Kent Place Teams Finish 1-2 at Statewide Ethics Bowl Championship
Over the last four months, the 14 members of Kent Place’s nationally-recognized Ethics Bowl Team have been assiduously preparing for the state competition. Organized as two teams (seven students each), they met during lunch, after school, on weekends, and even over Winter Break. While they were nothing if not serious about their work, they also made time for lighthearted banter.
“What would happen,” they mused, “if we had to face off against each other in the final round?”
Their coach, Director of the Ethics Institute Dr. Karen Rezach, laughed them off. It wouldn’t happen, she thought.
Until, of course, it did.
On Saturday, January 27, at the New Jersey High School Ethics Bowl, held at Middlesex College, Kent Place’s teams were named runners-up as well as champions, earning their eighth straight state title.
“It was a huge accomplishment for us,” says Dr. Rezach. “I never imagined we would have both teams take the top two places, but we did it! I told the students I was as happy in that moment as I was in 2018, when we won Nationals.”
To be sure, the Ethics Bowl Team is accustomed to — though hardly complacent with — success. Since the team first began competing in 2016, they have not only been state champions every year since 2017, they advanced to the National Championships five times, finishing in the top six each time. In 2018, they won the prestigious event.
(Note: Due to COVID, from 2021-2023 the State Championship was a combination of teams from New Jersey and New York; last year, while they finished first in the state, they were defeated by a team from New York and did not advance to Nationals.)
Kent Place defeated 12 other teams to clinch their victory. Adding to their revelry was the presence of Neha Bardwahj '18, a member of the 2018 National Championship-winning team, who came to cheer on the teams, including her sister, Naina ’25.
To ready themselves for the event, the students — from Grades 9 through 12 — prepared their ethical positions on 16 separate case studies, using a variety of ethical frameworks to support their arguments.
Senior captain Sahana Kapoor acknowledged how demanding the weeks were leading up the competition. “Our cases had to be exemplary, ensuring that we considered all ethical dimensions and addressed any possible counterpoints of the case,” she explains. “The memorizing, however, is arguably the hardest part, as each team member has about a week to memorize our 16 written cases, with no notes allowed in the competition.”
In each round of the competition, judges posed a specific question related to a single case, but the question was not known ahead of time. Being able to think on your feet is key, explains Dr. Rezach.
In the final round, when Kent Place’s teams found themselves head to head, the judges asked, “Is it ever ok for a group within our country to secede if they feel their values aren’t being represented?
“Clinching that state title was a final moment of triumph that validated the collective effort and sacrifice made by every member of the team,” says Sahana.
Dr. Rezach acknowledges that having an Ethics Institute on campus, with the rich programming and curricular offerings it affords, provides Kent Place students with a tremendous exposure to and understanding of ethics.
“I told the students on the bus ride to the competition, ‘You live and breathe ethics at Kent Place; it’s embedded in the culture and climate of our school. It’s not an intellectual pursuit — it's part of who you are. Use that knowledge.’”
Annabelle Walter ’24, one of three captains and in her fourth year with the team, has discovered a passion for ethics thanks to Kent Place’s programming and her involvement with the Ethics Bowl Team. “It has expanded my understanding of many important issues in our society and has made me more confident voicing my own opinions and engaging in conversation surrounding these topics,” she says.
And she’s quick to point out that, despite having to face each other in the final round, they are one, unified team. “It was definitely a whole-team effort, and to win the state title after putting so many hours in together was super rewarding.”
On February 7, the team will compete virtually against a team from Westchester County in the Regional Championships. If they win, they will head to the University of North Carolina in April — the Parr Center for Ethics in Chapel Hill oversees the competition and all the state and regional events — for the National High School Ethics Bowl Championship once more.
Congratulations, Ethics Bowl Teams!!
** Check out the video at the bottom of this page for a peek at Kent Place’s 2018 National Championship team going head-to-head with Stanford Online High School to win the final round.