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Master in Law Program plays integral role in Philadelphia’s first regional High School Ethics Bowl

April 07, 2020

Last month, Philadelphia held its first ever regional High School Ethics Bowl at the Perry World House, co-facilitated by Dustin Webster ML’21 and with generous support from the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School.

The competition poses difficult ethical questions to teams of high school students, who discuss and debate issues among themselves, considering all perspectives before presenting their arguments to a panel of judges. Teams earn points for solutions they devise to complex problems and also for the respect they show opposing teams.

Executive Director of the Law School’s Master in Law (ML) program Catharine Restrepo L’93 provided opening remarks for the competition, and ML Program Coordinator Kait Johnstone served as a judge. Restrepo said the Law School was thrilled to be associated with this event because it teaches Philadelphia-area high schoolers – future leaders and policy makers – to use ethics in decision-making, civility in discourse, and a collaborative spirit when confronting complex societal issues.

“The thing about talking philosophy, especially ethical philosophy,” said Webster, “is that everyone kind of does it already, we just don’t always think about it as philosophy or ethics. These high school students are making ethical decisions every day. They’re ready to have these types of discussions. It’s just not always framed that way.”

Webster, who is also a second-year doctoral student in the Graduate School of Education (GSE), became acquainted with the Ethics Bowl while a graduate student at Columbia University. He was a judge and moderator for the local event there, and then worked with his advisor, GSE professor Sigal Ben-Porath and Penn Professor of Philosophy and Education Dr. Karen Detlefsen to plan the High School Ethics Bowl in Philadelphia.

Webster co-taught Dr. Detlefsen’s Academically Based Community Service (ABCS) “Philosophy for the Young” course in partnership with several Philadelphia high schools, through which Penn undergrads work with high school students to prepare them for the competition. Before this year, the closest regional competition was at Villanova University held in November, but the national organization agreed to add one in Philadelphia in February.

The ABCS course and the High School Ethics Bowl operate under Penn’s Project for Philosophy of the Young, directed by Dr. Detlefsen, whose efforts were crucial in securing a regional High School Ethics Bowl.

Generous sponsors of the Ethics Bowl also include the GSE, Netter Center, the Andrea Mitchell Center for the Study of Democracy, and the Making a Difference in Diverse Communities grant from the School of Arts and Sciences.

Read more about the competition at Penn Today.