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Press Release: High School Philosophers Statewide “Kant” Wait to Compete in the 5th Annual Michigan High School Ethics Bowl

Ann Arbor, MI – Is it ethical for banks to raise the credit lines of financially vulnerable customers? What are the moral limits of lawyer-client privilege in murder cases? Should protester anonymity be protected in all venues? What ethical considerations should be taken into account in emergency medical evacuations?

On February 17 and 18, more than 100 high school students from across lower Michigan will gather on the U-M campus to discuss, argue and examine these and other equally challenging quandaries during the fifth annual Michigan High School Ethics Bowl. The winner of this “collaborative competition” will go on to represent Michigan in the National High School Ethics Bowl, held at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in April. The victorious team will also  claim the state crown and The Hemlock Cup for the 2018 school year.

As in the past, this year’s competition is being hosted and coordinated by local nonprofit A2Ethics, with the support of the U-M Department of Philosophy Outreach Program and faculty coaches from participating schools in the Michigan Ethics Bowl League. The two-day event will be held at the Palmer Commons on U-M’s Ann Arbor campus.                                                                         

 Since 2014, the year it was launched by A2Ethics, the Bowl has challenged teams of students to present their original analysis of case studies written by a diverse group of community leaders and Michigan-based professionals. This year’s 16 contributors are drawn from the fields of law, social work, health care, business and finance, environmental education and media.   

“Back in 2014,” says A2Ethics founder and president Jeanine DeLay, “our goal in organizing the High School Ethics Bowl was to establish an engaging extracurricular program for students interested in thinking together, and studying philosophy and real world ethics issues. Michigan was one of the first states to join the National High School Ethics Bowl initiative, which is now active in 25 states and the District of Columbia. Since then, and thanks in large part to the energy and passion of our university mentors, high school coaches, and community volunteers, the Bowl has expanded at a remarkable pace. At our inaugural competition, we welcomed 40 students from 5 area high schools. Our 2018 Bowl will include 100+ students from 11 schools, representing 6 counties in Michigan.”

She adds that, this year, the Bowl will welcome its first school from western Michigan—Portage Northern, coached by Western Michigan University philosophy grad students. Another long-distance participant, returning for a third year, will be Saginaw Arts & Sciences Academy, which has the largest high school philosophy club in the state.

DeLay goes on to note that, in addition to the competition itself, a major focus this year will be recognizing and honoring volunteers—particularly those who have supported the event from the start.

Topping that list are the 60 Ethics Bowl judges—an eclectic group of philosophy teachers and grad students from 11 colleges and universities plus faculty from the U-M Center for Bioethics and Social Sciences in Medicine, the U-M Center for Complex Systems and the Ethics Path of Excellence program at Michigan Medicine as well as the nonprofit Dispute Resolution Center of Ann Arbor.

Also on the honor roll are 10 longtime A2Ethics volunteers—scorekeepers, moderators and registration staff—who are being joined at this year’s Bowl by 25 other members of the community. 

DeLay adds, “It is especially important to note that the Bowl is thriving because of our unique three-way partnership with the U-M Department of Philosophy Outreach Program and the high school faculty coaches in the High School Ethics Bowl League. We’re very grateful to the U-M philosopher coaches who work with student teams throughout the season. This campus-community initiative now includes one third of the graduate students in the Department and has greatly expanded opportunities for students to be introduced to the many wonders and the world of philosophy. We would also like to recognize the original members of the Bowl League: Greenhills School and Pioneer High of Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti Community Schools and the youth program Dedicated to Make a Change, Saline High School, and Washtenaw Technical Middle College.”

Perhaps the most eloquent champions of the Bowl are the students, whose enthusiasm is evident—and unflagging—throughout the demanding two-day event. “Fun, interesting and enlightening” is how Mikayla Wallace of Wayne Memorial High School characterizes the experience. Fellow participant Bonnie Liu of Ann Arbor Greenhills High School describes it this way: “Exercising my own intellectual capacity and moral faculty to deliberate between virtue and vice, and prescribe an optimal course of action is always exhilarating…Ethics Bowl has led me to fall down the rabbit hole and awaken my inner philosopher. Needless to say, I cannot be more grateful.”

The 2018 Bowl competitors include last year’s champion Wayne Memorial High School as well as four new schools: Meadow Montessori of Monroe, Oak Park High School, Portage Northern of Kalamazoo, and Washtenaw International High School (WIHI) from Ypsilanti.  The complete 2018 Bowl school line-up is as follows: 

Ann Arbor Greenhills
Ann Arbor Huron
Ann Arbor Pioneer
Meadow Montessori High School
Oak Park High School
Portage Northern
Saginaw Arts & Sciences Academy
Saline High School
Wayne Memorial (2017 Michigan Ethics Bowl Champion, Hemlock Cup)
Washtenaw International High School
Washtenaw Technical Middle College

Founded in 2008, A2Ethics is an all-volunteer, nonprofit dedicated to promoting ethics and philosophy initiatives through events, educational programs and civic partnerships in local communities. Its many projects and activities include the Big Ethical Question Slam and the Ethics Economy Initiative, a podcast interview series featuring ethics professionals from across Michigan. In 2018, A2Ethics is celebrating its 10th anniversary.

The University of Michigan Department of Philosophy Outreach Program aims to provide tools for fostering philosophical conversations throughout the community, to widen and enrich philosophy in and outside the community.

The Michigan Ethics Bowl League includes those high schools participating in the Ethics Bowl. All Michigan high schools are encouraged to join the League and the National Ethics Bowl movement.

For more information on the Michigan High School Ethics Bowl 5, visit www.a2ethics.org. Or contact Jeanine DeLay at jadelay@umich.edu