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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COMMENTS (22)
  • jamieson-lis
    10/19/2015 - 09:31 a.m.

    A connection I made in this article is its kind of like "escaping from Alcatraz prison" because its both prisons but one difference is that this one is a debate and the other one isn't.

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

    I have a connection because I read an article on Alcatraaz and some criminals had a brilliant escape plan showing that criminals can be just as smart as anyone else

  • bianca-lis
    10/19/2015 - 09:32 a.m.

    i once challenged my cousin to a math off but we ended in a draw

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

    My connection to this article is that the prisoners didn't have a lot of things to learn with but they still got smart and that is like Martin Luther King Jr because he was African American so he had to learn in bad schools but he still became a great leader.

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

    This article turned out to be very fascinating because in the text it said that Harvard debate team got crowned world champion in 2014 and got defeated by bunch of prisoner,the "story"was related to escape of Alcatraz because the prison lost and Harvard debate team lost like Alacatraz.

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

    This is like another story about Alcatraz because it is all about bad prisons and its about bad people

  • pranav-lis
    10/19/2015 - 09:34 a.m.

    connection:I can connect this to the escape from Alcatraz because the prison debate team and the 3 people who escaped were all inmates and must have been extremely intelligent

  • angela-lis
    10/19/2015 - 09:34 a.m.

    My text to text connection with this article and the article from Scholastic Storyworks called A Daring Escape From Alcatraz is that they both prove that if you work hard enough, you'll succeed. BITS that prisoners defeat the Harvard debate team. And in the article from Alcatraz, 3 prisoners managed to escape from the world's harshest prison. Both articles have jailers doing things we never thought they could do. If you asked a random person for their comments on this, they would've probably said that they never thought that prisoners could do this stuff that average people can't even do.

  • john-lis
    10/19/2015 - 09:37 a.m.

    The connection I have to this article is we read an article about 3 guys who escaped Alcatraz prison which some say it was impossible to escape. The 3 guys used there mind and creativity to escape the prison. I think the guys had to be pretty smart to escape a prison like that. I think the inmates were smart because they used there mind and creativity just like the prisoners who escaped Alcatraz to beat the Harvard debate team.

  • carla-lis
    10/19/2015 - 09:37 a.m.

    my commet is the story of alacatraz reminds me of this a little and I really like the story on this and I really wont to learn more of this it is cool and I like it lelf a comment if you like my post thank you

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