Some questions have only one correct answer, but for a team of five Hilliard Davidson High School seniors, how they find the answer in an upcoming competition is as important as the answer itself.
For the first time since Davidson's Ethics Bowl team was founded in 2016, the school's students will compete in the National High School Ethics Bowl from April 17 to 19 at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in North Carolina.
Each year, the Parr Center for Ethics at the university releases a set of ethical dilemma cases, and teams of students spend months researching, discussing and preparing arguments on the cases, said Pam Antos, a College Credit Plus English teacher at the Hilliard City Schools' Innovative Learning Center.
"The National High School Ethics Bowl and the regional ethics bowls it supports are competitive yet collaborative events in which students discuss real-life ethical issues," according to nhseb.unc.edu. "In each round of competition, teams take turns analyzing cases about complex ethical dilemmas and responding to questions and comments from the other team and from a panel of judges. An ethics bowl differs from a debate competition in that students are not assigned opposing views; rather, they defend whichever position they think is correct, provide each other with constructive criticism and win by demonstrating that they have thought rigorously and systematically about the cases and engaged respectfully and supportively with all participants."
Antos and Merry Guerrera, also a College Credit Plus English teacher at the ILC, are advisers for all six of the district's ethics teams.
Davidson has three teams, Darby High School has two and Bradley High School has one.
Each team has five to seven students, and except for one sophomore, all the students are juniors and seniors, Antos said.
This is the first school year Bradley has fielded a team; it is the third year for Darby and Davidson.
Davidson's regional championship team consists of seniors Kate DeSanti, Avery Londo, Meg Miller, Emmi Regenbogen and Caitlin Remick.
Davidson's team advanced to the National High School Ethics Bowl after winning a virtual playoff against Montfort Academy, a parochial school in Mount Vernon, New York.
Davidson had defeated Darby in a live contest at the Ohio Regional High School Ethics Bowl in January at the University of Findlay to advance to the playoff. Sixteen teams went to the Ohio finals, including those from Darby and Davidson and one other central Ohio school, the Arts and College Preparatory Academy, a charter school, Antos said.
Twenty-four teams will compete in April in North Carolina; they were pared from 500 teams from 327 schools in 28 states that competed in the past year, Antos said.
This year's regional cases covered such topics as whether it is morally right to force chemotherapy on teenagers against their wishes, whether walking one's dog in a cemetery is inherently disrespectful, whether it is acceptable to assault a racist and whether it is appropriate to interfere with one's autonomy for his or her protection, Antos said.
Students are required to learn all 15 cases issued by the Parr Center for Ethics, as any one might be assigned during the series of contests that lead up to the National High School Ethics Bowl.
However, a new set of cases will be issued this month that the 24 qualifying teams must learn for the national contest, Antos said.
"It will be a lot of work," DeSanti said.
The five Davidson students have been working as a team since September 2018, honing their skills during a series of matches they had lost in 2019 during the Summer High School Ethics Bowl Invitational at DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana, and continuing to sharpen their skills during weekend and after-school gatherings.
"Getting to watch other teams (during the past year) has helped us a lot," Londo said. "We have made what we've seen other teams do our own."
Each teammate has developed a specialty. For example, DeSanti makes closing arguments, and Regenbogen and Remick typically respond to questions from the panels of judges who score the head-to-head contests.
But the teammates first must study a case and pick a unified position.
"We got to passing around a water bottle, and only the person holding it could speak, kind of like our version of a 'talking stick,'" Londo said.
"It can take a while to reach a consensus on some cases," DeSanti said.
But reaching that consensus is a critical part of the process, Guerrera said.
"We want the students to look at all the sides of the cases," she said.
The experience has helped the students in other areas of their lives, they said.
"I'm more confident now to talk in (other) classes and share my opinion," Remick said.
Andrew Londo, Avery's father, said he has seen his daughter's confidence grow and lauds the skills the students have developed to have "reasonable discussions, especially in this age."
The students' dedication is apparent in both the time the students spend preparing and their families' decisions to finance the trip to North Carolina, Antos said.
"We are so proud of their achievements," Guerrera said.