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Let’s bowl

Hickman’s Ethics Bowl team and their big win
Hickman’s Ethics Bowl team poses in front of UNC’s emblem at the National Ethics Bowl tournament. Picture via Clementine Buehler (11).

Despite what many may think, Hickman’s Ethics Bowl team doesn’t go out and roll strikes at the alley. Instead, they spar over ethical dilemmas in front of a judge.


These ethical dilemmas can range from the implications of sending bodies into space as a burial service to using Nazi scientists for space exploration during the Cold War.


Hickman’s Ethics Bowl team won the National competition on April 14 at the University of North Carolina Parr Center for Ethics, beating 23 other national-qualifying teams.


In Ethics Bowl, students are asked to take a stance on an ethical dilemma and discuss this stance with another team based on a case. These cases give a couple of paragraphs contextualizing the issue; students are then asked to create an argument about the ethical problem. Two cases are argued in each round with each team getting the opportunity to be the presenting team on one of the cases.


During the round, the judges assign a point value to the teams’ presentations and responses. These point values are totaled at the end of the round and the team with the most points wins.


Ethics Bowl coach, and former team member, Lou Kraxberger compared the activity to one they also coach.


“Ethics Bowl is like debate but nice,” they said.


One of the most unique things about Ethics Bowl: the teams don’t have to disagree.


This makes Ethics Bowl more conversational and ensures that competitors never have to argue opinions they don’t agree with.


Team caption Alex Fajen (12) explained what Ethics Bowl is really about.


Team captain Alex Fajen (12) holds the National Campion trophy as the rest of Hickman’s team reaches for it. Picture via Clementine Buehler (11).

“It’s not about prov[ing] that you are right. It’s about who has the best argument, who presented the best, and [who had] the best addition to the conversation,” they said.


For the entirety of the season before qualifying for Nationals, the Hickman team had 15 cases they had to prepare for. Once they qualified for Nationals, the team had six weeks to prepare 15 new cases.


In order to be able to get the work done in the time allotted, the Hickman team transitioned from one or two practices before school a week to practicing every day before school.


While many may balk at getting up early for practice, the Ethics Bowl team had some motivation to wake with the sun.


“We always have doughnuts or bagels, so people are pretty happy to be there,” Kraxberger said.


In their practices, the Ethics Bowl team discussed their cases, ironed out disagreements, and practiced rounds.


Lorelei Hardin (10) discussed the process of going from 15 case prompts to being competition-ready.


“A lot of it was initially talking about the cases and getting a group consensus on it; we would disagree. But, once it came time to start doing practice rounds, we would have to come up with one unanimous decision to compete with,” Lorelei said.


This year, Ethics Bowl competed with two teams of five, a Purple Team and a Gold Team. At the regional competition, the Gold Team advanced to compete against another regional winner. This was a sudden-death competition where the winner went on to Nationals. Hickman’s Gold Team won and thus headed to North Carolina.


Lorelei was originally on the Purple Team but was brought alongside fellow Purple Team member Atticus Radcliffe

The National Champion trophy the Hickman Ethics Bowl team won sits on the trophy case outside Caysea Dachroeden’s room in the Hickman basement. (Kennedy Lucas)

(10) when the team went to North Carolina.


This was so alternates would be available for the team at Nationals. While only five can compete at a time, this kind of tournament is very tiring, so it is important for students to be able to take a break during some rounds.


With Atticus and Lorelei rounding out Hickman’s dream team alongside Gold Team members Alex Fajen, Clementine (Clem) Buehler (11), Surya Raghu (11), Carly Christianson (10) and Baily Moore (10), the Kewpie Ethics Bowl team was able to win at the Nationals competition.


This win was very unexpected for the team.


“We as a team expected to get last place because last year, the team got 22nd…We really expected to not win a single [round] at all,” Atticus said.


For a lot of the team, this was a very emotional experience.


“I cried. But I also cried whenever I found out that we were going to finals. I’m just a big happy crier,” Clem said.


Bailey had a similar reaction.


“I know at least half of us cried because it’s just so insane…I was one that cried,” Bailey said through laughter.


While this is the first time Hickman has won Nationals, it is certainly not the first time they have gone. In fact, the Hickman team has gone to Nationals six times in the last 10 years.


An Ethics Bowl trophy from 2016 sits on top of the trophy shelf outside of Caysea Dachroeden’s room. This trophy was won the same year now-coach Lou Kraxberger was on the team. (Kennedy Lucas)

The best Hickman has done previous to this year was 3rd place at Nationals. Current Ethics Bowl coach Lou Kraxberger was on this team.


“[Ethics Bowl is] the most near and dear activity to my heart because of how real and important it is and how it just gets at these issues,” they said when explaining the impact of their achievement at Nationals and the current team’s win at Nationals.


Ethics Bowl had two coaches who took on different roles for the team.


Caysea Dachroeden explained her role as the “administrative” side of things.


“I work to get set up with registration… I make sure we have our permission form… I do the paperwork, make sure that parents know where we’re traveling, book hotels, book airlines,” Dachroeden explained.


In contrast, Kraxberger took on the more “hands-on” duties of coaching. They would often facilitate practice rounds and even took on a five-person team by themself.


When asked if they won these rounds, Kraxberger responded with “I would say so, but that’s also the best part about doing practice rounds is [there] really doesn’t have to be a winner.”


Similarly to Kraxberger, team caption Alex Fajen also helped facilitate practice rounds. Their impact, however, was felt much beyond this.


Like many others on the team, Clem felt that Alex was “the rock of our team.”


This was Alex’s last year on the team as they will graduate in May. 


Alex will miss the ability to discuss ethics in this way, but mostly, they will miss the community they have in Hickman’s team.


“I’m gonna miss this group of kids…I’m going to miss the community experience with other teams…I’m gonna miss the Kewpie traditions we’ve created [as] an ethics school,” they said.


One of these traditions was mentioned many times as members’ favorite memories from this year.


The Hickman Ethics Bowl team poses at a table alongside their coaches Lou Kraxberger and Caysea Dachroeden at the Ethics Bowl National Championships. Picture via Clementine Buehler (11).

Before every round, the Hickman team would sing “Let’s Get Physical” by Olivia Newton John. However, “instead of singing ‘Let’s get physical,’ we would sing ‘Let’s get ethical.’ And when she says ‘Let me hear your body talk,’ we’d say ‘Let me hear your morals talk,’” Kraxberger explained.


During the competition, the Hickman team asked other teams to join them while they sang and danced.


“So we [went] up to this public school and we’re like, ‘Do you guys want to dance with us?’ And the entire team danced with us before round,” Alex said.


Despite their many successes, many people didn’t know much about Ethics Bowl.


“Before Nationals, I would say 50% [of people] knew what we’re doing; another 50% thought we were a bowling team,” Dachroeden explained.


In honor of this, the Hickman team will have a bowling party as their end-of-year celebration.


“We’re leaning into it, and we’re gonna go bowling,” Kraxberger said.

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