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2016-2017 Prindle Institute High School Essay Competition

The 2016-2017 contest has closed. We are currently reviewing the entries and will announce a winner in May 2017.

Keep your eye on this page for a new essay prompt coming in the fall of 2017!

The Prindle Institute for Ethics will award five prizes ($300 each) for the best essays written by high school students on an ethics-related topic. This year’s topic focuses on the ethics of voting. Any high school student is encouraged to submit an essay. Read the guidelines below, and submit your paper via the online submission form at the bottom of this page.

The Ethics of Voting
Answer one of the following prompts.

1. Is it okay to vote for self-interested reasons?
Is it morally permissible to vote for self-interested reasons? A lot of people vote for presidential candidates based on self-interest. Someone who is wealthy might vote for someone promising to cut taxes. Someone who is a teacher might vote for someone they perceive to be pro-education. Someone who owns a small business might vote for someone they perceive as pro-business. Is it morally permissible to vote for someone whom you think will benefit you directly in some way? Is there a moral difference between that and selling your vote? 

2. Is it wrong not to vote?
Voting is a right, but is it an obligation? People choose to not vote for a variety of reasons, but others will argue that they have a civic duty to get out and vote. Are people obligated to get out and vote? 

3. Who should have the right to vote?
We don't allow convicted felons or people under 18 to vote. Many states won't allow someone to vote who can't provide proof of their identity. Should we restrict voting this way? Who should have the right to vote? If we restrict voting, what criteria should we use?

4. Identify a moral issue related to voting other than (1)-(3)
You may think there are other interesting ethical questions related to voting that aren't identified in the first three prompts. Feel free to identify one of those questions and answer it.  
Each essay should thoroughly assess the moral dimensions of the ethics of voting in your own self-interest. 

If you argue that something is permissible, then then your essay should also thoughtfully consider and respond to arguments that someone might have for thinking that it is not permissible. If you argue that something is not permissible, then you should consider why someone might argue that it is permissible. 

Deadline: January 16, 2017

Eligibility: Anyone currently enrolled in high school in the United States. You do not need to enroll at DePauw to receive the award. This contest is open to any high school student regardless of college choice.

Word Limit: 1000-2000 words


  1. You should present and critically discuss arguments for your position.

  2. Don’t merely summarize what others have said, we want you to weigh in with your opinion on the merits of the arguments you discuss.

  3. Cite your sources (any common citation style is acceptable).

  4. Remove any identifying information from the paper you submit, including your name, high school name, etc. This ensures that papers will be anonymous. Papers that include any identifying information will automatically be disqualified.

  5. Submit your essay using the online submission form below.

  6. Winners will receive a $300 honorarium and may have their essays published on The Prindle Post.

Ethics Resources:

Writing a Moral Problems Paper


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