By Catherine Garcia
The debate team from New York's Eastern Correctional Facility has major bragging rights, after beating the national debate championship team from Harvard.
In September, the inmates invited the Harvard team to the Napanoch prison for a friendly match. The Eastern Correctional Facility team was formed two years ago, and the men take debate classes taught by faculty at Bard College; about 15 percent of the inmates are enrolled in different courses through the Bard Prison Initiative. "Students in the prison are held to the exact same standards, levels of rigor, and expectation as students on Bard's main campus," 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."
During the battle against Harvard, the inmates had to argue that public schools should have the right to turn away students whose parents came to the United States without documents. It was a stance the inmates didn't agree with, but they were able to come up with points Harvard wasn't expecting, the AP reports, and a neutral panel of judges declared them the winners. The inmates have defeated teams from West Point and the University of Vermont, and the Harvard team appears happy to join their ranks, posting on Facebook: "There are few teams we are prouder of having lost a debate to than the phenomenally intelligent and articulate team we faced this weekend."