THHS Advances to the Regional Playoff Finals for the National Ethics Bowl

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Building on their success from last year, the Townsend Harris Ethics Bowl Team has a chance to advance to the National Ethics Bowl for a second straight year after finishing first among New York City schools and second overall against New York City and New Jersey schools. They have yet to find out their next competitor, but will now move forward in the competition against the regional winner from another division for a place in the national competition.

In their race to finish second overall, the Ethics Bowl Team competed against schools including Newark Academy, Stuyvesant High School, Horace Mann School, Hunter College High School, and Kent Place School. They were victorious against Hunter in the Semifinals and secured first place in the NYC regional, but they were later defeated by Kent Place in their second round of finals, finishing as runners-up.

The Classic previously reported on this competition last year, when the team finished first overall in the same regional round to automatically advance to the finals. The Ethics Bowl is an academic competition in which students discuss real-life issues and analyze ethical dilemmas. Competitors develop arguments and decide on a justified course of action for moral cases. According to the National High School Ethics Bowl, “An ethics bowl differs from a debate competition in that students are not assigned opposing views; rather, they defend whichever position they think is correct, provide each other with constructive criticism, and win by demonstrating that they have thought rigorously and systematically about the cases and engaged respectfully and supportively with all participants.”

Though participating in the Ethics Bowl at THHS is an extension of the Philosophy Club, competitors do not have to be club members. This year’s team was composed of seniors Andre Chen, Joel Ibabao, Sruthi Manish, Jasmine Palma, and junior Elliot Heath (Elliot and Jasmine are Classic editors). 

Philosophy Club advisor Nicole Gleizer said, “Ethics Bowl is very student-driven. There is not a formally established club or academic team dedicated to Ethics Bowl as you would see for Mock Trial or Robotics, so putting a team together is totally up to the students, their interest, and their dedication.”

Joel, who is also the president of the Philosophy Club, emphasized the importance of a well-rounded team. “Half the victory is creating the strongest team possible,” he said. “Our teams were especially talented and brilliant for the last two years which contributed immensely to our continued success.”

To prepare for each competition, the team developed their public speaking and research skills through case review and collaborative feedback. Each team member also specializes in a variety of domains, including philosophy, government, the court system, and media.

Sruthi said, “We were each given a set number of cases and set up Zoom meetings in order to discuss our cases, understand what ethical theories to use in each case, and finalize our stance.”

Joel added, “Like nearly every other competition like Scioly or Mock Trial, it requires a hefty modicum of research whether that’s on Marx’s labor value theory or predictive policing. It involves public speaking yet it’s collaborative; it sometimes feels like a really intense Socratic seminar. It’s a lot more difficult than debate because although moral principles could potentially underlie the arguments during debate, we often find ourselves dissecting these ideals ourselves.”

Members of the THHS Ethics Bowl Team shared their excitement about their continued accomplishments and the prospect of attending the National Ethics Bowl.

Sruthi said, “I am really glad we won at regionals and I am looking forward to the qualifying match. Despite the time crunch, I am glad that we were able to have great teamwork and pull through. If we win the qualifying match, I can’t wait to play nationally, hopefully in person.” 

Joel concluded, “I feel incredibly excited about being a finalist two years in a row! I really hope we win the upcoming match with the winner of another regional so that we advance to Nationals where we’ll hopefully exact revenge on Kent Place.”

The THHS Ethics Bowl team has yet to receive information about when the competition will be or whom they will be competing against, but if they are able to advance, they will secure a spot in the National Tournament.

Photo courtesy of the THHS Ethics Bowl Team