Phoenixville team nets 4th place Ethics Bowl

Photo by Maureen Kobilka Bryan Furr, Shawna Moore, Kyle Kobilka and Alex Montiero, the PAHS team.

Phoenixville Area High School Students Shawna Moore, Kyle Kobilka, Alex Montiero, and Bryan Furr placed in the top four teams as semi-finalists in the 2012 Philadelphia Area High School Ethics Bowl at Villanova University on Dec. 1.

An Ethics Bowl is a collaborative yet competitive event in which teams analyze a series of wide-ranging ethical dilemmas. Responses are judged according to:

• the quality of teams’ reasoning

• how well they organize and present their case

• how well they attend to and analyze the morally relevant features of the case

• how well they anticipate and preemptively respond to commentary and questions

An exciting tournament, an Ethics Bowl is a great way for students to deepen their understanding and appreciation of interesting ethical and philosophical issues.

The goal of Ethics Bowl is not to win, as in having the “right” answer. Rather, the goal is to demonstrate that one understands the issues at stake, relies on a framework to analyze the issues and to direct one’s actions, and answers the question posed.

High school Ethics Bowls typically utilize case studies most obviously relevant to young students, such as questions concerning cheating, plagiarism, peer pressure, use and abuse of social media, privacy, relationship responsibilities, and the like. However, political and social issues, such as free speech, gun control, and eco-tourism, and bioethical issues, such as cloning, parental consent, and stem cell research, are also of great interest to teenagers, and are also sometimes included.

Judges are drawn from the community. They don’t need to be philosophy professors or ethicists, only to be interested in ethical issues. Ideally, judges will represent a wide variety of professions. The Greater Philadelphia Philosophy Consortium recruited the judges for the Philadelphia bowl.

There were 12 teams in attendance. Schools that participated were: Phoenixville Area High School, Bishop Shanahan, Camden Catholic, Central High School, Moorestown Friends School, Padua Academy, Conestoga High School (two teams), Radnor High School, Cherry Hill East High School, and Wilmington Friends School.

All teams partake in three rounds in the morning. The four teams scoring the most points after the morning rounds then compete in semi-final rounds and then a final round in the afternoon.

In the Semi-Finals it was Cherry Hill East vs. Conestoga, and Radnor vs. Phoenixville. Radnor was a formidable opponent and beat Phoenixville by only eight points.

In the Cherry Hill vs. Radnor Finals the two topics for debate were:

1. The content of the curriculum contained in History books in the US and Federal vs State bias

2. The “Contraception Rule” that requires insurance providers to provide insurance that includes coverage for contraception yet exempts some religious organizations based on specific criteria.

The 2012 winner was Radnor High School. The first and second place teams received trophies. Additionally, in April 2013 the University of North Carolina/Chapel Hill will host the first national high school ethics bowl competition. A yet to be determined number of participating teams in the Philadelphia-area Ethics Bowl will be invited to compete at UNC’s Parr Center for Ethics.