Dear NHSEB community,
I hope you are staying safe and healthy, and have had the time to enjoy a relaxing and restorative holiday season with your loved ones. It has been yet another year for the history books, in more ways than usual. Even as we continue to learn about, evaluate, and face the ever-evolving challenge of COVID-19 and related ills, the National High School Ethics Bowl continues to grow and develop, thanks to your engagement and support. As ever, my team and I are incredibly grateful for the hard work and steadfast commitment of all those across the United States—our organizers, coaches, volunteers, and most importantly, our students—to making our activity all it is, and all it can be.
As the waning hours of a long and sometimes arduous year finally bring 2021 to a close, I am reflecting on a few highlights of our program and community’s incredible accomplishments over the last 12 months:
- In January, we activated and rolled out the NHSEBOne competition platform to aid in the administration of Regional Competitions conducted in early 2021. While the rollout was not without its challenges, in only a matter weeks after its activation, NHSEBOne was used to conduct over 30 events. Ultimately, the platform was adopted by nearly 80% of NHSEB Regionals, and piloted in the context of three of NHSEB’s growing international partnerships in Canada, Ireland, and Vietnam.
- In April, as a celebrated return from 2020’s COVID-driven cancelation, we conducted the NHSEB National Championship fully online for the first time in its history. Using the NHSEBOne platform, we welcomed the season’s best Ethics Bowl teams, as well as hundreds of volunteers and spectators (via livestream) from all corners of the country. We celebrated the end of the unprecedented if successful 2020-2021 season with a ceremony including remarks from Parr Center Founder Gary Parr, Ethics Bowl creator Robert Ladenson, and others.
- In July, we were most grateful for a generous endowment gift to the Center by its founder Gary Parr, a substantial portion of which is earmarked for dedicated long-term support of the NHSEB.
- In August, the Parr Center welcomed two new faces to the NHSEB administration team: Graduate Assistant Delaney Thull, a Ph.D. Candidate in Philosophy at UNC-CH, and Undergraduate Assistant, Austin Foushee, a first year Political Science (Pre-Law) student at UNC-CH, and an NHSEB alumnus.
- In September, as the country planned for a more normal year amidst the Delta variant of the coronavirus, NHSEB launched its 2021-2022 season with newly flexible rules and regulations designed for responsiveness to local and regional conditions with respect to the spread of COVID-19. At present, approximately 60% of NHSEB Regional Competitions plan to conduct in-person events in 2022, though this is subject to change as we navigate new information and circumstances around the Omicron variant.
- In October, we relaunched our most popular new program from 2020, NHSEBAcademy, with more offerings than ever before—including an expanded slate of Studio Hours for students to get on-demand coaching assistance, several events in our NHSEBAcademy Live series, and a brand new initiative called The Stadium, which pairs teams for practice scrimmage matches staffed by UNC-based Ethics Bowl experts.
- Just a few weeks ago, in November, the first in-person NHSEB Regional Competition since early 2020, the Virginia High School Ethics Bowl, was conducted by our partners at the Collegiate School in Richmond. Additionally, NHSEB added some new members to its standing Advisory Board, and organized board members into committees, which you’ll hear much more about in 2022. They will include a new Rules Council, chaired by Kyle Robertson (UC Santa Cruz), a Case Advisory Committee, chaired by Steve Swartzer (Fordham), and NHSEB’s first Committee on Equity, Access, and Community, chaired by Pam Antos (Hilliard School District of Ohio).
- Finally, in December, our team was honored to be recognized by the American Philosophical Association and the Philosophy Documentation Center with the prestigious Prize for Excellence and Innovation in Philosophy Programs. The selection committee praised our community for its COVID-19 response, and cited NHSEB’s work this year as “evidence of philosophers doing their best work in a public forum, to advance the public good.” The APA also awarded NHSEB a Diversity and Inclusiveness Grant to support an expansion and reimagining of the NHSEBBridge pilot program in 2022.
It is no exaggeration to say that none of these things would be possible without your continued support. Accordingly, I ask that you remember NHSEB’s mission and impact, and consider a financial contribution as part of your year-end giving. As we make final preparations for another busy competitive season and continue to integrate and scale innovative programming all across the country, now is a particularly crucial time for the National High School Ethics Bowl’s development. In addition to our typical donation and sponsorship opportunities, for a limited time, all financial gifts up to $50,000 will be matched, dollar for dollar, by the Marc Sanders Foundation. I encourage you to take advantage of this, and double the impact of your gift today!
You may take pride in knowing that your gift, regardless of size, provides vital support for the core mission and values of the NHSEB, and enhances the transformative experiences our program provides for thousands of students, representing over 300 schools. These students spend months preparing to compete in 41 regional high school ethics bowls, spread across 32 states, and their winners will meet at the NHSEB National Championship this coming April.
Now, more than ever, it is crucial for us to think, discuss, and get to work together on the issues that confront us all. All across the country students are sitting down to the difficult task of doing just this—from assessing the moral dimensions of the pandemic to thinking hard about media literacy, data privacy, and other key issues. These students, of course, are the reason we are here, and the reason that many of you likely feel so strongly about our program. The Ethics Bowl format provides a venue for students to hone their skills and work together in truly collaborative fashion, even and especially over deeply entrenched disagreements. An overwhelming majority of those students affirm that participation in the NHSEB empowers them and helps them to sharpen skills they will need to engage and thrive in an increasingly diverse and complicated world. Of the students who participated in our program last year:
One student summarizes things thus: “[The NHSEB] is an experience unlike any other. It is both the most fun I’ve ever had while also stretching my critical thinking skills and helping me engage in civil discourse in a whole new way. The cases are interesting and multi-faceted, the students are thoughtful and intelligent, and the directors and volunteers are extremely hardworking and kind. I am beyond grateful for this experience and the skills and friendships I’ve developed because of it.”
Providing these spaces and designing new opportunities for students constitutes the core mission that lies at the heart of the National High School Ethics Bowl. A democratic society depends on citizens’ ability and willingness to reflect on, discuss, and, yes, vigorously disagree about core values in a way that is respectful and productive. It is these skills which the NHSEB fosters in the students it serves, and they are hungry for the chance to think and work together on the issues that affect their lives. Your generosity helps us realize this mission, and brings the virtues and values of democratic citizenship to students across the United States and around the world. I hope you’ll consider supporting us as we look forward to a bright 2022.
Gratefully, and with warm wishes for the new year,
Alex Richardson, Ph.D.