This year the Portland State University School of Social Work is joining the Philosophy Department in sponsoring and facilitating the Oregon High School Ethics Bowl. Ethics is an important topic for social workers, who frequently encounter ethical dilemmas in providing poorly funded and unpopular services to the most vulnerable and oppressed members of society. Child abuse, drug and alcohol use, poverty, violence, and disability are just a few of the ethically charged issues in social work practice. People disagree on how to address these social issues, and these differences in beliefs and values can result in shouting rather than dialogue, and the determination to be right rather than to listen and understand. We all struggle with finding solutions to complex problems, especially when we struggle just to talk to each other.
High School Ethics Bowl asks participants to think deeply and rationally about controversial and difficult ethical issues, while also requiring consideration and respect for multiple perspectives. High School Ethics Bowl is a uniquely valuable experience in learning to conduct an ethical analysis, and perhaps just as importantly, how to consider multiple perspectives, to listen to others, and to respond to others politely and in a spirit of mutual discovery.
In addition to analytical skills and respectful dialogue, the performance of youth in the Ethics Bowl is extraordinary. Watching young people engaging with difficult issues, discussing and analyzing them with enthusiasm, and with such decorum is inspiring. It provides a sense of hope and optimism in these youth becoming the future leaders we need to create and maintain a truly just society. Political and community leaders could learn a great deal by the example of youth engaged in Ethics Bowl.
All of the benefits of Ethics Bowl participation contribute to the type of future society that Social Work strives for when we advocate alongside those who are seeking our assistance in attaining the stability, opportunity, and growth that most people take for granted. High School Ethics Bowl is a great step in teaching future leaders to address difficult issues alongside and in partnership with those who are most affected. The world we live in is a complicated place, and Social Work is a profession dedicated to helping others navigate problems in living. High School Ethics Bowl makes a difference; it creates members of society who can understand and help solve social problems.
Post by Greg Pugh, Ph.D., MSW, Assistant Professor of Social Work, Assistant Director for OHSEB 2015-2016