Ann Arbor Pioneer students win 2019 Michigan Ethics Bowl

Extreme weather nearly cancelled 6th annual event

By Meredith Bruckner - Community News Producer

The winning team from Pioneer High School, the Purple Pioneering Philosophers (Courtesy: A2Ethics)

ANN ARBOR - This year's Michigan High School Ethics Bowl almost didn't happen, thanks to extreme winter weather.

In what organizers have dubbed the "2019 Polar Vortex Burst Pipe High School Ethics Bowl," the event moved forward and saw nearly 100 students from 10 schools participate. 

This year, students from the Purple Pioneering Philosophers from Ann Arbor Pioneer High School won the Bowl after competing with seven other winning teams on Feb. 3. The Greenhills Greens were the competition's runner-up.

The Bowl, which began on Feb. 2, is a partnership between A2Ethics -- a local public philosophy initiative and nonprofit -- and the University of Michigan's Department of Philosophy Outreach Program, was nearly jeopardized after news came in that a pipe had burst at UM's Palmer Commons, the dedicated venue.

Organizers found a last-minute venue at Mason Hall just in time, and 16 teams from 10 schools braved the elements to participate in the sixth annual event, including:

  • Ann Arbor Greenhills (The Blues, The Greens )
  • Ann Arbor Huron High (The Slothologists, Thoreau Understanding )
  • Ann Arbor Pioneer High (The Purple Gang, The Purple Pioneering Philosophers)
  • Meadow Montessori of Monroe (Immoral Majority)
  • Oak Park High School (In Theory, Invictus)
  • Portage Northern (Hemlock & Drop It)
  • Saginaw Arts & Sciences Academy (Descartiac Arrest, Locke & Load)
  • Saline High School (Kant Even See them Coming, Kant Touch This )
  • Washtenaw International High School (Socraties of State)
  • Wayne Memorial High School (The Herd from Wayne) 

"For all of us, this year’s High School Ethics Bowl experience demonstrated how much can be accomplished when people who are on a mission come together to provide an important educational opportunity for young people,"  A2 Ethics president Jeanine DeLay said in a statement. "The Bowl is an all-volunteer effort on the part of University of Michigan graduate students and faculty, philosophy and humanities professionals from across the state, high school teachers, local case writers from various occupations, and very generous community members.

"Thanks to them, what could have been a misadventure turned into a grand adventure. The fact that the 2019 Bowl brought together students from six counties across lower Michigan shows, in just six years, we’ve been able to make a major impact in the state. Even in bad weather."

This year, students from the Purple Pioneering Philosophers from Ann Arbor Pioneer High School won the Bowl after competing with seven other winning teams on Feb. 3. The Greenhills Greens were the competition's runner-up.

Now that they've received The Hemlock Cup, the Pioneer team will travel to the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill to represent the state of Michigan at the National High School Ethics Bowl April 5-7.

"The Bowl itself is a showcase for high school student teams to present and defend their original analyses and insights about a range of ethics case studies written by local practitioners in different professions. Bowl organizers point out that the event is not designed to pit one idea against another, but rather to encourage students to consider differing viewpoints and flex their analytical skills on relevant issues." - A2Ethics

Teams discuss case studies ranging from the moral challenge of journalists relying on anonymous sources to whether social media sites should play a role in preventing their users from engaging or enabling one another to engage in behaviors that are self-destructive.

Each team is accompanied by coaches who are faculty from each of the schools that participate in the extracurricular program. More than 30 judges are involved in the competition.

"Many of the Bowl judges are philosophy and humanities faculty members," said DeLay said in a statement. "This year, judges hailed from 12 universities, colleges and community colleges across southern Michigan including, for the first time, U-M Flint. In addition, we hosted judges from prestigious institutes such as U-M’s Center for Bioethics and Social Sciences in Medicine and Western Michigan University’s Center for the Study of Ethics in Society."

In previous years, teams from Michigan have won the second highest prize, the Spirit of the Bowl Award, and have competed in both quarterfinal and semifinal matches.

About A2Ethics, Bowl

Founded in 2008, A2Ethics is an all-volunteer nonprofit dedicated to promoting ethics and philosophy initiatives through events, educational programs, and civic collaborations in local communities. Its many projects and activities include partnering with the University of Michigan Department of Philosophy Outreach Program to sponsor the annual Michigan High School Ethics Bowl. 

The Michigan Ethics Bowl League is comprised of all high schools participating in the Ethics Bowl. As of 2018, 13 schools from six Southeast Michigan counties were members of the statewide League. All Michigan high schools are encouraged to join the League, as well as the National Ethics Bowl movement. 

For more information, visit or contact Jeanine DeLay at

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