Eton Defeated at Ethics Cup

Eton Defeated at Ethics Cup

On Thursday 23 February our team of Fourth Year and Lower Sixth pupils went to Kings College London to compete in the South-East division of the Ethics Cup competition. It is not a traditional debating tournament, rather is designed to reward not the ability to win an argument but the ability to thoroughly advance debates on ethical issues of public concern.

The teams had eleven cases to prepare in advance but were not allowed notes on the day, neither did they know until the match started, which cases they would be discussing. There were a range of topical ethical issues being explored, which I have included below, but involved considering problems such as the challenge of maintaining objectivity in journalism, or whether it is possible to celebrate art without excusing the transgressions of the artist. The team faced some tough competition from eleven other schools but managed to win every match they competed in, impressing the judge, in particular, with their clear, structured presentations which got to the heart of the ethical issue at hand, their responses to questions both from the other teams and the expert panel of judges, most of whom, were Philosophy professors or PHD students from universities such as Cambridge, KCL, Exeter and LSE. Having won our group stage, we moved on to the semi-final winning 3-0 against Ark Globe Academy. It then came to the highly anticipated final match against Eton, which again we won 3-0 scoring a 25-point difference.

Many of the teams competing comprised of Sixth Form pupils, many of whom were Upper Sixth, which gives further context to the outstanding achievements of the team, half of whom were from our Fourth Year. We now progress on to the National final which will take place at St Andrew’s University in May where we will meet the other regional winners for a final head-to-head. The judges offered great advice to all those intrigued by these Philosophical questions, which was to start off by putting aside your own opinion and instead think about what the smartest, most respected person you could think of might argue to support the opposite point of view from you and from there work out how best to defend your argument.

We have a new set of cases to consider and look forward to putting this advice into practice. Every pupil involved spoke afterwards of how proud they were of their achievements, and for many of them it was the best achievement of their life so far, not just in terms of academic excellence but also for the support they gave each other and the way in which they collaborated across the year groups as a team. I think perhaps one of the most memorable moments was in the last few seconds of the final match when one of the team in response to judge’s question said, “to answer your question, a single sentence can hold great power, such as “to be or not to be”. The judge responded, “That is the question!” at which point the buzzer rang out and the competition was over, with a collective sigh of disappointment from the audience that we would not be able to hear more!

Congratulations to Millie B, Lana C, Abi C, Vivienne C, and George M from the Fourth Year and Amali C, Sophie H, Ammara K, Chante M, Louis P, Seb Q-E, Ollie R and Joe S from the Lower Sixth Form.

The regionals case set
1. How should we weigh competing claims for parenthood (e.g. genetic, gestational, social)?
2. Is it possible to celebrate art without excusing the transgressions of the artist: How? If it is not, what should become of the art?
3. The same messaging encryption which lets investigative journalists communicate safely is also employed by violent criminals and terrorist actors. Are the good uses of each technology worth the cost in malicious uses?
4. Under what circumstances is it morally permissible to ghost someone?
5. Political philosophers often draw a distinction between the public sphere and the private sphere, saying that the public sphere is a proper domain for legal regulation, whereas people should be left mostly to do as they please in their private lives. Are the choices newly wedded couples make about their surnames the sort of private matter that’s an improper object of legal regulation?
6. Is reporting better, all else being-equal, when done by someone who has no opinion on the issues on which they’re reporting?
7. Is it morally permissible for researchers to upload their articles to a website if the articles are behind a paywall?
8. Is it possible, and proper, to uphold family traditions when those traditions involve an unethical practice?
9. Could a policy to decriminalise incest be supported?
10. Should the Ethics Cup have changed its name from the John Stuart Mill Cup since we now recognise that John Stuart Mill harboured some views that we now recognise to be racist?
11. Should breeding animals of a breed that is beset by severe genetic disabilities be illegal?

Mrs Sam Webster,
Head of Philosophy & Theology

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