A debate team consisting of New York inmates faced off against a Harvard debate team, and crushed them.
A debate team made entirely of prison inmates from a maximum-security facility recently faced off against a team of three Harvard undergrads at a recent debate at Bard College in New York. According to the Wall Street Journal, the judges declared the men from the Eastern New York Correctional Facility in the Catskill Mountains the victors.
The inmates were participants of the Bard Prison Initiative, which offers inmates an intensive college experience. The debate sought to showcase the caliber of study at the program, whose main objective is to equip inmates with the skills they need to succeed in society.
The inmates had to defend a position with which they couldn’t agree less. They needed to argue that US public schools should be allowed to deny enrollment to undocumented students.
The panel was led by Judge Mary Nugent, who agreed with the Bard team’s argument that excessive students in US schools detracts from the quality of educational services significantly. The team argued that because of the lower quality of crowded public schools, students are significantly more likely to drop out and find education opportunities in less traditional areas.
The Harvard debate was stunned by the complexity of the Bard team’s argument, and failed to respond to several points in their rebuttal.
The Bard Prison Initiative began in 2001 and has offered liberal arts studies to inmates that apply. Tuition is free of cost to the inmates, and less than 2 percent of more than 300 graduates returned to prison within a three year period.