30th Annual Great American Think-Off
Philosophy essay & debate competition
Essays due April 1st
The Great American Think-Off, now in its 30th year, is an annual philosophy contest held in New York Mills, MN (population 1,295), and hosted by the New York Mills Regional Cultural Center.
This year’s question once again addresses a topic meant to inspire thinkers from all walks of life:
Which is more important to protect:
the environment or the economy?
We want to hear about YOUR experiences and how they formed your opinion on this topic. There is no fee to enter. Essays must be 750 words or less. Submit an essay by April 1 for your chance to win $500, an expenses-paid weekend in New York Mills, and the chance to argue your position in front of a live audience. The winner of the live debate (determined by audience vote) will earn the title of “America’s Greatest Thinker” for the year.
Whether a local zoning committee is approving a new parking lot, or a federal agency is approving a new pipeline, our elected officials must continually grapple with balancing the needs of the environment with the needs of the economy. President Biden recently showed his hand when he voted for the economy over the environment in approving the controversial Willow oil drilling project in Alaska.
Now the Great American Think-Off is asking armchair philosophers throughout the nation and beyond to share their thoughts on this difficult question by April 1 in an essay of 750 words or less. The top two essayists on each side will be awarded $500 and an expenses-paid trip to New York Mills, MN in June, where they’ll defend their positions and compete for the title of America’s Greatest Thinker.
Executive Director Betsy Roder explains, “Obviously the ideal answer is to have both a healthy environment and a healthy economy, but when we’re forced to choose one over the other, which is more important to protect?”
On selecting this year’s question, Think-Off Committee Chair Alice Martin notes, “We’ve been asking tough questions for decades, but realized we’ve never asked a question about the environment. With the recent pipeline and mining battles in Minnesota, the question strikes really close to home this year, but we know we aren’t the only ones facing this tension. The Think-Off is a way to explore these challenging questions together as a national community, in a fun and civil way.”
Roder agrees, “We know this year’s question is a particularly tough one, but based on the entries we’ve already received it’s clear Americans are capable of giving it serious thought and finding good answers.”
Entering the contest is simple and free, just submit an essay of 750 words or less (kulcher.org/think-off/submit-your-essay/) by April 1, 2023. Entrants should take a strong stand, basing their arguments on personal experience and observations rather than philosophical abstraction.
The top two essayists on each side of the debate receive a $500 cash prize and paid travel expenses to beautiful “Lakes Country” in Minnesota, where they will compete for bronze, silver, and gold medals, and the title of America’s Greatest Thinker, by reading their essays and defending their positions in a “final four” style public debate. The winner is determined by audience vote. The friendly nationally-acclaimed annual event will be held this year at 7:00 pm on Saturday, June 10, 2023, in the New York Mills Public School Auditorium.
To see what past participants have to say about this unique experience, contest details, and information on the past 29 years of questions, visit think-off.org or call the Cultural Center at 218-385-3339.
About the Great American Think-Off:
Now in its 30th year, The Great American Think-Off is an exhibition of civil disagreement between powerful ideas being explored by everyday people. Designed to bring philosophy down from the ivory towers of academia and accessible to all, the contest has received national acclaim including coverage by C-SPAN, the New York Times, and The Today Show.
The New York Mills Regional Cultural Center, located in the rural farm and manufacturing town of New York Mills, Minnesota, sponsors this annual philosophy contest and encourages people of all ages and backgrounds to participate.
Essays are due April 1 and can be submitted in 3 simple ways:
Mail: Think-Off, c/o Cultural Center, P.O. Box 246, New York Mills, MN 56567
All are welcome to attend the great debate on Saturday, June 10, 2023, and cast your vote to help determine the answer to this year’s question. Tickets are $12 in advance or $15 at the door. Student admission is just $5.
If you have questions, please contact the Cultural Center at 218-385-3339 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
These activities are made possible in part by the voters of Minnesota through an operating support grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.