Great American Think-Off since 1993

Wondering about what the Think-Off is?Basic RGB

The Great American Think-Off is an exhibition of civil disagreement between powerful ideas that connect to your life at the gut level. The Cultural Center, located in the rural farm and manufacturing town of New York Mills, sponsors this annual philosophy contest. People of all ages are encouraged to submit an essay of no more than 750 words for a chance to win one of four $500 cash prizes and participate in the live debate to ultimately answer the question, determined by audience vote.

The question is released each year on January 1st.  Essays are then accepted January 1 through April 1 (postmark or electronic date stamp), with the finalists announced May 1st.  The debate is held each year on the second Saturday in June.

Writers are encouraged to ground their essays in personal experience rather than philosophical abstraction. Each year, four writers will be selected as finalists and invited to debate the question on the second Saturday in June in New York Mills, MN. Costs for winners’ travel, food, and lodging will be covered by the Cultural Center.

The first annual debate took place in 1993 and asked the question “The Nature of Humankind: Inherently Good or Inherently Evil?“.  Since then, each year, four finalists present their ideas in front of a live audience who votes to crown America’s Greatest Thinker.  Subsequent questions have included “Does Life Have Meaning?” (1994), “Does God Exist? ” (1996), “Is the Pen Mightier than the Sword?” (2002), “Is it ever wrong to do the right thing?” (2009), and “Does Technology Free Us or Trap Us?“(2015). Click here to see a full list of past questions.

The Think-Off was begun by Cultural Center founder John Davis and has been held annually since 1993.  To participate, submit an essay on-line between January 1 – April 1, by clicking on the headline above, by email to info@think-off.org, or by mail to Think-Off, c/o Cultural Center, P.O. Box 246, New York Mills, MN 56567.  There is no fee to enter.  After April 1st, join us in New York Mills for the live debate and to help answer each year’s question by casting your vote.  Cost to attend is $12 in advance or $15 at the door.  The debate is held at the New York Mills School with a reception immediately following at the Cultural Center.  Tickets can be purchased online at Brown Paper Tickets or by calling the Cultural Center at 218-385-3339.

2016 Think-Off Poster

Calling all Americans to participate in this annual civil disagreement of powerful ideas. This year’s topic is especially relevant in our current political climate as we approach the presidential election. Click here to submit your essay today! Deadline is April 1st. There is no fee to enter. Click on the poster below to print or share electronically.

ThinkOffPoster2016-reduced

Think-Off ‘Honorable Mentions’ Opportunity Announced

More Ways to Win in 2016 Great American Think-Off

IMG_3160 copyAmerica’s everyday philosophers have a new incentive to share their thoughts with the nation this year.

The Great American Think-Off, a philosophy contest held annually in the small rural town of New York Mills, Minnesota, is now offering a category of “Honorable Mentions” along with the traditional Final Four winners. Five additional top essayists from each side will receive a “Great American Thinker” certificate, their choice of Think-Off memorabilia, recognition in the Think-Off program, and will have their essays published after the final debate.

Executive Director Betsy Roder explains, “The judging committee often reads essays that raise excellent points even if the entrants don’t quite make the cut to the Final Four. This is a way the Think-Off can showcase the wide variety of responses we get in addition to the top selections. We also hope it encourages more armchair philosophers to participate, knowing that even if they aren’t selected as one of the top four, their opinions might still be honored, and they may still be able to win a prize and be published.”

With a national election right around the corner, this year the Great American Think-Off wants to know if people agree or disagree with this statement: “Income Inequality Threatens Democracy”. Although the question format is slightly different from years past, entrants should still take a strong stand agreeing or disagreeing, and are encouraged to base their arguments on personal experience and observations rather than philosophical abstraction.

There is no fee to enter the contest; simply submit an essay explaining your position in 750 words or less by April 1, 2016. Essays can be submitted online (click here), by email to info@think-off.org, or by mail to Think-Off, c/o Cultural Center, P.O. Box 246, New York Mills, MN 56567.

In addition to the ten Honorable Mentions, the two top entries from each side will be selected by May 1, 2016, and these four writers invited to debate the topic live on Saturday, June 11, 2016 in New York Mills. Each of the four top finalists receives $500, and a chance to win the bronze, silver, or gold medals by participating in this unique civic event. The event’s host, the New York Mills Cultural Center, also covers costs for the Final Four’s travel, food, and lodging.

Tickets to attend this event are now available for sale. Cost is $12 in advance or $15 at the door. Tickets can be purchased online at Brown Paper Tickets or by calling the Center or stopping by.

For more information, contact the Cultural Center at 218-385-3339.

2016 Think-Off Topic Announced

Topic for the 2016 Great American Think-Off:
“Income Inequality Threatens Democracy”

CultCtrWebImageAfter much discussion, and appropriately, some healthy debate, the Great American Think-Off committee has decided on this year’s topic for the annual debate: “Income Inequality Threatens Democracy.”

With a national election right around the corner, all armchair philosophers are invited to share their thoughts and compete for prize money and the opportunity to be named America’s Greatest Thinker.

There is no fee to enter the contest. Simply submit an essay explaining your position in 750 words or less by April 1, 2016 for a chance to win one of four $500 cash prizes and a trip to New York Mills for the live debate.

New this year is the the format of a statement instead of a question, which is a change from years past. However, entrants should still take a strong stand agreeing or disagreeing with this topic, basing their arguments on personal experience and observations rather than philosophical abstraction.

Essays can be submitted online (click here), by email to info@think-off.org, or by mail to Think-Off, c/o Cultural Center, P.O. Box 246, New York Mills, MN 56567.

Two winning entries from each side will be selected by May 1, 2016, and the writers invited to debate the question on Saturday, June 11, 2016 in New York Mills, Minnesota. Each of the four finalists receives $500, and a chance to win the bronze, silver, or gold medals by participating in this unique civic event. Costs for the winners’ travel, food, and lodging are also covered.

Also new this year for the 24th annual debate will be the recognition of a category of “honorable mentions.” Executive Director Betsy Roder explains, “The judging committee often reads essays that raise excellent points even if the entrants don’t quite make the cut to the Final Four. This is a way for the Think-Off to showcase the wide variety of responses we get in addition to the top four selections. We also hope it will encourage more armchair philosophers to participate, knowing that even if they don’t win a trip to New York Mills, their opinions might still be recognized with a prize and being published.”

Last year’s ‘Battle of the Titans’ between four former winners was an historic and lively debate. In order to ensure a greater variety of participants for the future, former finalists, while they are still encouraged to enter and are eligible to receive honorable mentions, cannot be in the Final Four again until two years after a debate appearance. The committee hopes all armchair philosophers continue to participate and use this opportunity to hone and refine their philosophies.

Basic RGBAbout the Great American Think-Off:

Now in its 24th year, The Great American Think-Off is an exhibition of civil disagreement between powerful ideas being explored by every day people. Designed to bring philosophy down from the ivory towers of academia and make it accessible for all, the contest has received national acclaim including coverage by C-SPAN, the New York Times, and The Today Show.

If you are interested in attending the 2016 Think-Off debate, please contact the Cultural Center at 218-385-3339. Tickets are $15 at the door or $12 in advance.

The 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.