Regional Ethics Bowl Allows Students to Grapple with Big Questions


Westview thinkers who participated in the 2022 West Tennessee High School Ethics Bowl January 29 are (Front, L to R) Gryphon Rowland, John Wilson, Aliza Perry, (Middle, L to R) Knox Black, Leo Brown, (Back, L to R) Bryce Garner, and Samantha Bates. Not pictured are coaches Westview teacher Ashley Meadows and volunteer Merry Brown.


Weakley County Schools Communications Director

MARTIN (January 29) - Westview students heard case studies and then responded to tough questions as part of the West Tennessee High School Ethics Bowl held Saturday, January 29, on the University of Tennessee at Martin’s campus.

Competing against two Union City High School teams, the Westview group took second place.

The West Tennessee High School Ethics Bowl is a National High School Ethics Bowl Regional Competition hosted by the University of Tennessee at Martin. Christopher Brown, PhD, and Professor of Philosophy at the University of Tennessee at Martin, serves as the event’s director.

The competition is sponsored by the History and Philosophy Department at UTM, Dr. David Coffey, Department Chair, and the Honors Program at UTM, Dr. John Glass, Director.

The National High School Ethics Bowl and the regional ethics bowls it supports are competitive yet collaborative events in which students discuss real-life ethical issues. In each round of competition, teams take turns analyzing cases about complex ethical dilemmas and responding to questions and comments from the other team and from a panel of judges. 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. Data from NHSEB surveys shows that this event teaches and promotes ethical awareness, critical thinking, civil discourse, civic engagement, and an appreciation for multiple points of view.

Playing in four rounds with two teams competing each round, the day stretched from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Case studies and questions on the regional level cover topics such as social media, COVID-19 and the media, dating and the ethics of ghosting, suffering of wild animals, predictive policing, user privacy and technology related to law enforcement, family ancestry, separating the art of an artist from personal affronts attributed to that artist, public health and priorities, genetics, employers’ restrictions on employees’ public speech, paralympic pay parity, manipulating images and audio, familial obligations, and privacy rights of minors.

Westview High School’s team was comprised of Samantha Bates, Knox Black, Leo Brown, Bryce Garner, Aliza Peery, Gryphon Rowland, and John Wilson. English teacher Ashley Meadows and volunteer Merry Brown serve as the Westview coaches.

Union City High School was represented by Elizabeth Lattus, Lydia Runions, Chloe Meade, Kate Schlager, Tai’Zhan Fuller, Jordan Hernandez, Allyson Beaman, Daniel Edwards, Arden Stanley, Lucas Greer, Myranda Parr, Kaylee Daniels, Ella Virgin, Alexa Nolan with Coaches Joanna Wisener and Angelique Killebrew.

Reigning champions Dresden High, who won in the two previous years, took 2022 off, said advisor Cassie King, but have plans to return to the competition in the future.

Judges for the 2021 bowl were UTM faculty: Dr. Matthew Braddock, History and Philosophy; Dr. Jim Fieser, History and Philosophy; Dr. John Glass, Honors Programs; Dr. Nathan Howard, History and Philosophy; Dr. Carrie Humphreys, Accounting, Finance, Economics, and Political Science; Dr. Tina Lee

Criminal Justice; Dr. Margaret Lewis, History and Philosophy; Dr. Dan McDonough, History and Philosophy; Dr. Joseph Ostenson, Psychology; Dr. Adnan Rasool, Accounting, Finance, Economics, and Political Science; Dr. John Schommer, Mathematics and Statistics; and Dr. Susan Winters, Nursing.

The National High School Ethics Bowl was founded in 2012 as the product of a partnership between the Squire Family Foundation and the Parr Center for Ethics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Brown, who utilized the Ethics Bowl as part of her instruction when she taught in UTM’s philosophy department, helped start the regional competition at the university three years ago. She noted, “It’s not the philosophy bowl; it’s the ethics bowl, and you don’t have to be a philosophy teacher to help students with critical thinking.”

“I see great value in giving our students the opportunity to develop critical thinking and active listening skills in an atmosphere that challenges them to think through complicated social issues together,” she added. “I count it an honor to see the students I work with grow and develop. In our divisive world, these students are living proof that we can gather and thoughtfully discuss difficult topics in a civil manner.”