Academic Enrichment-Honours Program: Ethics Olympiad by Alyssa Sorbara (Year 9)

Hello teachers and students,

My name is Alyssa Sorbara, and I am a year 9 student participating in the Ethics Olympiad.

On Monday 21 August, 10 students from across Years 8-9 participated in the Ethics Olympiad Clinic. It was a hard day full of learning and creating new ideas, the Olympiad clinic is where students train as a team and then work collaboratively towards establishing an ethical response to a challenging problem. In this day students from 30 different schools in NSW and SA got to listen and learn from people such as Dr Andrew Cullison from the University of Cincinnati, Archie Stapleton from Harvard, Jack Wells from New School of Social Research – New York, Dr Rachel Robison-Greene from Utah State University and Dr Tim Dean from Sydney Ethics Centre.

The Clinic was a preparation for the actual Ethics competition that will take place in November this year and where 310 national and international teams from NSW, QLD, WA, New Zealand, Tasmania, Hong Kong, Canada, India, the US and Singapore engage in respectful and constructive ethical discussions.

Our day started off with a content heavy learning session from a range of professionals in ethics from countries like Australia and America. In this session we learnt the key points of the stimulus materials which included “How to talk, Moral reasoning skills, effective leadership and other skills”. We had a breakdown on how to present our cases, how to comment on cases and then how to respond to comments.

Each Ethical Heat worked as follows:

  • State question and short answer, pick 1-2 main ethical theories and give reasons on why you support or don’t support this theory.
  • Create a counter-argument against your own case, to show awareness of disagreement.
  • Then give an answer to your own counter-argument and draw an overall conclusion.
  • The other team will be given an opportunity to comment and ask questions on your case, which you must respond to. Finally, the judges will ask questions and look over your case one last time.

Although this sounds confusing with the support of our teammates and mentors, we were able to adapt and learn all these strategies within a day. This then led us to learn about consequentialism, stakeholders, utilitarianism, the laws of ethics, moral principles and many other interesting concepts. We finished off our day with 2 case studies which put our teams into what was a “practice round” of the whole Olympiad. We were given 45 minutes to discuss our case with a few other schools with the guidance of a judge and coaches. This gave us insights into how to respond orally and construct a presentation. Some of the topics and cases we discussed in the clinic were: Is it okay to lie to protect your self-image? and Is it okay to eat animals if they are stupid?

Overall, this day was a great experience as we learnt new strategies and progressed as a team.

Alyssa Sorbara
Year 9

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