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  • Maia Riggs

Walls Team Competes in National Ethics Bowl at UNC

From March 31 to April 2, the School Without Walls ethics team competed in the National High School Ethics Bowl (NHSEB) at UNC Chapel Hill, placing 11th overall.


Ethics Club is a group of students that meets weekly to discuss moral approaches to difficult situations. This team argues the ethics of different situations, from consent in the world of photography to the danger of lethal force police robots.


The four students who went to the national competition went through much preparation to get them there. Josie McCartney (‘24), Mary-Louisa Leopold (‘23), David Sipos (‘24) and Zoe Becker (‘26) had to first win the regional D.C. ethics bowl, on Feb 11.


In previous years, a regional bowl victory would be enough to get you straight to the NHSEB. However, since more ethics teams have cropped up around the country, a new divisional entry round must now be cleared as well. The SWW team went head to head with the winner of the Virginia regional ethics bowl and came out successful earlier this year, ensuring their spot at the national competition.


With funding from the HSA and the Parr Center for Ethics, the team was able to fly down to North Carolina and stay in a hotel for only about $100 each.


In a bracket style competition, the participating ethics teams competed against four other teams in the morning on Saturday, and the top eight teams progressed to the quarterfinals round of competition.


The team that attended the national competition undertook a great deal of preparation in order to be ready for the intense competition to come. There are 15 different ethical situations — or “cases” — discussed throughout the competition. The cases cover a wide range of subjects, on both large and small scales. The four students split the cases up evenly for individual research, and then arranged times for group discussion.


The SWW team just missed the top-eight cutoff and therefore did not make it to the quarterfinals. However, winning is not everything. McCartney, the co-president of the ethics team (who is also a senior editor at The Rookery), said, “In the month before I think we all got kinda caught up in the idea of winning the whole thing, but then I remember that my original goal was just to qualify for Nationals.”


This is the first time in several years that the SWW team has qualified for the NHSEB.

Walls didn’t “need to win,” McCartney said. “I’m just grateful to be able to qualify and be able to go and have that opportunity to discuss with people.”


The students who attended Nationals also made new friends and connected with participants hailing from Iowa to Miami. “You’re talking with people from all over the country who have different approaches to how they present their ideas and what their ideas even are,” McCartney said. “Everyone there is so nice, and also so smart and accomplished as well.”


Though only four participants went to Nationals, Ethics Club is much larger than that; around 10 to 15 students meet mornings every Wednesday to unleash their philosophical thinking. Some students return weekly, while others float in and out.


McCartney invited anyone to come, adding that at most meetings, you will be pleasantly greeted with a warm cup of jasmine tea.


Ethics Club meets in room 330 on Wednesdays at 8:15 a.m.


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