasoning in practical and professional ethics.

“In the IEB, each team receives a set of cases which raise issues in practical and professional ethics in advance of the competition and prepare an analysis of each case. At the competition, a moderator poses questions, based on a case taken from that set, to teams of three to five students. Questions may concern ethical problems on wide ranging topics, such as the classroom (e.g. cheating or plagiarism), personal relationships (e.g. dating or friendship), professional ethics (e.g. engineering, law, medicine), or social and political ethics (e.g. free speech, gun control, etc.) A panel of judges may probe the teams for further justifications and evaluates answers. Rating criteria are intelligibility, focus on ethically relevant considerations, avoidance of ethical irrelevance, and deliberative thoughtfulness.”

Rare among forensics events, the IEB tournament schedule consists of two and only two tournaments. Regional qualifying tournaments are held in November and the top 32 teams in the nation advance to the national championship in March. Since there are no tournaments prior to the regional tournament, students on the Ethics Bowl team do a great many practice rounds on campus to get ready for the qualifying tournament.

More information on this competition may be found at:

Bioethics Bowl

The Bioethics Bowl uses a similar format to the Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl. It is a national competition that takes place every spring and focuses on a narrower range of ethical issues in science, medicine and public health.

In preparation for the competition, students prepare analyses of 15 bioethics cases during the semester.  The case studies cover a range of moral dilemmas in areas as diverse as patient autonomy, genetic screening, health care finance, research ethics, and global health.

For the competition, the teams comment on the presentations of others and respond to judges’ questions about the positions they endorse. Competitive success requires knowledge of ethical theory and the principles of clinical ethics, an understanding the practical details of the various case cases, as well as well as the ability to synthesize complex arguments.  Teams are judged on the grasp of the nuances of the cases as well as their ability to express their judgments clearly and coherently.

Mock Trial

Mock trial is a combination of debate, theater and a real-life learning experience in small group communication. Collegiate mock trial teams consist of 6-10 members and Macalester typically fields at least three teams. While some members of the program aspire to law school, the full range of majors and professional interests are represented for the skills that are taught by mock trial are useful in any career.

While high school mock trial typically involves only a couple of tournaments, the intercollegiate tournament season stretches from October until April. Tournaments are typically four-round events and each team must be prepared to argue both sides of the case. In any given round, three of the students serve as attorneys and three serve as witnesses. The attorneys deliver opening statements, direct and cross examine witnesses, argue the admissibility of evidence, and deliver closing arguments. The witnesses are charged with breathing life into the affidavits that are provided with the case materials and creating interesting and credible characters. In mock trial, the whole is nearly always greater than the sum of its parts. Great teams are skilled at telling their client’s story in a dramatic and persuasive fashion that involves mastering the basic elements of drama. Over the course of season that stretches across both semesters, students also have ample opportunities to explore the fine art of effectively managing a small group charged with a difficult task.

For more information about intercollegiate mock trial, you might look at the web-site of the American Mock Trial Association: