Glendora Ethics Teams Argue Their Way Through Southern California's Ethics Bowl


Every fall, teacher Patrick Hart gathers a group of students to train for an Ethics competition held at Chapman University in February.

“It’s a passive aggressive form of speech and debate that ties together thought, logic, and line of reasoning to debate in a conversation format,” said Hart.

This was Hart’s seventh year participating in the competition, and he has no plans of stopping anytime soon. He trained two teams of five for over four months for the day-long competition. The teams frequently met and discussed, argued, and even fought over the fifteen cases provided to them for this year’s bowl.

Many of the cases were so complex that teams changed their minds multiple times on which course of action was most morally correct before practicing and simulating against each other.

“I really loved playing devil’s advocate, right when a team thought they had the answer, I asked a question and threw them through a loop,” exclaimed Hart.

Ethics bowl participant junior Paige Costigliolo, explains that her team was often on the receiving end of this treatment.

“Our process for figuring out a case included a whole lot of arguing until one side gave up and we thought we had an answer, then Hart usually asked a question or two and we changed our entire opinion or answer,” Costigliolo recalled.

One of the cases that both teams repeatedly struggled with was Case 11 Billionaire Backfire, which discusses the morality of billionaires’ donations to art and culture instead of charities. The case reminds readers of the Notre Dame fire and the proceeding donations to rebuild it.

Costigliolo affirmed, “The concept behind Billionaire Backfire prompted a really good discussion because we thought charities deserved money, but we did not want to threaten the autonomy of a person who is donating or even scare them away from giving money. We ultimately decided that it was immoral to rank or limit donations.”

The competition itself took place on February 8 this year. Of the three rounds that both teams participated in, Glendora’s A Team, captained by Emma Barrosa, had an overall record of 2-1, while the B Team, captained by Paige Costigliolo, went 1-2. Although neither of the teams made into the finals or semifinals, they hugely enjoyed the experience and are ready to come back stronger next year.

“My favorite part of the whole process was the day of the competition itself. I think the adrenaline really kicked in and we were all ready to argue our way out of any judge’s questions,” Costigliolo pronounced.

Even though Hart was responsible for both teams’ training and preparation, his colleague Barbara Gautreau also came to support at the competition.

“I’ve been to every single one since [my first]... It’s just a different way of seeing my students and the articulation and the thought process that goes into all of it, I just love watching that,” Gautreau explained.

After all of the hard work that went into the Ethics bowl this year, Hart is already devising a new plan for his ethics teams next year. He plans to have Glendora High School’s first ever ethics bowl next fall.

“We are going to have a little bowl to open this up more and help me select teams… I want to expose more kids and have our work pay off for more than just one day,” Hart explained.

Next year, even more teams of students will have the opportunity to debate in this unique fashion in an entirely new competition as a way to prepare for Chapman University’s Ethics Bowl in February.

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