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RHS Team Wins Regional Ethics Competition

Radnor's Ethics Bowl team competed Saturday at the Philadelphia Area Regional Ethics Bowl Competition held at Villanova University, and dominated the competition, with a 5-0 record and winning the championship.

On Saturday December 1st, five Radnor students participated in the Philadelphia Area High School Ethics Bowl, held at Villanova University. An Ethics Bowl is “a competitive event in which teams of up to five members analyze ethical dilemmas. The goal is to demonstrate knowledge of the issues at stake, to develop a framework to direct actions, and to answer questions asked by judges. Teams do not need to take pro and con positions. Both teams can agree with each other. The clarity and persuasiveness of the argument about what we ‘ought’ to do determine the winner. (Ethics Program, Villanova University)”

Radnor was one of twelve teams competing today, with teams coming from Phoenixville, Wilmington, Cherry Hill and many other school districts in the tri-state area. The competition started with three round-robin rounds of debate. The teams were paired up and a coin was flipped. The winner of the coin toss was the “presenting” team while the other team responded, and then the roles were reversed for the second case. A panel of three judges listened to the cases and asked teams questions probing their positions. Each of the three judges assigned a point value based on the presentation, identification of the moral dimensions of the case, avoidance of ethically irrelevant issues, awareness and thoughtful consideration of other opinions, and the rebuttal. Each judge could award up to 60 points, for a total possible score of 180.

Radnor competed against the team from Cherry Hill East High School in the first round and won 151-141. The two discussion questions were: 1) Should the Red Cross be allowed to provide first aid training to Taliban fighters in Afghanistan? 2) Should students be allowed to collaborate and “borrow” the efforts of others on homework assignments?

In the second round, Radnor competed against the team from Wilmington Friends School. Radnor won 143-136. The two discussion questions were: 1) Should employers be allowed to request applicant’s social medial profiles? 2) Did a high school girl who had been raped behave ethically when she defied a court order and released her attackers’ names?

In the third round, Radnor competed against the team from Moorestown Friends School. Radnor won 144-133. The two discussion questions were: 1) Without reasonable suspicion that a person is carrying contraband, is it morally permissible to strip search anyone, even traffic violators, citing jailhouse security concerns? 2) Is it morally permissible to consume Adderall, Ritalin, etc. for the purpose of increasing academic grades?

After the round-robin competition, all the teams ate lunch in a cafeteria on campus. The semi-finalists were announced after lunch, with Radnor in the top position points-wise. Also in the semi-finals were Conestoga High School, Cherry Hill East High School, and Phoenixville High School. Radnor competed against Phoenixville High School in the semi-final round, and won 138-130. The two discussion questions were: 1) The New York Times reported that students from $200,000 income families score 400 points higher than students from $20,000 families [Higher income students are more likely to retest and take prep courses.] Should the role of the SAT in college admissions be reevaluated? 2) Should offshore drilling be more restricted because of the potential effects of an oil spill, no matter how unlikely such a spill may be?

The final round was held in front of all the teams who stayed to watch, as well as parents, team advisors, and members of the Villanova community. Radnor again faced Cherry Hill East High School’s team for the Championship round. The two discussion questions were: 1) Should policy makers in the state of Texas be able to select a history curriculum that reinforces their own ideology? 2) With regard to the 2012 federal “contraceptive rule” can an employer ethically limit the health care options of its employees based on its institutional morality? Can the government force a religious institution to spend money on actions it finds immoral?

After a tense and incredibly close competition, Radnor won by a score of 137-133. The winner of the Ethics Bowl automatically qualifies for the National High School Ethics Bowl Competition, held April 19-20, 2013, at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Radnor will be representing the Philadelphia Area at that competition.

The team members included Senior Christopher Merken, Senior Christopher Blazey, Senior Griffin Unger, Junior Nick Brady, and Junior Lewis Esser. Radnor also brought Freshman Katherine Hung as an alternate. Carl Rosin, an English and Philosophy teacher at RHS coaches the team. Radnor had never competed in an Ethics Bowl. Before the competition, the original goal of the team was to win at least one round of debate, and hopefully make it to the semi-finals. Winning the entire competition is a great testament to the preparation, public speaking skills, and critical thinking skills exhibited by the team members, as well as the tireless dedication of Mr. Rosin. 

Lisa Borowski December 02, 2012 at 01:40 PM
Congratulations Radnor! Our students excel in so many arenas. Great win!
Gary Merken December 02, 2012 at 02:43 PM
Given the decorum, respect, and civility all the high school students at the competition exhibited in discussing some pretty hot-button issues, I believe that attending the National High School Ethics Bowl in April should be mandatory for all members of Congress. They could stand to learn from the kids how to converse about serious issues in a thoughtful, respective, and productive manner.
Susan Michaelson December 03, 2012 at 12:57 AM
Congratulations to the students, and to Mr. Rosin on the excellent work done here. I wish I had been able to sit in; this is an extraordinary accomplishment.

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