An intercollegiate ethics bowl took place inside the Washington Correction Center for Women (WCCW). The college ethics bowl team from the University of Puget Sound (UPS) competed with the college ethics bowl team comprised of incarcerated college students residing in WCCW and part of the Freedom Education Project Puget Sound (FEPPS) in-prison college program. This project was inspired by the work of the UC Santa Cruz Center for Public Philosophy and spearheaded by Kyle Robertson to bring the ethics bowl to San Quentin State Prison. The ethics bowl at WCCW is the first-ever ethics bowl to be held at a women's prison.
The motivation to organize an ethics bowl at WCCW stems from FEPPS students' desires to do more philosophy. Currently, we are only permitted to teach Introduction to Philosophy as a college-accredited course, A common refrain from students after a course was complete is whether we'll be offering more philosophy courses. One of my past students asked if it was possible to have some debate-style event take place in WCCW as a way to participate in philosophical discourse. This request inspired the idea of organizing an ethics bowl inside WCCW. Although the ethics bowl is styled as a competition with points and eventual victor, it differs from a traditional debate competition in that it is more of a collaborative endeavor to bring people from different histories and social positions together and have constructive dialogue on very important ethical and sociopolitical dilemmas.
The ethics bowl came to fruition through my collaboration with FEPPS, UPS philosophy professor Ariela Tubert, support from colleagues and faculty in the UW Department of Philosophy, and generous funding from the UW Department of Philosophy's Melvin Rader Summer Grant for Innovative Philosophical Projects.
The FEPPS ethics bowl team, comprised of five wonderful and inspiring students residing in WCCW, engaged with the UPS ethics bowl team. The ethics bowl was comprised of two rounds and they wrestled with pressing questions, such as whether China's social credit system is morally justified, is bringing back extinct species by means of genetic technologies a morally worthwhile endeavor, and does a terminally ill child have a right to participate in euthanasia? With the round split 1-1, the judges went to the overall point total and with 254 to 250.5, the UPS team won the inaugural intercollegiate ethics bowl at WCCW.
It was amazing to witness how all the hard work from the organizers, coaches, and especially students culminated in a very positive and meaningful event. In preparation for the event, the FEPPS students met with me weekly for the past six months to study moral theory and examine the ethics bowl cases. They were dedicated, passionate, and thoughtful. It was a pleasure to be a coach for the FEPPS ethics bowl team.
Due to the positive reception, excitement, student support, and success of the inaugural ethics bowl, another ethics bowl inside WCCW is already in the works for 2020.
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