On Friday, April 8, a team of Regians traveled down to North Carolina to participate in the National High School Ethics Bowl (NHSEB) National Championship! Taking part in the tournament for the first time ever, Regis was one of just 24 high school teams from across the country to qualify for nationals, engaging in three days of competition arguing some of the largest ethical issues facing the world today.
Founded in 2012 by the Squire Family Foundation and the Parr Center for Ethics at UNC-Chapel Hill, NHSEB seeks to encourage civil, constructive discourse surrounding issues of ethical importance. Providing high school students the resources to participate in substantive conversations of ethics with their peers, NHSEB advances the importance of critical thinking and thoughtful debate, helping to promote a society where disagreement can be approached reasonably and respectfully.
As part of a standard ethics bowl, groups of 3-5 students are provided a set of 15 cases dealing with particular ethical issues to familiarize themselves with, from which only some appear in competition. Unlike a traditional debate format, neither team is presented a “side” to an issue they must defend, but rather both groups are allowed to take up whatever position they deem to be the most ethical. After a series of back-and-forth discussions, where both teams are given the opportunity to further defend or reconfigure their initial position, winners are decided by their ability to identify the relevant ethical features of the case, articulate the most reasonable position to take, and engage with the other team and any alternative positions taken in a productive manner.
Regis’ road to North Carolina began in February with a regional round of over 350 teams. Competing against 20 teams from 9 other high schools at the Westchester Regional Bowl, Regis earned the top two spots, but per tournament rules only one group of Regians was allowed to advance to the next round. Comprised of Sebastian Cardena '22, Toby Platt '23, Andrew Joel '23, Will Lee '23, and Leo Lobaccaro '23, the team representing Regis would follow up their win with a 2-1 victory over Townsend Harris High School, earning them one of the 24 spots at the national competition in April.
“It's been a great experience getting to see these guys exercise their intellectual and affective capacities for moral reasoning; and it's also been a lot of fun,” said Theology teacher and Ethics Bowl moderator Mr. AJ DeBonis. “I'm proud of their curiosity and tenacity in sorting through the complexities of the issues at stake, for their collaborative and constructive spirit, and for their willingness to engage in respectful dialogue with others and see things from multiple points of view. It genuinely gives me hope for the future of our pluralistic, democratic society to see young people tackle such pressing societal problems that affect diverse constituents with prudence and discernment.”
In Chapel-Hill, the Regians went 3-1 in preliminary competition, but were narrowly defeated in the quarterfinals by returning national champions University High School (CA). The group left the tournament placing 7th overall in the nation.
“Being part of Ethics Bowl has highlighted for all of us the extent to which people from different cultural and academic settings, even within the United States, tend to approach ethical problems from totally different perspectives. But at the same time, it's shown us how much room there is to mediate between those viewpoints and reach agreement about how to act morally," said Platt. “It was thrilling to get this far in our first year—none of us had high expectations, which made our success all the more satisfying and ensured we had fun along the way rather than taking ourselves too seriously. That said, we have high hopes for next year and we're all looking forward to competing again."