Prisoners defeat Harvard debate team
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 to a group of New York inmates.
The showdown took place at the Eastern New York Correctional Facility. It is a maximum-security prison where convicts can take courses. They are taught by faculty from nearby Bard College. The inmates have formed a popular debate club. Last month, they invited the Ivy League undergraduates and this year's national debate champions over for a friendly competition.
The Harvard debate team also was crowned world champion in 2014. But the inmates are building a reputation of their own. In the two years since they started a debate club, the prisoners have beaten teams from 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 an annual affair.
At Bard, those who help teach the inmates aren't 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 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 opposed. 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 hadn't considered. Three students from Harvard's team responded.  A panel of neutral judges declared the inmates victorious.
"The fact that we won is nice. But it isn't the most important thing," Kenner said. He added that the club is meant to help students articulate what they've 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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How does this story prove the value of a college education?
Write your answers in the comments section below

  • katem-Orv
    10/15/2015 - 10:33 p.m.

    That is absolutely incredible! Most of the inmates probably don't have a college degree let alone a high school diploma. Winning this competition has most likely given many of the inmates confidence.

  • caitlynk-2-bar
    10/15/2015 - 11:15 p.m.

    This story proves the value of a college education by showing people that probably didn't get a college education and only after two years of a college education they beat one of he top law schools in a debate. This story is interesting because it shows young readers how much they take there education for granted. This article surprised me by showing me how nice people can be to let inmates learn college level learning for free.

  • ethang-1-bar
    10/16/2015 - 12:14 a.m.

    This story proves the value of education because I'm the story above it states,"months ago Harvards debate team lost to a group of New York inmates".This shows that college students who have books,high quality teachers and high-end resources compared to the inmates in New York. These inmates who don't even have college standard books brought up 3 points that the Harvard team didn't even think about.i thought this story was informal because this lists shows that us students, who pay about $40,000 and prisoners who go to jail for crimes they commit.

  • colbys-3-bar
    10/16/2015 - 12:21 a.m.

    This story proves the value of college education because if someone that has a great education, can do great things. I was surprised to see this happen because I didn't think that prisoners got taught this high of education.

  • paigea-3-bar
    10/16/2015 - 12:29 a.m.

    This story proves the value of a college education because the article states that the inmates and the college students both have the same education standards. This means that both teams had a pretty equal amount of knowledge going into the debate. The phenomenal college students were just as smart as the inmates. I thought that this article was very interesting because it shocked me that prisoners could beat an amazing Harvard debate team. I liked this article a lot and it was very informative.

  • adamp-3-bar
    10/16/2015 - 12:38 a.m.

    This proves the value of a college education because the inmates in New York were taught how to debate at a college level and they went up against Harvard which has defeated many schools in debate. The fact that the inmates beat Harvard proves that you can become smart from being in college. I think this is a really cool story because it shows how the inmates hard work at debate paid off when they beat Harvard.

  • nicolettem-2-bar
    10/16/2015 - 05:44 a.m.

    This story proves the value of college education because it showed that it didn't matter what college you went to because it talked about how people in prison went up against one of the best schools in the country and defeated them in a debate and it's really all the same in college if you work hard enough and really want to succeed in your field of study then you will.

  • joiec-3-bar
    10/16/2015 - 09:35 a.m.

    This story proves very high value of college education. These inmates, with the help of college education, won a debate against one of the best schools in the country. As most would imagine, inmates beating an amazingly successful school would be pretty bizarre. With college education these people defeated the best debate team in the country, the only way they could have possibly done that is with college education.

  • rowens-cel
    10/16/2015 - 10:09 a.m.

    This article was helped by the amount of quotes the writer gathered; they showed the atmosphere around the debate team of the inmates. Without the quotes, I feel like the article would not have been as informative. It also helped that the author pulled quotes from many different people.

  • kevine-4-bar
    10/16/2015 - 10:49 a.m.

    This story proves the value of college education because no matter who you are or where you live anyone can be successful with a college education.

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