Teacher pleased with teams’ first Ethics Bowl results
April 14, 2021
Two teams from Central participated virtually in Ethics Bowl for the first time earlier this year on Jan. 30, competing against five other schools.
Ethics Bowl is a competition similar to debate where two teams discuss ethical issues, and whichever team makes better points wins. Central’s Ethics Bowl sponsor, English teacher Shane Thomas, was very pleased with how both teams performed.
“Once our teams got past that first match, they started finding a comfort zone,” he said. “I got to bounce back and forth between the different competitions and listen in on our students, and I was really proud of them. I thought they did great.”
One of the teams, Eagle, even made it to the Finals, but they were never able to compete because the match was postponed multiple times and eventually cancelled.
“Our Eagle team would have, I believe, won the whole thing,” Thomas said. “We weren’t able to finish that last round, but, based on how we had kind of gotten our feet under us and started really doing well in those last few matches of the day, I feel like that team could have won and gone on to the next regional competition.”
Part of the reason they were unable to finish that last round was that the competition, originally scheduled to last six to seven hours, ended up taking more than twelve hours. By the end of it, several matches—not just the one the Eagle team was set to play in—had not been completed.
Thomas said this was a result of the difficulties that come with trying to get a big, complicated virtual event to work for everyone.
“You have so many points where, if you’re physically at a hotel or convention center, it’s seamless, but doing it online proved to be a challenge,” he said. “I thought all the competitors did a good job being patient and working through the issues, and the coaches and the judges were really accommodating. Everyone did as much as they could, we were just really limited by the virtual environment.”
After the first day of competition, Thomas said, there were some attempts to play the remaining matches in the following weeks, but teams had to keep on postponing, and eventually they agreed to cancel the remaining matches.
As a result of the competition, however, Thomas was able to start building a relationship between Central and Millard North’s Ethics Bowl teams, and, by extension, their International Baccalaureate Programmes.
This year, Central’s Ethics Bowl team was made up of students from Thomas’s Theory of Knowledge class, a required course for students in IB. Millard North is the only other school in the Omaha area with an IB Programme, so Thomas felt it would be good for the two groups to connect with each other.
Thomas said that about a month after the competition, some of the students from each school attended a virtual ethics seminar at UNO and then met up afterwards to discuss. They plan to do another event similar to that one later this school year, but after that, Thomas wants the students to take charge.
“I feel like it has to evolve organically,” he said. “The kids need to want to do it, and I would like the ideas to come from them. If the teachers are the ones who are initiating it all, then it’s probably not going to be a long-lasting relationship.”
Overall, Thomas wants to see Ethics Bowl continue to grow for years to come.
“I would love for Ethics Bowl to be a tradition at Central, and I would like to see it expand,” he said. “I would like to have kids getting involved who aren’t in IB, but are interested in things like ethics, morality, debate, and argumentation.”
After the first competition, Thomas thinks that the students got a lot out of participating in Ethics Bowl.
“We got a chance for the kids to participate in what I would call a competitive discussion,” Thomas said. “They had a chance to gain some confidence in formulating their thoughts quickly, concisely, and clearly, and it was a chance for them to take the stuff that we do in school and give it life in an environment where you can share your ideas and then be judged on them.”