Kelvin shows strong moral fibreMarch 29, 2021
You can trust École Secondaire Kelvin students to make an ethical decision.
On Feb. 19, Kelvin won the Manitoba High School Ethics Bowl for the second year in row. Presented by the Manitoba Association for Rights and Liberties (MARL), the competition sees teams of students analyzing various ethical dilemmas.
Coached by recently retired teacher Raymond Sokalski, Kelvin's ethics team is comprised of Grade 12 students Christian Romanowski, Ana Amarante, Madison Vanderhooft, Sam Rothman and Lily Danis, as well as Grade 9 student Sarah Fontaine-Sinclair.
Unlike a traditional debate, Ethics Bowl emphasizes communication and collaboration, with teams encouraged to modify their viewpoints when faced with convincing arguments.
"Your argument can change. It should change," Amarante added. "If you're listening, your argument will change."
"You go in with one opinion, you share yours, you listen to another opinion and by the end you've synthesized them together," Romanowski said. "In the end you have a greater understanding of the issue that you previously had some preconceptions about."
Judges for the annual event, which was virtual this year, include educators, politicians, lawyers and activists.
In preparation for the collaborative competition, Kelvin students spent weeks researching the ten topics up for discussion, which included deep sea mining, criminal records, vaccine distribution and call-out culture.
In a time of political polarization, the students appreciated how Ethics Bowl emphasizes active listening and learning from one another.
"It teaches you to change your opinion and that's how you grow as a person," Vanderhooft said.
"And that it's OK to change your mind," Danis added. "There's a lot of fear in being wrong but what's really good about Ethics Bowl is there are no wrong answers. All opinions are valued and explored rather than saying 'This is right' or 'This is wrong.' It's not as stressful as a classic debate. It's more of a discussion."
"Ethics Bowl teaches you that there's a lot of valour in changing your mind," Amarante said.
In addition to competitions, the Kelvin's ethics team has participated in MARL's virtual Ethics Café. The team has also discussed healthcare and prison systems with American students, as well as algorithms and artificial intelligence with students in Shanghai, China.
Fontaine-Sinclair, the youngest member of the group, said she jumped at the chance to participate in those kinds of intellectual conversations.
"Mr. Sokalski told me all about Ethics Bowl during the summer and I found it so profound that people in high school are having these discussions at such a young age," Fontaine-Sinclair said.
"I really wanted to be a part of that community."
In April, Kelvin will try for the national title at the virtual Canadian High School Ethics Bowl on April 15 and 16. Kelvin previously won the national competition in 2019.
Sokalski retired from full-time teaching in 2020, but he has no plans to stop coaching Kelvin's ethics team.
"It's the one thing I was sure I wanted to keep doing after I left the classroom," Sokalski said.
"It's because I think these discussions are so important. Society seems to be polarized, especially if we look to our neighbours to the south, and even here in Canada to an extent. The tools students use in these discussions I believe will be so indispensable and invaluable as we move forward as a society."