The Harvard debate team recently got a crash course lesson in humility after they ventured over the maximum-security prison Eastern New York Correctional Facility and walked away defeated.
Several of the inmates who get taught at the nearby Bard College formed a debate team which has gained immense popularity and sometime last month, they sent out an invitation to the Ivy Leaguers to test their mettle. Even with a prestigious backing from one of the world’s top institutions, this particular Harvard debate team actually won National Debate Tournament this year and in 2015.
The topic was reportedly justifying an argument for public schools being allowed to turn away students whose parents entered the U.S. illegally, and the inmates were declared victorious after they brought up several points that had alluded the Harvard debate team. In spite of this crowning achievement, the prisoners weren’t exactly a shot-in-the-dark club who got lucky with top-tier competition. They have already earned wins over the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and the University of Vermont, with the former matchup having been grown into a budding rival.
And the professors of Bard College couldn’t be more happy…or unsurprised.
“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, executive director of the Bard Prison Initiative, told the Associated Press. “Those students are serious. They are not condescended to by their faculty.”
As for the Harvard debate team, they were incredibly great sports about their loss and saluted the inmates on their Facebook page shortly after the faceoff.
“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.”
Who says rehabilitation is overrated?