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A $4,990 grant from the Silverberg Endowment for Academic Excellence will help raise the level of competition and serve a larger number of Pinellas County high school students who compete in the Southeast Regional High School Ethics Bowl. The SPC Applied Ethics Institute will receive the grant on behalf of the ethics bowl group, formerly known as the Pinellas County Ethics Bowl.

The ethics bowl is a joint event between Pinellas County Schools and the college and is coordinated by Ethics instructors George Sherman, of the Clearwater Campus and Laurie King, of the Seminole Campus. The event, held at the Seminole Campus each year, includes 14 teams representing 12 Pinellas County high schools. The competition is based on the college ethics bowl protocols featured in the Southeast Regional Ethics Bowl, which is also cosponsored by the SPC Applied Ethics Institute. Through the event, students debate ethical issues and compete in forming arguments that shows logical, reasonable and rational thought.

Ethics Bowl competitions are similar to debate competitions, but concentrate on argument structure and its logical or rational qualities. Teams can agree on conclusions but differ in their arguments, as judges want to see students demonstrate a keen ability to reason and form logical arguments.

“As a trial lawyer and law school mock trial coach, I have always been a strong advocate for forensic competition as a way to strengthen critical thinking and presentation skills,” said Susan Demers, Dean of the College of Policy and Legal Studies. “I was completely unprepared for the level of analysis, rhetorical skills and dedication I witnessed in the high school students who competed last year.”

The $5,000 annual Silverberg Endowment Grant was first awarded in 1982. The grant goes to support, enhance, enrich or develop programs of benefit to SPC, its students and the community. This year’s grant award will take the place of funding from the Character Grant from Pinellas County Schools, which began in 2006 and ended in 2010 when the federal program that provided the funds was terminated.

“A Silverberg Grant gives the Applied Ethics Institute the opportunity to raise the level of competition and serve a larger number of Pinellas County high school students,” Demers said.

The day-long ethics competition is a formal forensic event that requires months of team building, research, analysis, strategizing and polishing of communication skills. High school team members learn theoretical approaches to ethical problem solving and apply them to 12 case studies adapted from the national College Ethics Bowl.

In spring 2013, the ethics bowl will become a regional qualifying event for the newly initiated National High School Ethics Bowl competition. The event will be sponsored by the Association for Practical and Professional Ethics and will be held in Durham, N.C.

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