MMFS Upper School Students Participate in Ethics Bowl at DePauw University

July 25, 2018

Good morning everyone,

I’m excited to share about the fantastic weekend Keith and I just had with the Ethics Bowl team (Emilio, Katie K, Lori, Oliver, and Sarafina) at DePauw University in Indiana.

As you know this was a major event for our students: a national level tournament that they had to qualify for based on their success at NYU this winter. To prepare, the students had to discuss, analyze, and prepare presentations on 14 different new case studies of contemporary ethical issues (even more work than the original 11 cases they had to prep for NYU). This required resuming our regular lunch meetings during the fourth quarter, as well as study halls, after school sessions, a full day session immediately after finals, and a series of Skype video chat meetings over the students’ summer vacation.

I knew before signing up that this was a lot to ask of these kids, and sure enough it was difficult for them at times to keep up throughout the stress of finals and busyness of summers. In the end, however, they all maintained their commitment and not only showed up, but arrived enthusiastic and ready to go all in.

The tournament consisted of four qualifying matches (each 1 hour long) and a semifinal and final round. In our four matches, the MMFS kids were randomly called to present on topics related to political speech in the arts, fake news, paying college athletes, and the opioid crisis.

The students held their own despite some serious nerves and intimidating competition, but ended up losing their first three matches in a row by close margins. The break after that third round was certainly our low point, with the students losing motivation and sheer exhaustion setting in. Nevertheless, the students were able to rally and turn things around in a more evenly-matched fourth round, and ended up with a win to wrap things up!

After the cumulative scoring was tallied, MMFS placed 10th out of 16 teams and I could not be more proud. Seeing the level of preparation that other schools put in has apparently motivated our students to devote more time and to work even harder next year. As I told the students, though, our placement truly wasn’t something I was too concerned about. Just as competitive sports are designed to keep kids active, driven, and team-oriented, the Ethics Bowl event is really designed to promote critical thinking and to involve students in important timely discussions.

In addition, the students were able to spend two days connecting with kids from all over the country (California, Oregon, Michigan, Connecticut, Maryland, Arkansas, etc.), and enjoyed celebrating together on their final night over midwest barbecue and giant Jenga.

Not a bad way to spend a July weekend! Big thanks to Keith for coming along to support the students, and to Beth, Steph, Amy L and the rest of administration for working to organize a very logistics-heavy event.

~ John Keenan, Upper School Head Teacher

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