The other schools in attendance were Appomattox Regional Governor’s School, Atlee High School, James River High School, Hargrave Military Academy, Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, and Wakefield High School.
After four rounds, a semifinal (which ended in a tie) and the final, James River High School finished the day as the state champions.
Sharayah Cochran, an art history instructor at Virginia Commonwealth University, served as a judge and moderator for the competition. She says the Ethics Bowl participants are developing a skill that is disappearing.
“Instead of talking on a Facebook wall, they are learning how to talk in person and how to talk one at a time,” she said. “There are long-lasting benefits to participating in an event like this.”
In the Ethics Bowl, student teams compete by presenting a position related to a real-world ethical case, with an emphasis on economics and public policy decision-making. Unlike a traditional debate, Ethics Bowl participants are not assigned opposing views; instead the competition depends on how thoughtfully teams have examined their case and how clearly they can state their position. Teams could choose from a list of cases compiled by the National High School Ethics Bowl.
Collegiate Senior Seminar teacher Rhiannon Boyd coordinated the first statewide high school ethics bowl in 2015, and has sought every year to recruit judges whose experience mimics what’s happening at the national level. This year, judges from Virginia Commonwealth University, John Tyler Community College and Longwood University participated.
Mrs. Boyd’s interest in a statewide bowl grew from the work around ethics she had been doing for years with her senior seminar students. She launched Collegiate’s Ethics Bowl in 2009, and saw the value in giving her students an opportunity to trade ideas and perspectives with other high schoolers.
“It’s all about skill building,” said Mrs. Boyd, who competed in a similar event as a college student and saw the positive impact it could have in the lives of students.
“It allows you to address difficult topics in a civil manner.”
As the event grows each year, Mrs. Boyd feels proud that Collegiate serves both as host and competitive participant.
“It reflects who we say we are so fully as a School with responsible citizenship,” she said. “Listening to the ideas of others makes you better. It’s good for Virginia schools. It’s good for everybody.”
The winning team now heads to the National High School Ethics Bowl at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in April.