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 taught by faculty from nearby Bard College. And where 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," said Kenner, adding that the club is meant to help students articulate what they've learned.
 
Inmates can earn various degrees through the initiative, which 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, relying instead 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 (59)
  • camdenc-ver
    10/15/2015 - 01:43 p.m.

    I find it amazing that prisoners beat
    an ivy league school and I think that if inmates can beat geniuses, then anyone can beat them.

  • maddiei-orv
    10/15/2015 - 08:32 p.m.

    I really like this article,and the fact that the Bard College is helping the inmates. Most prisoners end up going back to prison because they don't know what to do when they get out, but the fact that they put in effort to keep them from going back to prison is really inspiring, and makes me want to help people.

  • karliw-1-bar
    10/15/2015 - 08:40 p.m.

    The story of Eastern New York Correctional Facility's victory against nationally acclaimed brainiac factory Harvard proves the importance of college education because it proves that the power of education and the benefits of learning pay off in reality. Harvard had been crowned national champions months earlier and as well in 2014 in the art of debate. On top of that, Harvard is nationally known as being one of the overall best colleges around and their reputation for extreme intelligence is sky-high. Eastern New York Correctional Facility has none of that. They are simply a college for convicts. When in prison, they have no access to the Internet. Instead, they rely on what sources are provided by the faculty from Bard College, where the get their education. And against all those odds, they now have proudly beat Harvard's national champions. This clearly proves that the power of college education, as well as education in general, and the benefits of learning pay off in reality.

  • daytonb-3-bar
    10/15/2015 - 09:40 p.m.

    This article truly does show the value of college education because it doesn't matter what background the student comes from but how hard they try. Harvard students may be absolutely brilliant but also they may have distractions when education is all prisoners have time for they are able to focus on their learning and in the end may almost be superior. I thought it was interest that the prison even had an education system I am happy that people who have made mistakes in the past can now rethink life choices and have a second chance.

  • Steve0620-yyca
    10/15/2015 - 09:51 p.m.

    I think that the inmates are being rightly educated. They have beaten three universities at a debate topic but are being taught by another college. They are learning without the help of the internet but only relying on what the college is giving to them. They are actually being taught by how the students in the college are being taught. I think that this is a good thing that the inmates are being taught by the college and they are learning a lot.

  • kayah-4-bar
    10/15/2015 - 10:14 p.m.

    This story proves the value of a college education because some people aren't lucky enough to go to college or get a college education and that can change their whole life. In the story the prison inmates maybe didn't go to college and that could be why they're in prison. I thought article was very interesting because I would have never thought that prison inmates could beat Harvard students.

  • luket-4-bar
    10/15/2015 - 11:27 p.m.

    This story proves the values of a college education because these inmates would not have been nearly smart enough to defeat a national champion debate team. Once they received the education from Bard College, they had the knowledge to compete with anybody. I think this article really shows how valuable education is to people of all ages.

  • justiny-2-bar
    10/15/2015 - 11:47 p.m.

    The story proves the value of college education by showing that even inmates want it. I found it surprising that the worlds top debate team lost to inmates.

  • seans-2-bar
    10/16/2015 - 12:01 a.m.

    This story proves the value of a college education because it helps you in later life as well as persuing your intended application. This was an interesting story and it proved that you if you try hard enough at something you can achieve it.

  • christopherp-2-bar
    10/19/2015 - 11:44 a.m.

    it proves the value when the inmates sead that if it wasent for the education they reseaved in prison thay would not be able to conpeat and have the sucses htat they had today.

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