Prisoners defeat Harvard debate team The Harvard University nationally winning debate team recently fell to the inmates at the Eastern New York Correctional Facility. (Reuters)
Prisoners defeat Harvard debate team
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Months after winning a national title, Harvard University's debate team has lost. The team was beaten by a group of New York inmates.
 
The showdown took place in prison. The debate was held at the Eastern New York Correctional Facility. It is a maximum-security prison.  Convicts are allowed to take courses. They are taught by faculty from nearby Bard College. And the prison is where inmates have formed a popular debate club. Last month, they invited the Harvard students over for a friendly competition.  Harvard is this year's national debate champion. 
 
The Harvard debate team also was crowned world champion in 2014. But the inmates are building a reputation of their own. They started a debate club two years ago.  Since then, the prisoners have beaten college teams. Those include the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and the University of Vermont. The competition with West Point has grown into a rivalry. It now is a yearly affair.
 
At Bard, those who help teach the inmates are not particularly surprised by their success.
 
"Students in the prison are held to the exact same standards, levels of rigor and expectation as students on Bard's main campus," said Max Kenner. He is executive director of the Bard Prison Initiative. It operates in six New York prisons. "Those students are serious. They are not condescended to by their faculty."
 
Shortly after the loss, students on the Harvard team posted a comment. It appeared on a team Facebook page.
 
"There are few teams we are prouder of having lost a debate to than the phenomenally intelligent and articulate team we faced this weekend," they wrote. "And we are incredibly thankful to Bard and the Eastern New York Correctional Facility for the work they do and for organizing this event."
 
Against Harvard, the inmates were tasked with defending a position they did not agree with. They had to argue that public schools should be allowed to turn away students whose parents entered the U.S. illegally. The inmates brought up arguments that the Harvard team had not thought of. Three students from Harvard's team responded.  A panel of neutral judges named the inmates the winners.
 
"The fact that we won is nice. But it is not the most important thing," Kenner said. He added that the club is meant to help students articulate what they have learned.
 
Inmates can earn various degrees through the initiative. It is taught primarily by Bard faculty. About 15 percent of the all-male inmates at the Eastern New York Correctional Facility in Napanoch are enrolled. Graduates of the program have continued their studies at Yale and Columbia universities, Kenner said.
 
While in prison, they learn without the help of the Internet. Instead, they rely on resources provided by the college.
 
"They make the most of every opportunity they have," Kenner said.

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
How does this story prove the value of a college education?
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COMMENTS (22)
  • srimedha-lis
    10/19/2015 - 09:25 a.m.

    We studied the Escape from Alcatraz and because in the text it said three inmates escaped from Alcatraz so it's like they won in getting out and the inmates in this article won the debate.

  • aleezah-lis
    10/19/2015 - 09:25 a.m.

    I have a connection with this article to another story I read early on. I read in a book called Out of My Mind. I have a connection because in the text it said that inmates won a debate against Harvord one of the best universities in the world. In my book a girl named Melody who can not walk nor talk won against a bunch of normal fifth graders the same age as her. I think that people should not doubt anyone just because they are different then you

  • yamini-lis
    10/19/2015 - 09:26 a.m.

    This article was amazing! This story proves the value of collage education by helping students learn new things from the inmates so they could be better prepared for the next debate. I can connect to this because a week ago me and my class read a article where 3 prisoners escape from the prison of Alcatraz.

  • rohan-lis
    10/19/2015 - 09:26 a.m.

    I can connect this to Alcatraz because they were using spoons and nail cutters to chip away at the and use fake dummy heads to trick the warden and escape from Alcatraz.

    • lorenzo-lis
      10/19/2015 - 09:33 a.m.

      did you teypo on that comment

  • samuel-lis
    10/19/2015 - 09:29 a.m.

    this article is about a few prison inmates who face harverd a very good college in a friendly match this article reminds me of escape form Alcatraz another article whitch is about prison mates escape from the thoufest prison in the world but so they thought

  • hadya-lis
    10/19/2015 - 09:29 a.m.

    this story reminds me of how smart the inmates in alcatraz were to plan some escapes from the prison with the best security on the planet. the inmates still beat Harvard university without the educational matirials of the college.

  • isha-lis
    10/19/2015 - 09:31 a.m.

    even if you are in prison,you can take college courses.that's good,because then you can sharpen your brainpower during your sentence.Also, I can relate to this story with another one which also incorporated how it is good to be smart - if you're trying to escape!

  • keerthi-lis
    10/19/2015 - 09:31 a.m.

    My text-to-world connection connects this story to the world because not only does the smart team always win, but the team that is the on the opposite side of being smart could win, so you should never have over
    confidence in yourself.

  • shaheer-lis
    10/19/2015 - 09:31 a.m.

    This is like a story about Alcataz because this is like a story about a prison and about like bad prisoners.

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