MMFS Upper School Students Return to the NYC High School Ethics Bowl

February 04, 2019

Good evening,
I am proud to share about our experience at today’s NYC High School Ethics Bowl 2019! Our students have been hard at work since September to prepare for this event, studying and deliberating over 12 contemporary ethical case studies. Today, our students were called to present on topics ranging from how to manage conflicting loyalties in relationships, the scientific practice of bringing species back from extinction using genetic materials, and China’s new policy of monitoring citizens’ behavior using a numeric social credit system.
We faced tough competition in our schedule today, as we were matched against strong teams including Stuyvesant, Environmental Studies, and Gregorio Luperón, who defeated us in last year’s semi-final match. Most of these schools take a different approach to the event than we do, preparing memorized remarks and citing formal ethical theories such as utilitarianism and Kantian deontology. Our MMFS students continue to choose a different route, relying on their intuition, creativity, and teamwork to think critically, yet also “outside the box.” This approach worked very well last year, leading us to win most of our matches and place 3rd out of 22 teams overall.
Unfortunately, the numbers didn’t quite add up for us this year, and we won just 1 of our 6 matches (against Xavier). However, there were multiple very close calls, including a 9 point loss to Stuyvesant (out of 240 total points) and a 0.5 (!!) loss to a Quaker school from Poughkeepsie, Oakwood Friends, whom we defeated last year.
As I continually remind the students and myself, the real purpose and reward of this event is about practicing skills of critical thinking, dialogue, active listening, and empathy. By these measures, our first team was comprised mostly of students new to Ethics Bowl and grew a great deal with the help of their senior leadership. Our second team was supported by a strong group of returning students who also worked hard to open up space for their new teammates.
A highlight of the event for me was when one of the judges of this second team pulled me aside at the end of the event to share his impression of our students. Having judged Ethics Bowls for 10 years, he said that our students were some of the most engaging he’s ever worked with, and embodied everything the event stands for. Rather than presenting as a “collection of smart individuals,” he was struck by our group’s cooperative insight, earnesty, and responsiveness to difficult questions.
Thank you to all those who supported the students in their efforts to prepare, particularly those teachers of other extracurriculars who provided flexibility around our students’ packed schedules.
John Keenan
MMFS Upper School Teacher
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