Ethics Bowl Team 2021

The St. Andrew’s-Sewanee School Ethics Bowl team won their third consecutive state championship on Saturday, February 6 in a modified tournament conducted online. Team members include Mac Croom (Sewanee, TN), Lily Garner (Sewanee, TN), Parker Jones (Nashville, TN), Erin Mattingly (Sewanee, TN), and Justine Rogers (Sewanee, TN). The team is coached by SAS Dean of Students and Humanities Department Co-Chair Geoffrey Smith.

The Tennessee state championships included 16 teams from 15 schools, including Webb School of Knoxville, Father Ryan High School, and Pope John Paul II High School. Teams competed in four initial rounds and, for those who advanced, two championship rounds. Students discussed the ethical dilemmas involved in, among other issues, factory farming, charitable giving, and opening schools during COVID. Students presented perspectives on finding the balance between national security and personal liberty and preserving history versus confronting racial injustice when naming buildings and erecting statues.

Coach Smith is often asked why the SAS team seems to fare so well in these competitions. “Our students are intelligent, and we come into the competitions well prepared, but I think that’s true of all of the teams,” Smith said. “I believe the success of our teams has something to do with our emphasis on depth over breadth at SAS and an Episcopal approach to education that prepares our students to see issues from multiple perspectives and to be comfortable in the tension that often exists when finding the balance between issues involving justice and mercy or the desire to be right and the desire to be effective. In a world that likes dichotomies and binaries, our students learn to be comfortable thinking through the complexities and gray areas occupied by most important issues.”

The National High School Ethics Bowl (NHSEB) is a program that promotes respectful, supportive, and in-depth discussion of ethics among high school students. By engaging high school students in intensive ethical inquiry, the NHSEB fosters constructive dialogue and furthers the next generation’s ability to make sound ethical decisions. The NHSEB’s collaborative model rewards students for the depth of their thought, their ability to think carefully and analytically about complex issues, and the respect they show to the diverse perspectives of their peers.  As a result, it enables students to practice and build the virtues central to democratic citizenship and prepares them to navigate challenging moral issues in a rigorous, systematic, and open-minded way. As of 2019, the NHSEB involved over 4,000 students from over 500 teams representing 327 schools.

The SAS team will make their third national championship appearance in April. This year’s national competition will be held virtually. It is sponsored by the Parr School of Ethics at UNC-Chapel Hill.