River East students excited about ethics

Local students first team to represent Canada at Ethics Bowl


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This article was published 13/01/2015 (2937 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A group of seven River East Collegiate students will be the first team to represent  Canada at the US National High School Ethics Bowl in April.

The River East team qualified for the opportunity after taking home first place in a regional “bowl” among teams from River East Transcona School Division. Organized as a pilot project by the U of M, the Manitoba Association for Rights and Liberties, and Manitoba Education, the bowl was held at the University of Manitoba on Dec. 16 last year.

According to the University of North Carolina, organizers of the US National High School Ethics Bowl, an Ethics Bowl “is a collaborative yet competitive event in which teams analyze a series of wide-ranging ethical dilemmas.”

Herald Jan. 9, 2015 - River East Collegiate students (left to right) Jayda Hope, Udit Suryavanshi, Emmanuel Cardoza, Kartik Sachar, James Pither, and Quiana Kumar, joined by vice-principal Diana Posthumus (back) and teacher/ethics coach Anita Kumar (far right) with the inaugural Manitoba Association of Rights and Liberties Ethics Bowl. (SHELDON BIRNIE/CANSTAR COMMUNITY NEWS/HERALD)

“It really is critical thinking in its purest form,” explained Anita Kumar, a teacher at REC and the team’s coach. “It’s a non-confrontational way of debating issues to come to a common solution.”

Teams of five are judged based on the team’s ability to reason and how members “organize and present their case, attend to and analyze the morally relevant features of the case, (and) anticipate and pre-emptively respond to commentary and questions,” from the other team and the judges.

Much like a sports team preparing to have a go at the regional or provincial title, the River East ethics team put plenty of hard work into their recent win.

“We’d meet weekly, then it was twice a week, then it was every day,” Kumar said. “We’d even meet at my house on weekends.”

“We kind of came up with our own format for looking at the cases,” Grade 12 student Emmanuel Cardoza said of the team’s approach to each case. “Then we broke (the case) down to identify what the problem is, and highlight the main points. After that, we come up with a solution.”

“They each brought individual strengths, they each brought individual perspectives,” Kumar said. “They really had to work at coming to the middle, then working their thoughts outward. It was neat to see that part of the process.”

Beyond the thrill of attending the US National Ethics Bowl in Chapel Hill, N.C. (none of the group have been to North Carolina before), the kids from River East are also enthusiastic about the skills they’ve developed by participating in the program to date.

“It helps in all aspects of life,” Grade 10 student Jayda Hope said.

Hope joined the ethics team because she wanted to hone her debating skills, but River East lacked a debate club.

“You have to collaborate. You can’t just tell people their ideas are stupid because you don’t like them.”

As for the challenges that lay ahead for the team at the University of North Carolina in April, Kumar and the team are excited, and cautiously optimistic.

“It’s kind of like a marathon,” Kumar said. “We’ve done the training, we know we can do it. Now it’s just a matter of keeping that level of thinking up and the level of pursuing the problem.”

“Quite honestly, we don’t really know what we’re going to do,” James Pither, Grade 10, told the Herald. “It’s just really exciting for us to go to this convention, to experience it and be a part of it.”

“From what we’ve heard, these American competitors are extremely serious about it,” Pither added.

“I just hope it isn’t cold,” said Quiana Kumar, grade 10.

Another challenge the team is facing is coming up with the group’s $8,000 price tag for the trip to North Carolina.

“We’re the only ones flying in,” Anita Kumar said.

Accommodation, transportation and meals are covered over the course of the competition, but the team is still responsible for getting to and from Chapel Hill, N.C.

“The kids all come from various backgrounds and I don’t want to put any strain on one family more than any other,” Kumar said. “I’d like to get their costs covered to get down there and for one night in hotel (before the competition).”

Kumar added that the team will be doing some fundraising for the trip, but she is hoping to secure sponsors for the team.

“I’m looking to see if we can get a couple people on board who care about this topic,” she said. “I’m thinking legal firms, engineering firms, someone who might see the value in this.”

For those interested in sponsoring the River East Collegiate ethics club, please contact Anita Kumar at
Twitter: @heraldWPG

Sheldon Birnie

Sheldon Birnie
Community Journalist

Sheldon Birnie is a reporter/photographer for the Free Press Community Review. The author of Missing Like Teeth: An Oral History of Winnipeg Underground Rock (1990-2001), his writing has appeared in journals and online platforms across Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. A husband and father of two young children, Sheldon enjoys playing guitar and rec hockey when he can find the time. Email him at Call him at 204-697-7112

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