Local Debate Team Shines at Ethics Competition


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HARRISON – Poughkeepsie High School’s Debate Team made it to the finals of the Manhattanville College Ethics Bowl in Harrison, NY, placing second overall.

“It is the most rigorous event we compete in,” adviser and social studies teacher Shanna Andrawis said, explaining that to train students must become familiar with 15 different ethical cases “and be prepared to, on the spot, develop a response to a question the judges ask them.”

Practices leading up to the event included reading and analyzing the cases, what the moral dimensions of the cases are, developing written arguments and discussions about how the team will respond, giving presentations and feedback.

“The goal is to present the most persuasive, well-supported argument,” Andrawis said. She resurrected the club about four years ago after having the opportunity to see the national competition at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “Having seen it done, I wanted to bring this back to Poughkeepsie High School.”

Ava Cooper joined the club and team this year, after friends kept urging her to join.
Cooper, who has been involved in sports, finally had space in her schedule and decided to take the chance.

“It has taught me how to create a well-constructed argument – you can’t just jump in without having a foundation of what to say,” she said. “A lot of what debate is having healthy discussions. You get points based on how respectful you are to judges and the other team. You learn to take criticism and use it to shape or better defend your position.”
Cooper’s favorite case involved an in vitro fertilization clinic that hinged on questions about the ethics of being a parent and who deserves custody.

Based on her experience, Cooper said she’ll continue to be a part of the club through her senior year and participate in college if it’s available. “I could not be more proud,” Principal Kelleyann Royce-Giron wrote in a recent Pioneer Pride newsletter. “Josiah, Ava, Daynasia, Daniel, Anika, Noelle, Amira, Kayla – I was impressed with their poise, position and Pioneer Pride!”

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