Pioneer High School Ethics team, the “Communist Partay,” advanced to the National Ethics bowl after competing against another Pioneer team, the “Purple Gang,” in the final round of the Regional Ethics Bowl.
Over 20 teams competed in the regional bowl on March 8. Both Pioneer teams had outstanding performances, with the Communist Partay as regional champions, and the Purple Gang as regional runners-up. The Communist Partay will travel to Chapel Hill, N.C., for the National Ethics Bowl on April 10-11.
The Ethics Bowl, which consisted of a morning session, semi-finals, and finals began well for the Pioneer Purple Gang, with three immediate wins against Ypsilanti, Saline, and Huron, advancing the team to semi-finals. “Their match against Saline was a challenge,” says social studies teacher Brent Richards, leading faculty member of the Ethics teams here at Pioneer. “But Huron and Ypsilanti were more inexperienced.”
The Communist Partay did not immediately qualify for semi-finals due to a close loss with Greenhills, but won the tiebreaker to advance onwards. “It was those two blowout wins that really advanced us to semi-finals,” says Pioneer junior and Communist Partay member Basil Baccouche.
Both teams advanced onwards to the final competition, in a Pioneer Communist Partay vs. Pioneer Purple Gang match.
Richards said he didn’t expect Pioneer to dominate the bowl this year.
“Going into the competition, I expected the Communist Partay to have a really good shot,” says Richards, “I knew the Purple Gang could do really well, but I was not expecting (both teams to finish first and second). All the stars kind of aligned for us. I’m happy with how both of our teams performed. It brought out the best in everyone, and they all rose to the occasion.”
The National competition is expected to be a lot more intense, says Richards. “The teams there are well-skilled, prepared, and experienced. It’s going to be cutthroat,” he said, “but the kids want to represent us well. We’re not going to show up and make fools of ourselves.”
With the help of U-M doctoral philosophy student Zoe Johnson-King, the teams will continue to meet three times a week to prepare.
Johnson-King opens up her own classroom for about an hour and a half to teach members of the Pioneer Ethics teams on ethical theories, and joins the students in evening sessions. She will travel to North Carolina with the Communist Partay.
With a few near flawless presentations in the Regional Ethics Bowl, the Communist Partay is planning to keep doing what they have been doing and preparing more for the National Ethics Bowl, says Brett Boehman, junior at Pioneer High School and Student Council president. “We will be reading up on more ethical theories and I plan on focusing on philosophers and historical documents. We know outside research played a big role in our success, and it will have to be a big part of our preparation for nationals if we want to perform well.”
Junior Noe Barrell agrees, saying, “the only thing we are planning on changing for North Carolina is to prepare more and up our game. It’s going to be a lot more intense and challenging than the regional bowl so we will need to be far more prepared than we were.”
The Ethics Bowl also helps students become more guided in morality when it comes to everyday situations, says Boehman. “Ethics is definitely on my mind a lot, I think about it more in relation to issues that don’t directly affect me. Doing the right thing is more at the front of my mind.”