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Four Eighth Graders Compete in Middle School Ethics Bowl

Four eighth graders competed last weekend in the Middle School Ethics Bowl hosted by Kent Place School. In their third year competing, the Peck team performed strongly and ultimately won one of out the three cases they participated in.
Modeled after the National High School Ethics Bowl, the Middle School Ethics Bowl is conceptually based on the idea of two-way conversational exchange between equals. After analyzing the ethical attributes of pre-selected case sets based on complex, real-world issues, and preparing talking points, teams meet to discuss and defend their positions. The bowl is a collaborative event that differs from debate in that students are not assigned opposing views; rather, they defend a position they believe is ‘right’ and earn points based on how carefully, deeply, and perceptively they have thought about the ethical dimensions of a case.

The students—Andy K., Preston D., Sebastian D., and Jakob B.—have met weekly with advisor and History Department Chair Jason Guss to prepare six pre-selected case sets assigned for the ethics bowl.

Case sets involve moral dilemmas, as well as philosophies, that students can apply when making an ethical decision. 

“At Peck, it often seems easy or straightforward to follow InDeCoRe values,” Guss said. “What the Ethics Bowl gets students to consider is that our values sometimes come into conflict.”

For example, one of the case studies asked students to consider a tracking system for student internet use to monitor mental health. The Peck team thought that, although respect for privacy is important, it is less important than caring about students' mental health and was therefore in support of an internet monitoring system.

“Participating in the Ethics Bowl gives students a great opportunity to speak publicly, think extemporaneously, and consider multiple perspectives,” Guss said. “Although formatted like a debate, Ethics Bowl is meant to be far more conversational (like a formally-structured Harkness discussion). Students, therefore, must deeply think through difficult situations and test their own thoughts, values, and judgments.”



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