Yesterday, two Middle School teams represented Gill St. Bernard’s at the first-ever New Jersey Middle School Ethics Bowl. The inaugural event was hosted by the Ethics Institute at Kent Place School and included eight New Jersey independent schools.
Inspired by the longstanding National High School Ethics Bowl, the Middle School Ethics Bowl strives to promote collaborative discussion about moral and ethical issues. According to Lower & Middle School Director Kyle Armstrong, “The format is similar to a debate competition where one team presents an argument and the other team responds. Unlike a debate, however, the responding team is not trying to poke holes in the other team’s argument but to build on it and make it stronger.” He adds, “Middle School is a great time to foster these skills. By sixth or seventh grade, students are ready to take part in dialogues about ethical issues, and they are able to do the background research to contribute thoughtfully to the conversation.”
Armstrong began working with the students this winter when Kent Place invited Gill to join the event. Armstrong offers, “We had 11 students comprising two teams. We met after school each week for an hour or so, giving us enough time to dig into the cases and prepare for the event.”
Each of the teams was given a list of actual six cases that presented ethical questions, such as the 2017 case in which Harvard rescinded offers of admission for 10 students after the students posted inappropriate content on social media. Armstrong explains that Middle Schoolers were encouraged to research the background for each of the cases thoroughly, but that they were not allowed to bring any notes to the actual Ethics Bowl. “The focus is not on making a compelling written argument but articulating your ideas in the moment and taking part in a civil conversation,” he explains. “Students are allowed to take notes once they are there, however, so they can reference something another student said.”
Each team was judged on clarity of thought, use of the data, and how the students responded to the other team. “The students had researched everything surrounding the cases and they were modeling civic discourse at its best. It was great to be a part of the Ethics Bowl, and I hope it becomes an annual event. The students were collaborating together and validating one another’s ideas, and you could see the arguments becoming better and more persuasive as a result. I am proud of all the students who took part.”
Congratulations to the members of our Middle School Ethics Teams: Katie Chen ’23; Justin Carlucci ’23; Philip Vayntrub ’23; Aaron Combs ’24; Jack Dahler ’24; Dakauri Pickney ’24; Sofia Criscola ’25; Sanjay DeSilva ’25; Emily Dicks ’25; Lucy Halstead ’25; and Kate Horton ’25.
Special thanks to Marcella Criscola P ’25, ’26, ’29 who helped at the event.