Hofstra hosts ninth consecutive Ethics Bowl
In an effort to promote ethical and moral decision-making among students, Hofstra hosted the annual Long Island High School Ethics Bowl for the ninth consecutive year on Saturday, Feb. 3. Throughout the day, local high school students competed in a series of debate-style rounds in order to qualify for the semifinals and finals held in the Multipurpose Room of the Sondra and David S. Mack Student Center.
A five-member team from The Stony Brook School defeated a team from Jericho High School in the final round after they presented a nuanced analysis of the ethical implications of driverless cars.
“I’m very excited because this is a huge opportunity not only for us but also for our team and for our coaches, who work so tirelessly to make sure that not only are we prepared for the competition itself, but we also learn more about our own viewpoints and get more knowledge on world views that we may not otherwise have been exposed to,” said Avalon Zborovsky-Fenster, a sophomore at The Stony Brook School. As a winner, she, along with her team, will advance to the National High School Ethics Bowl at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill in April.
In each round, teams discussed a case before a panel of judges and applied philosophical, moral and ethical theories during the presentation section. The opposing team then has the opportunity to provide constructive criticism during the commentary portion, to which the presenting team replies. The judges — comprised of philosophy professors, psychologists, graduate and PhD students, lawyers and business people — score teams on each portion and their respectful dialogue.
Starting in September, high school students across Long Island have access to a series of cases released by the event’s organizers. These cases cover a variety of issues with a range of ethical dilemmas. Going into the event, students research policies and theories, but do not know the exact question that they must address until that round.
“It’s made me think a lot about everything that I do on a day-to-day basis,” said participant Kristina Evans, a senior at The Stony Brook School. “I’ve changed a lot of my habits and the way I treat people because of the things that we take for granted and the privileges I have. I never really stopped to think about them.”
In one round, students were asked to examine the issues that arise when one emigrates and the relationships between state and citizen. Using theories such as the social contract, utilitarianism, deontology and egoism, some teams chose to argue that it is impermissible to leave a country while others insisted that it is an “inalienable right” to emigrate.
It is not unusual for some teams to retract their original stance after they take into consideration the judges questions or the opposing team’s commentary. “What I’ve always loved is watching this kind of awakening in other high school students: to understand why they believe what they believe and what they actually want to do,” said senior Derya Ozcan, captain of The Stony Brook team. “Especially since a lot of Americans and high school students don’t have access to things like an education in ethics and philosophy.”