How was the Ethics olympiad born?



This initiative builds on the very successful "Ethics Bowl" in the US and Philosothons in Australasia. The National High School Ethics Bowl is coordinated by the Parr Centre for Ethics in the University of North Carolina. The Australasian Philosothon is coordinated by the Australasian Association of Philosophy. AAP.


The Ethics Bowl was created by Dr. Robert Ladenson, philosophy professor (emeritus) at the Illinois Institute of Technology. Since 1995 an "Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl" has been conducted and hosted by Ethics Institutes around the U.S. In 2013 the first National High School Ethics Bowl was co-hosted by the Squire Foundation and the Parr Centre for Ethics at the University of North Carolina and it was a great success. Currently there are thousands of High School students participating in Ethics Bowls throughout the US, Canada and China.





The Ethics Olympiad was founded in 2013 by Matthew Wills, the then Head of Philosophy, Values and Religious Education at Hale School in Perth WA. Originally trials were conducted with schools in several US states using video conferencing technology and Skype to bring the schools together. The trial was a great success. Thereby the Ethics Olympiad was born and has been run since then annually with a growing number of schools involved.


An Ethics Olympiad is a competitive yet collaborative event in which students analyse and discuss real-life, and timely, ethical issues. It differs from a debate in that students are not assigned opposing views rather, they defend whatever position they believe is right and win by showing that they have thought more carefully, deeply, and perceptively about the cases in question. The event encourages and promotes ethical awareness, critical thinking skills, civil discourse, international engagement, and an appreciation for diverse points of view.


In 2018 we trialled a new Ethics Bowl face to face format at Scotch College in Melbourne with ten schools participating. We received a great deal of positive feedback from this event and in May, 2019 we ran the same format in each capital city in Australia and New Zealand. This was followed up in November with a similar but age specific program of Olympiads for Middle School students. (11-14 year olds) Both programs were popular with over 1700 participating students.


In 2020 with the arrival of COVID restrictions the event was moved successfully online. Instead of participating teachers judging at the event we employed post-graduate Philosophy students, lecturers and teachers to be judges at the event.


Professor (Emeritus) Robert Ladenson the founder of the US Ethics Bowl wrote "The Ethics Olympiad makes an exciting and educationally important international experience integral to an academic competition incorporating core elements of both the Ethics Bowl and the Philosothon, two innovative approaches to teaching ethics hugely popular with students and acclaimed widely by educators. I anticipate great success for the Ethics Olympiad."


Most recently the event has expanded to include Hong Kong and Singapore schools.