Year 9 Siena College students recently competed against gifted and talented students from Ruyton, Wesley College, Geelong Grammar, Methodist Ladies College, Scotch College, St Leonards College and Catholic Ladies College in the day long Junior Ethics Olympiad. Hosted by Scotch College on an unusually hot spring day, the fluttering of papers in the breeze was all that could be heard above the quiet hum of one hundred or so people talking ethics in round table groups.
Interestingly, in this forum students were permitted to agree with the opposing team’s point of view - and expand on it. This contrasts to debating, where opposing sides are taken. Notwithstanding the rarefied atmosphere of ideological flux, matters of principle such as ‘Not stealing’ were strongly upheld by at least one team. Employing dialectic (a Socratic method in which pursuit of truth transcends adversarial striving) created the potential for new knowledge, which refreshed and enlivened the room. Students had to think on their feet as preprepared notes were not permitted. Throughout the day, focused attention was palpable.
All participating schools received case study material in the weeks leading up to the event. At Siena we ran two lunchtime sessions in the Learning Enhancement Centre which were fully and enthusiastically attended by the Year 9 students. After viewing film clips touching on issues such as whether an indigenous community, given incentives, should relocate if their village sits on valuable, lifesaving mineral deposits, students discussed whether parents should use a Tracking App on their teenager’s mobile phone and considered the consequences of living in a society where everyone always speaks the truth.
At the end of each round the judges’ role was to pummel the opening team with questions for further elucidation. After three rounds we were delighted to hear the ‘Rust’ team from Siena invited to compete against St Leonards in the final. The final was judged by two academics from the University of Melbourne and Suzy Chandler (former principal of Fintona). Mr Spoljaric had been extraordinarily generous in awarding marks to other schools when grading their arguments, a generosity that was extended by other judges to Siena, such was the spirit of the occasion. The finals judges were notably impressed by Siena students’ ability ‘to consider other people’s points of view’.
The award of Silver medal is testimony to the Siena students’ commitment shown in their enthusiastic attendance at the LEC preparatory lunchtime sessions. It is also a tribute to Siena College’s pastoral and academic programs and to the Year 7 and 8 Philosophy classes offered in the Learning Diversity Centre. The Dominican Pillar dedicated to Truth offers enduring inspiration to Siena students, enhancing their lives and future careers. Bita Afshar, Charlotte Dickson, Maliana Tapusoa, Trinity Ng and silver medal team winners Amelia Tjitji, Charlotte Ryan, Ella Graham, Madeline Quin and Sienna Justus are to be congratulated on their participation in the event.
'On Friday, 1 November, I had the opportunity to participate in an Ethics Olympiad held at Scotch College. The Ethics Olympiad really challenged my way of thinking and encouraged me to think outside the box. I learned a lot about how complicated ethics are and was encouraged to share my opinion. I liked talking about all the different views of the questions we were given and it taught me to think about why I had certain opinions about what was right and wrong.' Madeline Quin
'We enjoyed the experience immensely and have taken the lessons we learnt on board. The Olympiad allowed me to use my external knowledge of current issues in the world to quickly build arguments within a group. It further encouraged me to develop my persuasive skills and work cooperatively with my peers. Overall, the Ethics Olympiad exposed me to deeper thinking with and against like-minded students in a competitive environment.' Maliana Tapusoa.