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  • April 10, 2023

    Canadian High School Ethics Bowl

    Kelvin’s Team Socrates to compete in nationals, Rural team gets bragging rights

    Chances are, if you’re like me you‘ve never heard of an “Ethics Bowl” before today. At a very basic level, it’s a debate-style competition with matches in which two teams come up with their best answers to ethical dilemmas and are then scored on the quality of their answer.

    However, as opposed to a typical debate format, in an Ethics Bowl the opposing teams are tasked with making their opponents’ answers better, rather than tearing down their answers. The two teams are then given a series of scores by a panel of judges and a winner is decided.

    On February 24 and 25, the Manitoba regionals took place with Miles Macdonell Collegiate taking first spot, beating out Kelvin High School Team “Socrates” in the finals. Both teams will go on to represent Manitoba in the national competition.

    Estelle Lamoureux, a former principal of Collège Pierre-Elliott-Trudeau, now retired, has been organizing the Manitoba High School Ethics Bowl for the last nine years. Originally, she brought teams from Manitoba to South Carolina to compete, but in the last few years Ethics Bowls have gained so much popularity across Canada that there is now a national competition.

    This year will be only the second ever National Ethics Bowl held in person, with the previous two forced to be held online due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

    Lamoureux says that to her the major draw of the event is the team building it fosters. “If you’re an engineer, you’re gonna be working in a team,” Lamoureux said. “If you’re in a relationship, you have to listen.”

    With the emphasis Ethics Bowls put on collaboration towards thinking deeper into a subject, Lamoureux sees the roughly 1300 former participants becoming leaders in their university careers.

    “You know what my concern is [in society]?” said Lamoureux. “Critical thinking. My concern is about how divisive we’ve become. People are not listening to each other and everybody thinks they’re an expert.”

    Out of 18 teams competing, Kelvin was the only school in the competition with two teams, with its third place Team “Plato” finishing in a tie with the Goose Lake High School Team from Roblin, Manitoba.

    The Goose Lake team was composed of students ranging from grade 9 to 11, and drove over four hours to attend the competition. All five members had never taken part in an Ethics Bowl before, and so didn’t really know what to expect.

    “Honestly, we were on the way here and we were like, ‘oh, at least we’re trying, like if we get third last [we’d be happy], or even get second to being last,’” recalls Goose Lake’s Taeyun Kim. “We were like, as long as we don’t get dead last, it’s okay. We never imagined an opportunity like this, to be in the top four.”

    “What really struck our team was that we personally thought it was gonna be just all facts, facts, facts, which was what scared us.” said Roaa Yousif, a Goose Lake member. “But when we got there, we entirely acted out of compassion and as if we almost took the cases personally, with all of our responses.”

    Goose Lake High School has around 150 students and the Ethics Bowl team says there’s a lot of focus put on their sports teams. However, with this result, they’re hopeful more students will become interested in similar events.

    “I don’t think I’ve ever heard ‘let’s support our Ethics Bowl team’ [over the intercom],” said Hayley Allen. “But now it’ll be something that people will think ‘we should support that team!’ And I’m not saying they’re not supporting us, people just don’t really know about it. And it’s one thing that we think that people should maybe know about.”

    Team members also kidded that now they’ve got more bragging rights. “Let’s be honest…having this be shown that we did so well, it’s kind of gonna give our school a new thing,” said Allen.

    “Like we’ll go back [and] we’ll tell the Dauphin school like an hour away from us: ‘we’re smart too, you guys!” said Yousif.

    Lamoureux hopes that the future will see even more schools from more remote locations compete in Ethics Bowls. “I think that the big challenge for us is to reach out,” Lamoureux said. “I’d love to bring in a school from the town of Churchill, but it would cost a fortune.”

    If you want to get involved in volunteering, contact Estelle Lamoureux at elamoureux@shaw.ca.

    The national competition will take place in Winnipeg at the National Museum for Human Rights on April 28 and 29.

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