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Tennessee High School Ethics Bowl

How do you know the right thing to do in sticky situations? We will all face moral dilemmas at some point in our lives, but very rarely do we take the time to seriously examine how to make decisions in such cases. In an effort to bring this type of ethical reasoning into sharper focus among the future leaders of our society, the Department of Philosophy and the Humanities Center at the University of Tennessee encourage East Tennessee high school students to get involved in the Tennessee High School Ethics Bowl (THSEB). First established in 2010, the goal of this educational outreach program is to foster the kinds of critical thinking and moral reasoning skills that not only help to make successful students and professionals, but also to instill key intellectual and civic virtues in the democratic leaders of our society for generations to come.

After all, one of the hallmarks of a modern democracy is the existence of disagreement on a variety of issues. In order to function well, such a society needs citizens capable of engaging in respectful deliberation and dialogue about a vast array of controversial and complex issues, with emphasis on reasoning, not rhetoric. This requires not just critical thinking, but a healthy respect for others’ values and perspectives, as well as an understanding that the world seldom operates in black and white.

The THSEB is sponsored annually by the Department of Philosophy and the UT Humanities Center and has been made possible by the continued involvement of students, faculty, and administrators from schools across East Tennessee, volunteers, and by generous financial support from Home Federal Bank.

At its heart, the THSEB is a discussion, not a debate. Teams are not required to choose opposing sides, nor is the goal to “win” arguments by belittling other teams or their positions. This focus on engagement, reasoning, and critical dialogue has many benefits for student learning, including honing skills which are proven to boost standardized testing performance, and which are explicitly targeted by Tennessee educational standards. Additionally, the event encourages social and intellectual interactions that are crucial to a functioning democracy, namely, the consideration of other, often competing, perspectives when making moral judgments and decisions.

Congratulations to the winners of the 2016 THSEB!

1st Place – L&N STEM Academy (went on to be a national quarterfinalist!)
2nd Place – Fulton High School
3rd Place – Hardin Valley Academy

2017 Event Information

The eighth annual Tennessee High School Ethics Bowl will be held on February 4, 2017, at Knoxville’s Holiday Inn at World's Fair Park. This year, we are pleased to welcome to our competition 16 teams from 13 schools across east Tennessee:

  • Austin-East Magnet High School (Knoxville, TN)
  • Central High School (Knoxville, TN)
  • Father Ryan High School (Nashville, TN)*
  • Fulton High School (Knoxville, TN)
  • Hardin Valley Academy (Knoxville, TN)
  • L&N STEM Academy (Knoxville, TN)
  • Oak Ridge High School (Oak Ridge, TN)
  • Oakland High School (Murfreesboro, TN)*
  • Pigeon Forge High School (Pigeon Forge, TN)*
  • Sequoyah High School (Madisonville, TN)
  • The King’s Academy (Seymour, TN)
  • The Webb School of Knoxville (Knoxville, TN)
  • West High School (Knoxville, TN)

* Indicates first time competitor at the THSEB

On February 4, registration for the event will begin at 8am, with a light breakfast provided for all participants and volunteers. Opening ceremonies will commence shortly thereafter, with seeding matches beginning at 9am. Matches will break for lunch at 12:30pm, where afternoon match-ups for quarterfinals and semi-finals will be announced. Our championship match will commence at 4:30pm, and closing ceremonies will immediately follow.

This event is free and open to the public, and spectators are encouraged to join us in supporting our participating students!

For more information on the Ethics Bowl program, please direct all inquiries to

THSEB in the Media

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