The Examined Life: Winning Words prepares high schoolers for an epic ethics competition

Ethics Bowl

By Author Lucas McGranahan | The University of Chicago Magazine — Spring/20

“Is it disrespectful to the victims of slavery to celebrate a wedding on a former slave plantation?” asks Jacob Blitz, Class of 2020, in a Cobb Hall classroom. He’s not posing the question to classmates or a professor. He’s addressing two teams of high schoolers at the fifth annual Chicago Regional High School Ethics Bowl competition.

Held on the Saturday before the Super Bowl, the event is about scoring points through feats of intellect and persuasion rather than physical prowess.

Ethics Bowl was the brainchild of Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) philosophy professor Robert Ladenson. But the current vibrant high school ethics bowl scene in Chicago can be traced largely to the work of one UChicago faculty member: Bart Schultz, PhD’87, senior lecturer in philosophy and director of the Civic Knowledge Project (CKP). Schultz leads CKP’s Winning Words program, which prepares students for ethics bowl competitions, in collaboration with Kelly Laas, librarian/information researcher at IIT’s Center for the Study of Ethics.

For a handful of teams, the road to regionals included a practice round hosted on South Campus the previous week by UChicago’s Office of Special Programs–College Prep. After an overview of college readiness resources by OSP–CP director Dovetta McKee, the teams sharpened their skills in some scrimmages.

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