by Emily C. '19 and Wren H. '19
Above: Lakeside Team 2, winners of the Washington State High School Ethics Bowl in February 2018. From left: Kira B. '18, author Emily C. '19, Sophia E. '18, Emma C. '18, and Gabriella O. '18.
Ethics Bowl is a competition in which teams from various schools across the state respectfully discuss ethical dilemmas. It is similar to debate, but instead of arguing against one another, both teams build on each other’s points and arguments in order to achieve the most comprehensive analysis of the moral issue at hand. Judges score teams on the clarity, thoughtfulness, and civility of their responses.
These competitions give us the chance to dig into ambiguity. In humanities and social science classes, we study injustices, community tensions, and the clash of personal ideals. Through Ethics Bowl, we narrow in on the heart of these controversies, focusing on moral collisions at the core of macroscale problems. We come to Ethics Bowl meetings primarily to uncover our own moral frameworks, and to have them stress-tested by others. This trial-and-error discussion environment leads students to engage with issues in a unique way: during Ethics Bowl sessions, participants immediately acknowledge the ethical sticking-points of their given circumstances and oftentimes admit that the solutions are complicated, if not unclear. In doing this, students set themselves up for vulnerable discussions, starting together at a place of humility.
It is this special atmosphere of humility that defines the club. One of the most valuable lessons Ethics Bowl teaches us is how to discuss and consider tough topics from various angles and perspectives, including those different from our own, in a respectful manner. We live in a world where civil dialogue is becoming more and more rare. In this age of public insults and disrespectful discourse, it is increasingly important for young people to learn how to engage in effective and polite debates. This is exactly what Ethics Bowl strives to do.
While many of our classes condition us to construct strong arguments and to compile information in support of a thesis, Ethics Bowl forces our attention first on a deep understanding of the central issue. This question-driven perspective transcends academics, and directly promotes the sort of critical thinking that Lakeside aims to imbue in students. Ethics Bowl has led us to hesitate before making snap decisions, to consider the intentions of others, and to think more deeply on social matters (especially those pertaining to politics and justice). Even on campus, our perception of Judicial Committee announcements has changed as a result of Ethics Bowl; how should the school reconcile student privacy with transparency before the student body? While it hasn’t always given us the answers, Ethics Bowl has allowed us to see all sides of the dilemmas that surround us every day.