The Harvard Debate Team was riding high after recently winning a national title. It was unsurprising they brought home the trophy; after all, it is Harvard. When they accepted a challenge from inmates from New York, nobody expected them to lose, let alone so badly. NBC News reported on the unlikely showdown:
The showdown took place at the Eastern New York Correctional Facility, 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 champions 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, which is now an annual affair, has grown into a rivalry.
For anyone that knows an Ivy League graduate or student, it’s surprising how one could walk into a competition with mere prisoners unprepared. That appears to have been what happened, according to reports on the competition,
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, and a panel of neutral judges declared the inmates victorious.
Harvard’s debate team is used to winning. Not only did they win admission to the most prestigious school in the country, but they have also won the last two years in national debating competitions. They never expected to be beat by individuals who might not even possess a high school diploma, let alone one from a college or university. That’s exactly how they walked into the competition, and it’s precisely why they lost.
If prisoners were taught how to debate by auxiliary professors from Bard University better than Harvard’s students, what does it say about the state of Ivy League education?
Comment below: Do you think an Ivy League diploma is worth the cost?