(Pictured above is from a previous High School Ethics Bowl before the pandemic)

The Southern California Regional High School Ethics Bowl competition hosted by Chapman University since 2015, looked a little different this year. Because of the pandemic, the program was integrated with zoom so that everyone could see each other, and breakout rooms were set up so that competing teams had a space to consult with each other at each step before their presentations.

The National High School Ethics Bowl Organization (NHSEB) competition is a national interscholastic competitive program for 9th-12th grade students in which teams discuss and analyze a series of real-life ethically oriented case studies and are judged according to the quality of their reasoning and their responsiveness to the comments and questions of the other team and a panel of judges.

According to Senior Chapman student and Ethics Bowl Moderator, Carla Frias (double major in Religious Studies and Strategic and Corporate Communication) the Ethics Bowl is not like a debate.

“People don’t have to pick a side and fight against the opponent. The Ethics bowl is about sharing, discussing, and agreeing in a middle ground about an important topic to find solutions and answers to social doubts,” she said. “I am always impressed at how highly educated high school students are on controversial topics like the meat industry, TikTok, and the use of contraceptive pills. Students respect each other’s opinions; they take the time to listen and process the information and have great follow up questions to keep the conversation going.”

“Everyone was anxious because none of us knew exactly how [this] was going to work. The first round was a bit chaotic as we all figured out how to use the online platform but by the second round, things went much more smoothly,” said organizer Nancy Martin, professor of Religious Studies in Wilkinson College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences and Director of the Albert Schweitzer Institute.

Although a number of regions across the United States sat out this year, it was important to Martin to make this opportunity available to high school students in Southern California, particularly given the pandemic and the limitations of remote learning. Seventeen schools participated this year (three schools bringing second teams) coming from across the region from San Diego to Santa Barbara.

“As always, all of my students had an amazing experience. With so many vital aspects of high school life [and] activities that students have had to do without this past year, this year’s Ethic Bowl truly meant more than ever for them. I met with both of my teams right afterwards, and they all wanted me to tell you [Dr. Martin] how grateful they were for providing them with their ‘highlight of the year!’, said Glendora High Team Coach Patrick Hart.

Members of the team that won from University High School in Irvine were also almost in tears as they spoke to Martin afterwards, the lead team captain saying that she had grown so much in the last two years of participating and another new team member saying that though she had competed in debates of many kinds before, ethics bowl was by far her favorite because people really engaged in serious discussion of issues that mattered.

Towards the end of the debate, students took the time to express how much they enjoy the Ethics bowl and how exciting it was to speak to other schools, even if it was online.

“The students made it clear that the Ethics Bowl is a valuable event where they learn a lot about what’s going on in the world and the way they can make things better- that to me makes the Ethics Bowl worth it,” said Frias.