4 Skyline students are on their way to the 2023 National High School Ethics Bowl this weekend

Students excelled at state and regionals before advancing to nationals

While most high schools in Michigan are on spring break, four Ann Arbor Skyline students are meeting and discussing their ideas about ethics and philosophy with other students, philosophers, and community leader judges from around the nation at the National High School Ethics Bowl competition in Chapel Hill, North Carolina this weekend. 

The “Philosophical Zombies” are Skyline sophomores Catherine van Lent and Kathryn Plotner, junior Shamiso Ruwende, and freshman Ethan Schultz.

High School Ethics Bowls are a fast-growing academic extracurricular that Michigan students have participated in since the National Bowl program began 10 years ago.

The Michigan Bowl is organized and produced by A2Ethics, the Michigan-based public philosophy network, in partnership with the University of Michigan Department of Philosophy Outreach program. The campus community partnership is also 10 years strong. 

Ethics Bowl season begins in September when teams—each school is allowed two teams—are recruited and formed by Bowl school teacher coaches.

According to A2Ethics President Jeanine DeLay, the Michigan Bowl Ann Arbor PS teacher coaches are an accomplished and talented group: Gabe Rettaliata at Skyline; Brent Richards at Pioneer; and Katie Jones at Huron. Pioneer has won the state Bowl twice and Huron has won it once.

“Bowl teams come in different sizes, with some schools having 50 members on their rosters and others having as few as three or four members,” she says. Currently, 12 schools and teacher coaches belong to the Bowl League, representing four counties in southeast Michigan, involving approximately 150 students.  

 2023 Michigan Bowl teams giving their best philosopher impressions. 

The season ramps up in October with the fall kickoff, when schools are paired with philosopher coaches from the University of Michigan Department of Philosophy Outreach program, a group of graduate student volunteers who help coach Bowl teams.

The fall kickoff also includes the launch of the Michigan Ethics Case Study Set that teams examine and prepare to present and comment on at the Bowl competition in February. These case studies pose real-world ethical dilemmas across a wide range of topics such as confidentiality, obligation, justice, and integrity, and fields such as health care, military, sports, and education. 

The annual Bowl weekend is a philosophy and ethics festival of four opening rounds on Saturday and single elimination matches of quarter, semi, and final on Sunday—all put together by a band of 30 local philosophy fans and supporters of A2Ethics and 70 generous-with-their-expertise judges, philosophers from at least 13 universities (including U-M, Eastern Michigan University, and Washtenaw Community College), and community leaders from health care, business, and education.

“The Bowl weekend is the culmination and celebration of the student team and coach learning, listening, arguing, and reasoning together about ethical issues since September,” DeLay said. “All of which results in a unique camaraderie of critical thinkers gathering to talk about and deliberate about ethics matters, and of course, why ethics always matters.”  

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