My heart raced as the facilitator selected one of the twelve ethical cases that we had been
studying the last four months. We didn’t know which case he placed front-side- down on the table in front of us. I glanced over at the opposing team. Their confident expressions made me sit up straighter in my chair, and I breathed deeply, mentally preparing for my first Ethics Bowl debate.
Ethics Bowl, a club I joined junior year, focuses on framing and discussing complex ethical questions, such as: Should ex-criminals be allowed to keep their records private when re-entering the workforce? Is it permissible for developed countries to outsource their nuclear waste to the developing world? Should Medicaid cover transgender sex changes? Should dogs be prescribed antidepressants? Studying these cases and learning philosophical frameworks have stretched my mind. Every time I hear of a new case, I have an instant opinion. However, I’ve learned to keep these opinions to myself, because I find that with further study, my opinion broadens to the point where I could argue for either side.
The decision to try Ethics Bowl did not come easy. It was a pivotal moment in my Jesuit
experience the day I was forced to choose between the sport I love and this student club. I began the winter of my junior year looking forward to another season on the varsity swim team. As new activities and clubs picked up, I started to hear announcements for Ethics Bowl. My older sister had been very involved in Ethics, but, like the majority of students at Jesuit, I had no real idea what it was. I went to the first meeting and was intrigued. I have always had an interest in social psychology and a deep personal faith. Philosophy seemed to be inextricably related to both. I knew that a weekly meeting would impose on swim practices, but there were plenty of make-up practice times on the schedule. Even though I mentioned this fact to the swim coach and the athletics director, they both said that I needed to “fully commit” to one activity or sport. I was frustrated by this but understood that I had a choice to make. My sister’s enjoyment of Ethics Bowl and my desire to push myself and try new things led me to pick Ethics Bowl over swim team.
After the first few weeks of Ethics Bowl, I became passionate about the material and grew close to my teammates as we prepared for the state competition at Portland State University. My “Dream Team” of four bonded quickly, and the many hours together practicing made us a powerful unit. I felt the same thrilling feelings of competitiveness, teamwork, and sportsmanship that I had felt on swim team. Our team of four sharpened our skills in matches against the other two Jesuit teams. At the state meet at PSU, we ended up winning two out of three Ethics Bowl contests. It did not matter that we didn’t take home a state title and advance to the national competition. We were a team, and we prepared and performed well. To me, our success was found not at PSU but in the journey getting to PSU.
Reflecting back on junior year, Ethics Bowl provided me with more benefits than swim team could have. I am now much more aware and more concerned about global events and everyday discrimination and injustice here in my own city. I approach issues differently, with a conscious effort to take into account the perspectives of all involved. Leaving the comfort of the varsity swim team for something completely new was risky, but it drew out interests and skills I didn’t know I had. Because I took this chance in high school and found success, I know I will have the confidence and drive to do the same in college and as an adult. I want to remain open to growth and continue to challenge myself, whether I fail or succeed. Ethics Bowl helped to teach me that truth.
Post by Meredith M. Nee, a Jesuit High School participant in the 2016 OHSEB