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The Power of Ten (Years): 2022 In Review


December 20, 2022

 

 

A Letter From the Director

Dear NHSEB community, 

 

I hope this finds you warm, cozy, and starting off a wonderful holiday season with your loved ones. I have frequently remarked to my team that this is NHSEB’s first (semi-) normal year since I began my work as Director in 2019. While there have been so many challenges in recent years, I am reminded of our many successes, and I am excited to report that the National High School Ethics Bowl is entering its tenth anniversary season bigger, stronger, and better than ever before. As another calendar year draws to a close, it’s an ideal time to reflect on all we’ve been able to accomplish in 2022—largely due to the efforts of our participants, partners, and supporters. Here are a few key things we’ve been up to recently: 

 

Thanks to your efforts, NHSEB is poised to oversee its largest slate of Regional Competitions ever in 2022-2023. There are now 44 competitions across the country, with several brand new states joining our “map” this year. These events will be attended by students from nearly 400 schools across 35 states. Just in time for our program’s tenth anniversary, we are within striking distance of coast-to-coast, 50-state coverage. There is scarcely a greater testament to the impact this activity has on students and teachers than this growth timeline. In the face of such expansion, my Executive Committee has designed and announced a new Divisional Playoff Circuit to replace our aging ad-hoc arrangement. This plan brings existing NHSEB partners further into the fold to help us administer the NHSEB program with an increasing regional and national footprint for their institutions. Individual Regional Competitions, too, continue to grow at a beyond-steady clip, with many reaching and stretching their full capacity. This is already starting to define our next growth frontier as a community, and will be the source of some challenges moving forward. But, if students lining up en masse to talk over the issues of the time is a problem, it is a problem over which my team and I are delighted to preside. 

But of course, as we frequently tell students, breadth is not the only thing that matters. The depth of our impact is key, and I’m thrilled that we’re making strides on putting a yardstick to this with a first-of-its-kind Impact Study on the National High School Ethics Bowl, underway now across the U.S. This will be our first rigorous look at the extent to which participation in the program fosters key intellectual and civic virtues among high school students. Early data show some fascinating results, which our research team is looking forward to reporting to our community in 2023. Beyond this initial study, my team looks forward to expanding our assessment and research footprint in the coming months and years. We hope, of course, to show conclusively what many of us already observe: that participation in the Ethics Bowl continues to leave a substantial mark on our students. They tell us, more than ever, that the activity is transformative not just for their academic lives, but their social and civic lives as well. 

 

We are, as ever, working to improve our programming not only competitively, but pedagogically, and to make it ubiquitously available to students and teachers. Beyond the growth of our competitive circuits at Regional and Divisional levels, we continue to make big strides in other key areas: 

NHSEBAcademy has served nearly 200 students so far this year, between on-demand Studio Hours with 12 expert coaches and large-scale events in our Academy Live series, designed and delivered by the Parr Center’s Undergraduate Ethics Fellows. Most recently, our Event Coordinator, Juliana Hemela, moderated an excellent Town Hall discussion with incisive philosophers on the cutting edge of research on moral status and related issues. Many hundreds more students and teachers alike have interacted with NHSEBAcademy’s growing library of learning resources about and around Ethics Bowl. We hope to expand this audience in January with a series of training and learning events for community members volunteering as Judges and Moderators for their respective events. Behind the scenes of this public programming, a small group of teachers have begun to work closely with the Parr Center’s Outreach Director Michael Vazquez, and Pedagogy Fellow Katie Leonard, to explore and test prototype print resources, digital content, and physical manipulables from NHSEBAcademy’s upcoming Ethics Bowl for the Classroom content library, due out in 2023. Early feedback on these resources is positive, and we’re looking forward to bringing Ethics Bowl back to its original home in the classroom, and to making high-quality ethics and civics education resources ubiquitously available to U.S. high schools.

Our NHSEBBridge access initiative has undergone a comprehensive rework as we enter a new stage in the COVID-19 pandemic, thanks to the generous support of the American Philosophical Association. In addition to scaling our national-level programming under this umbrella via our fee waiver and travel assistance programs for teams and a small micro-grant program for upstart NHSEB affiliates, we recently partnered with the Stony Brook School to announce a standing online Regional Competition—NHSEBBridge @ Gravitas—which will take on its first teams in January with a focus on states where there are not (yet) NHSEB Regional Competitions. Furthermore, we’ve been working hard on dedicated outreach with rural and under-resourced schools in North Carolina to great effect, under the leadership of Project Lead and NHSEB Graduate Assistant, Delaney Thull. We’re looking forward to sharing the results of this unique work with our broader community at the APA Eastern Division Meeting in Montreal in January, as well as a public white paper to be released in early 2023.

The NHSEBOne competition platform, which helpfully allowed us to continue running Ethics Bowls (albeit sometimes imperfectly) through the height of the pandemic, has undergone an end-to-end update this year to prioritize use as a companion for in-person NHSEB events. After a successful pilot at the NHSEB National Championship in April, a new mobile-first user interface for moderators and judges, as well as additional administration and monitoring features for Organizers will launch on December 31. NHSEBOne will be available, free of charge, for companion usage at all NHSEB Regional Competitions starting January 1, 2023. We’re proud to continue to offer this tool to streamline and improve the process of organizing, volunteering for, and attending a High School Ethics Bowl. Stay tuned for more details in the new year!

 

Finally, our large and diverse community remains healthy and energetic as we prepare to celebrate NHSEB’s tenth anniversary this Spring, but we have some big moves planned to provide new avenues for engagement in 2023: 

Earlier this Fall, I was proud to appoint four students to NHSEB’s inaugural Student Advisory Council to advise our planning and administration of the program. The four were selected from among a pool of over 50 applicants—all of whose qualifications and dedication to the Ethics Bowl activity were without doubt and truly inspiring. The Council, chaired by our Undergraduate Assistant Austin Foushee (himself an NHSEB alumnus) has already begun its work and will, I’m certain, make its presence felt quickly. In January, on the students’ recommendation, NHSEB will launch a public online community space hosted by Discord. In this new, non-competitive space, participating students (and later, coaches and organizers alike) can connect, discuss, and share common ground around their participation in the Ethics Bowl activity—via discussion post, synchronous chat, and small voice-first “huddle” spaces. This space will also facilitate a unique mechanism for students in each NHSEB Division to share feedback with their designated representatives on the Student Advisory Council. I’m confident that this project will do much toward enhancing our community, above and beyond the physical spaces in which we gather during NHSEB events.

After some personnel turnover in 2022, NHSEB’s Special Committee on Access, Equity, and Community will kickstart its work in January 2023 under the leadership of Kristen Fuhs Wells, Executive Director of the Association for Practical and Professional Ethics (home of the Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl on which NHSEB was initially based). Kristen and I share an ambitious vision of building community around participation in and learning from the Ethics Bowl such that it is truly a lifelong pursuit. We’ll have much in the works for NHSEB National Championship event in 2023, and beyond. I’m looking forward to working with Kristen, with the NHSEB Advisory Board, and with our community more generally, to strengthen our community relations with current participants, with alumni, and via key organizational partnerships (with APPE, APA, PLATO, and other stakeholders) to work across various borders, and ultimately, across the full lifespan.

 

As you can see, a more “normal” year need not be a slow one. It is no exaggeration to say that none of these things would be possible without your continuing support. Accordingly, I ask that you remember the program’s mission and impact, and consider a contribution to the NHSEB if you are able, as well as sharing this with your networks. You may take pride in providing vital support for the core mission, values, and programming of the National High School Ethics Bowl. Gifts of any size enhance the empowering educational experience our program provides for thousands of students at hundreds of high schools. As one student told us, “There has never been an experience or a greater tool that has made me believe not only that I can be a better person, but that I can challenge the world to be better.” It is our consistent goal to provide this kind of opportunity to every student, everywhere.

 

Support NHSEB today.

 

 

I am immensely proud of our community’s numerous accomplishments, and of its continual dedication to a task that seems so simple, but is so rare and difficult—that of thinking and working together on the really tough issues we find ourselves confronting. As I wrote in a recent op-ed, these are skills that we adults struggle with. Our students are the future of American democracy, and we are working hard to ensure that it is in good hands with them. Your support helps us realize our mission with students across the United States and around the world. On behalf of my team and the thousands of students this activity impacts each year, I sincerely thank you for your efforts. I wish you the happiest of holidays, and look forward to a bright 2023 with each of you.

 

 



With warmest wishes,

 

Alex Richardson, Ph.D.
Director, National High School Ethics Bowl
Parr Center for Ethics

Pronouns: he/him/his

 

 

 

 

 

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